Monday, April 16, 2007

Blacksburg Virginia: A City in Pain

I had other plans for my time this evening but I really can't concentrate on anything else right now, so I figured I'd get this out.

I'm sure you're all in the same boat as myself, having watched the events unfold today in VA, or having read or heard the news at some point today and sensed all the same feelings as myself - anger, shock, grief, sadness and helplessness.

During my morning routine after school was over, I clicked on FOX news to skim the headlines. At that time, the headline said 1 dead and several wounded. It made me sad, and I made a mental note to remember the families in prayer. Less than an hour later the death toll increased dramatically as the news media outlets received more and more information. I sat here and tried to put a number on all the people that needed God's immediate grace and mercy, comfort and protection, and the more I thought about it the more grieved I felt.

With the 33 people confirmed dead, including the gunman, I tried to think of the most obvious and immediate relations. If each of them had 2 parents, a brother, a sister, a couple of close friends, boyfriends, girlfriends, spouses, and maybe even kids or other close family/friend connections, that's at least 10-15 people personally, directly and brutally grieving today for EACH of the people who died. Considering there were 33 of them, it's a realistic figure to say that somewhere around 500 people today who weren't even on campus in VA, had their hearts shattered by this news, and the loss of someone they loved dearly - all at the same time.

That's a lot of pain. That's a lot of need.

That doesn't even take into consideration all the students, faculty & staff who made it out alive and will begin processing all of this in the coming days and weeks, trying to make sense of it, and even overcome newfound fears and anger that they didn't have, when they woke up this morning.

Obviously, since I'm a Christian, one of my first thoughts was "as a Christian, how do we respond when people ask 'why' - meaning why did God allow this?" It's a legitimate and important question and it's the same one anyone asks when going through a personal tragedy of any scale. I'll be perfectly honest and admit I don't have the definitive answer for this. I wish I did, and I wish having the perfect answer would be enough to make everyone go "oh okay, well that makes sense, now I feel better about the whole thing". There is no answer that is going to make anyone feel better about having a loved one gunned down in cold blood.

This much I do know... God did allow it, and He allowed it for His own perfect and holy reasons. I don't always understand His will in such things like this, I just know that He indeed does permit/allow/ordain all sorts of painful things to take place in life, for good reasons.

I cannot help but think of the account in Scripture when Joseph's brothers sold him into slavery and how he eventually gave the answer to this very question - that what they meant for evil, God meant for good. Obviously being sold into slavery wasn't a good thing, but what came out of it was a good thing, and Joseph understood that. Of course God knew exactly how He was going to use Joseph years later, and for Him to use Joseph in the way He would, Joseph would need to go through what he did, first.

Evil men do evil things, and God allows it. That's a hard truth to get our thoughts around. It would be a lot easier (or maybe not) if we could see the larger picture, because then we might see what good our Heavenly Father has planned for this, down the road. But, we usually can't see what 'good' is to come from such pain, and that's where faith comes in. We simply trust that no matter what, God's will and God's ways are perfect and holy, and He will sustain us with His strength, His mercy, and His comfort to get through it.

Evil men do evil things, and we would do well to remember that if it were not for the restraining grace of God in our world, that this would happen much more often. God is merciful to us in that He doesn't allow such vile carnage to take place every day, mutliple times a day, all around the world, in every city, town and village. That He restrains more evil from taking place, is a testimony to His great mercy.

I still vividly recall (and you probably do too) thinking how incredible it was that the potential death toll from 911 wasn't what they (those in the know) originally speculated it would be. Many thousands more could have died that day, and didn't. Many will not see it, but that in fact was God's mercy there. Just as it was His mercy today that more didn't die in VA.

As Christians, we don't see the cup as half empty - we see it half full. We know what wicked human hearts are capable of, because we were once vessels carrying around those very same wicked hearts ourselves. As new creatures however, we also know of His astounding grace and power to change hearts. Where the unsaved may see senseless brutality against fellow human beings (and make no mistake, it certainly is), as believers we see God's grace there as well.

My prayers tonight go out to the families and friends of the dead. More specifically, it is my prayer that our Heavenly Father might be pleased to send His people to come along side those who are grieving, that they might minister His grace and comfort to them, and bring them words of healing and hope. I pray that the grieving will simply be surrounded by believers, that not only will their physical and emotional needs be met with hands to hold and hugs to receive, tears to wipe away by caring hands, but also and more importantly, that their spiritual needs would be met and they would find comfort and hope in none other than the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Soli Deo Gloria