Written by Joe Watson. Media by Max Gensler
The events that unfolded on Nov. 13th are some that many will never forget. I remember getting on a social media website I normally kill time on called Reddit. The website had a thread which showed live updates of what was going on during the shootings that occurred at the Bataclan in Paris, France. On that same day, there were also bombings in Beirut, Lebanon that took the lives of about 40 people.
I have spent much time since, thinking about the appropriate responses that Christians should have to these horrific events. There are many responses that go without saying. I am really reminded of the verse in Romans 12:15, “Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.” Personally, I have forgotten to think of how others may be responding to what happened. I think there are some key understandings from the bible that we should look at to find encouragement and guidance in these hard and trying times. Times that may cause doubt or confusion as to where God is in all these events. For myself I know that when I have questions about hard subjects, I turn to find answers from really close friends, and the Bible.
This may seem like the obvious answer, but it is the turn we should always make in times that seem hard or confusing. No matter what sort of pain, we should always as Christians turn to God in prayer for comfort and answers. It may even be that we are left with answers that don’t completely satisfy our hurts and emotions. In times when we see that evil is working in the world, it is a time to turn to God in prayer for a change in our world. If there is anyone that can do that it is most certainly God. I think we can find this to be a pithy or corny answer to life’s problems, but anyone with a serious prayer life will tell you that simply isn’t true.
If you have read any of Paul’s letters you will know that suffering is something that marks us as Christians. Paul throughout his letters tells various recipients to keep fighting through persecution and overcome evil with good. In Romans 5 Paul speaks of the freedom we now have in Christ. In that Chapter, he gives us a radical understanding of what it means to suffer. “More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us”(Rom 5:3-5 ESV). This doesn’t mean that we are disallowed from grieving, but it does mean that the communities that we are a part of globally and locally benefit from our reactions to suffering. I know that the Christians who have been persecuted by ISIS have shown me character that is overly worthy to be aspired for. Their suffering causes us to rejoice in a sense. In this sense, we know that suffering to the Christian brings about good, especially because it witnesses to others the power of the Holy Spirit.
Why is it that God is not surprised by evil? Well, it was simply stated by a man named Abraham Kuyper who said, “There is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is Sovereign over all, does not cry: ‘Mine!’” We as Christians do not come to a God who is put on his back foot by all that is going on in our world. He isn’t scrambling to figure out how to end this “ISIS problem.” The truth that scripture tells us is that all that has been created belongs to him, even those who choose to do evil. We have the assurance that God is on his throne over all existence below him. In Isaiah, God dares us to find a place where he does not have authority and where he could be overthrown by human schemes “This is what the LORD says: ‘Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool. Where is the house you will build for me? Where will my resting place be?’”(Isa. 66:1 NIV) We should also have the confidence knowing that God is working for our good because as Paul says, “We know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose” (Rom 8:28). Regardless of what ISIS thinks, they do not surprise the one who truly reigns over them, and He is the one who will come to rule this world in glory whether they like it or not.