I am writing this with great trepidation. How can I write about something so tragic? What words could I possibly offer in an event that is so fresh on the minds of the readers? I feel led to write something. Sitting idly by and watching the day tick away may be the easy option, but not the right one. Those that read my blog know that I like to write about faith in the everyday. This tends to take the shape of ordinary events or sparks of interest and seeing how God is in that situation. As someone who has never lived in a war-torn country or come face to face with an act of terrorism, I feel that my qualifications and lack of experience in these areas could potentially limit my credibility on writing about the Peshawar school massacre in Pakistan on the 16th December, 2014 (yesterday) which claimed the lives of 141 people of which 132 were children (BBC News, 2014). Nonetheless, as a writer, a blogger, a human being and most importantly, a follower of Jesus Christ, I feel it is of utmost importance to do just that.
Firstly, my heart grieves with the families of those that have lost loved ones through this tragedy. The pain, sorrow and loss they must be feeling is unimaginable. If I could comfort them with a warm embrace and loving words, I would do my very best. I stand side by side with those that are mourning in Pakistan right now and stand in solidarity with them to condemn this act of terror, violence and evil. Even other terror organisations are not condoning this act by the Taliban. In the confusion, emotion and chaos that has happened, I come before God on my knees and cry out like David in the Psalms.
“Have mercy on me, O God, have mercy on me, for in you my soul takes refuge. I will take refuge in the shadow of your wings until the disaster has passed. I cry out to God Most High, to God who fulfills his purpose for me.” (Psalm 57:1-2)
In the face of any tragedy, the first word most of us utter is ‘why?’. Why did this happen? Why did God allow it, if He is meant to be a loving God? We all grapple with these questions. My personal tragedy at one time was being diagnosed with cancer at the age of 19. There were a lot of ‘why’ questions being thrown around from me, my family and my friends. More recently, the daughter of someone I know passed away after a long, difficult fight against cancer. The ‘why’ was on my lips once more. Turning on the news, I feel some days the only word I can utter when I see the calamity is ‘why’?
Why seems like a good place to start. The answer to ‘why did this happen’ or ‘why did (s)he have to die’ or ‘why did they do this’ etc is one that we will all question at some point in our lives. My mum gave me some helpful printouts of a resource from Dr.Charles Stanley on the subjects of ‘Our Choices in the Midst of Tragedy’ and ‘In Times of Great Disaster’. I read through these this morning as I felt moved to write something about this massacre, and thought that this could provide a useful support alongside the firm foundation of the bible to thinking through this awful tragedy.
Charles Stanley states some helpful ways of coming to terms with God and tragedy which I have selected below:
- Even before tragedy strikes, God knows all about it.
- There are some things in this life that we will not understand – tragedy is one of them
- God is with us and those that we love – nothing escapes his omniscient care.
- We live in a fallen world where thoughtless acts of violence take place. Evil exists.
- God loves you, He has not abandoned you and He has a plan for the brokenness you are experiencing.
- God understands the emotions we feel.
- God is the God of all comfort, He comforts us and we are able to comfort others with that same comfort (2 Corinthians 1:3-4)
- God watched His Son die on the cross for us all – He understands what it means to lose a loved one.
- God causes all things to work for the good of those that love Him (Romans 8:28)
- No matter how great evil may appear, it is not strong enough to darken the light of God.
- The viewpoints we hear on such tragedies in society are often not scriptural.
- Life is uncertain, fragile and we are not in control of our circumstances.
- God is sovereign and in control.
- God cares for every person – Matthew 10:19 states how God cares for even the most common of all birds, the sparrow! And we are worth so much more than a sparrow!
- God loves us all – look at the cross.
- God’s desire for all mankind is redemption through faith in Jesus Christ. (John 3:16-17)
- Religions around the world profess gods of judgement and harshness. But the God of the bible is a God of love.
- God’s love never changes.
- He has a plan and a reason for everything. This does not mean we will understand it in our finite wisdom.
- When people cannot see a reason for pain and sorrow, they tend to blame God or even question His existence.
- Without the sovereignty of God we would have no assurance of anything.
- Death is scattered throughout the world. We are only vaguely aware of its presence until a disaster strikes.
- Every disaster is a merciful call to repentance for all who witness it. It gets our attention.
- Unless a person repents of sin they will perish.
- Sharing the love and truth of Jesus Christ is a priority for any Christian.
“What is it that drives us to our knees in prayer? What is it that causes us to seek God with all of our heart? Pain, suffering, heartache, and things we don’t understand.”
This list is a snapshot or glimpse into making sense of a tragedy such as the massacre in Pakistan. Nonetheless, we are confronted with a whole host of issues that we struggle to understand. Mainly, the question of ‘why’ still largely remains unanswered. We will never fully understand why this event took place – this cowardly, meaningless act of terrorism. However, the more we turn to Jesus, the more we can stand on solid ground and be comforted; we can have a peace that surpasses all understanding. We can rest assured that God is sovereign and just. Nothing goes unnoticed.
People are quick to discard God when tragedy strikes. Let me ask you this. What is your alternative? How does your alternative to God fulfill you? Does it ever disappoint you? Your alternative to God is a life without God – rejecting Him. Rejecting the One who died for you, to give you life, to reconcile your broken relationship with God and to love you so much – rejecting Christ, that is the greatest tragedy.
Where was God in the massacre? The same place He has always been. Right there in the midst of it. Jesus willingly went to the cross – at the time this was hard to understand and comprehend. The one that his disciples, family and friends loved was taken from them. This was a tragedy. However, God had worked out the plan from the very beginning. Death, sin and evil were crucified the day that Jesus was on that cross. The overarching plan was to conquer sin and death forever! If Christ’s disciples, friends and family fully comprehended this at His death, it would maybe have seemed less like a tragedy.
Jesus dying for us was the greatest victory. He understands and empathises with us deeply in our trials, tragedies and turmoil. He is not an invented God sitting on a cloud. He came down into the tragedy of mankind. Look around you! What do you see? Evil prevailing? Yes. So it would seem in our finite wisdom. But behold! Sovereign God stepped down into the darkness of this world and put an end to evil. Time is running out for wickedness to continue on the path it is going. Jesus Christ is coming back. But are you ready? Have you asked Him to be Lord of your life? He loves you so much – do not ignore the greatest victory of the Risen Jesus who conquered the worst of tragedies being sin and death and made a way back to God for each one of us.
The question should not be ‘why’. The answer is Jesus.