We find ourselves shaken once again by the devastating news of yet another mass shooting. This happened in Allen, TX, close to the Passages office. We are yet again shocked, infuriated and broken over the indiscriminate killing and violence. We grieve over the precious lives lost. Big questions bubble to the surface, and they can be summarized in one: “Why, God?”
We at Passages are in the business of making space for hard questions, of wrestling with seemingly conflicting realities. When young people travel to Israel, they must grapple with difficult realities facing Israel. This process is helpful not only for engaging with Israel but also for engaging with life back home, which can also be complex and heavy—especially in moments such as these.
So, how do we face it? What do we as Christians do with the questions, the emotions and the doubts that accompany these moments?
Here are four things the Bible encourages us to do.
We often forget the importance of lamenting tragedy and evil in the world. We live in a broken world. The biblical authors knew this and gave us substantial tools for processing and grieving. The book of Lamentations is the most obvious example. In addition, David and other writers poured out their questions and even anger to God in many psalms. Quite frankly, these psalms of lament are so raw that they often make us uncomfortable. The fact that they’re preserved for us today shows that God is not offended by our grief. He meets us there.
In the face of the recent shooting in Allen and others like it, let us lament.
Read: Psalm 77; Lamentations 3
In Psalm 77, the psalmist Asaph pours out his anger, weariness and devastation to God. But an important shift happens in verse 10: he chooses to remember the goodness and faithfulness of God. He looks back. He sees the Lord’s track record. It didn’t change the current reality. He had to hold the tension of the grief and the knowledge of God’s faithfulness together. But the remembrance lifted him.
In the face of the recent shooting in Allen and others like it, let us remember the Lord’s faithfulness.
Read: Isaiah 46:9; Deuteronomy 6:23
Something about remembering who God is prompts us to praise him. When we see him clearly, we must praise him. The thing about praise: it’s not based on our emotions, how we feel or what our circumstances look like. Our praise is a response to who God is, and he is “the same yesterday, today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8). As Asaph observed in Psalm 77:13, “Your ways, God, are holy.” Importantly, it’s often necessary to continue lamenting even while choosing to praise.
In the face of the recent shooting in Allen and others like it, let us praise the Lord for who he is even in our bitter circumstances—knowing that he has not changed and our hope is in him.
Read: Psalm 42:5; Hebrews 13:15; Psalm 63:3-4; Psalm 145:1
We as Christians have been given the keys to the kingdom. Jesus himself has entrusted his invisible kingdom to us until he returns to make all things new. We are his agents for pushing back the darkness and bringing light to the world through Christ. We are his ministers of reconciliation. We are ambassadors of Christ. We are the conduits of heaven on earth. Every time we obey the Lord’s instruction to love others, to meet their needs in practical ways, to consider the interests of our neighbors before ourselves, we usher in the reality of the kingdom into our own context.
In the face of the recent shooting in Allen and others like it, let us find ways to do good in our communities and thus be faithful ambassadors of Christ’s victorious kingdom to a broken world.
Read: Psalm 103:19; Matthew 16:19; Luke 12:32; Galatians 6:9; Hebrews 13:16; 2 Corinthians 5:11-21
It’s important that we go through this process. It doesn’t have to happen in order. The process may take longer for some of us, especially the closer we are to the tragedy. But one thing is for certain: our God is with us. We never have to walk through difficulty alone. What a comfort this is!