On Wednesday, February 14th, former student, Nikolas Cruz, entered Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida and opened fire upon the students and staff. At least 17 are dead. 14 others have been hospitalized. Another community is in shock, and the nation is left looking on in horror.
I am ashamed to say that when I heard the news, I was saddened but not shocked. Unfortunately, mass shootings seem to be all too common in this day and age. Five years prior, it was Sandy Hook. Just a few months ago, Las Vegas. It’s all too familiar. What’s most terrifying is that we all know that it is just a matter of time before it happens again.
I am not a politician or lawmaker. So, I won’t talk about gun control or security. I am a pastor. Therefore, the question I want to address is: Where was God? Where was God when Nikolas Cruz entered that school to gun down those innocent kids? Well, if you believe the Bible, the answer is, God was there. God is omni-present. He is everywhere. But, that’s not the question, is it? The question every believer, and non-believer, asks at a time like this is: How can a good God allow such evil?
It’s the age-old dilemma and it goes like this. Evil exists. Therefore, God is either loving or all-powerful. He cannot be both. Some argue that God is loving, but He isn’t all-powerful. He wanted to stop the Florida shootings, but He just couldn’t. Others would say, no! God is all-powerful. He can do whatever He pleases. The reason He didn’t stop the shootings is because He doesn’t truly love us.
The dilemma is very simple. People see evil in the world and conclude that either God can’t do anything about it or He just doesn’t want to. There is no way He can be all-loving and all-powerful, because if He were loving and had the power, He would have used His power to stop the shooter and the problem would have never happened.
So, where do we go from here? What kind of God are we going to believe in? I don’t know about you, but I choose to believe the God revealed in the Bible. First of all, it brings me no comfort to believe in a God who doesn’t love me. In fact, that’s terrifying. Secondly, I am equally disturbed by the notion that the God we serve is impotent. What hope do we have for a future if God is lacking in power?
Instead, I choose to believe the Scripture that presents a God who is both all-powerful and completely benevolent. So, how do we make sense of the Florida shootings and other such evil with this kind of God? I will give you four biblical truths to frame your understanding.
- We live in fallen world. Never forget, the world we live in is in this broken condition because we (human beings) continually sin against God (Genesis 3). It’s not God’s fault that the world is screwed up. That’s our doing. God created a perfect world that we have wrecked.
- Satan is real. We not only have our own sin to deal with; we have a real, spiritual enemy at work in the world. The Devil’s priority is to defame the name of God, and what better way to do that than to encourage the massacre of those created in His image?
- You are not God. When people make the argument that God should have stopped the shootings or other evils, this presumes to know the mind and purposes of God. We don’t have God’s wisdom or knowledge. We cannot fathom why He does what He does. He is God. We’re not!
- God is redeeming the world. I don’t believe that God is impotent, and I don’t believe He is unloving. The Bible says, despite our wicked state of affairs, our God is working all things “together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28). No, I don’t understand how the Florida shootings fit in God’s plan. But, I do know that Nikolas Cruz is responsible for those shootings, and God is using that horrible situation to bring about His good purposes. I know that Satan was behind the evil that took place. But, I also know the Devil is God’s Devil and not even Satan can operate apart from God’s permission. History is heading one direction—towards God’s appointed end.
While I hate seeing tragedies such as this shooting, I take comfort in knowing that my benevolent, omnipotent God is on the throne, and nothing takes Him by surprise. And even the evil acts of men are being used to bring about His Sovereign intentions which will result in, one day, a New Heavens and New Earth where evil is eradicated and death is no more.