By Pastor Zack Potter
As you have heard or seen on the news, another mass shooting and great tragedy has happened in America this past weekend. This has caused many people to question why this is happening, voice their opinion as to why this is happening, become fearful of the world we live in, and are left wondering where is God in all of this.
The truth of the matter is when something like this happens, I’m not sure we can ever provide 100% solutions to these tragedies and mass shootings, but we can pay attention to the way we respond. In fact, how we respond matters tremendously, and we have the ability to choose our response.
So, the following are 5 ways we can respond to tragedies and these mass shootings that have taken place:
This should cause us to run to God in prayer, not away from God. The temptation for all of us is to blame God and think that this proves that God doesn’t care or that He is absent from our lives. But, this couldn’t be further from the truth. As the Apostle Paul says in Ephesians 6:12, “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” Tragedies like this past weekend prove that Satan still has dominion and rule over this earth. It doesn’t mean that God isn’t in control or that God doesn’t care, it just means that Satan still has authority.
Ultimately, Satan is a defeated foe because Jesus Christ died on the cross for our sins and rose again three days later which defeated Satan, sin and death. But, until Jesus returns to set up His rule and reign on the earth Satan still has authority. Tragedies shouldn’t cause us to blame God or run from Him, but rather, to actually hate Satan and his work more than ever. It should cause us to want Jesus to return sooner than ever to put a stop to all of this and set up His perfect Kingdom. As John says in Revelation 21:3-4, “And I heard a loud voice form the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be His people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” What a day that will be when tears, death, mourning, crying and pain will no longer be.
Please don’t run from God during this difficult time, run to Him in prayer.
The natural tendency is to immediately get on social media to voice and vent our frustrations and opinions. But, the wise thing to do is to simply pause and think about the proper way to respond. If you are a follower of Jesus, this especially applies to you. Your witness, your credibility, your reputation, your belief system, and your influence is on the line. Don’t waste it by being emotional or trying to get your opinion out there. James says in James 1:19, “Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger.” What a timely word of wisdom in our day and age. It will do a lot of good if we would simply pause and consider the weight of our response, and how it can glorify God or damage our witness.
We need more compassion in our world. The definition of compassion is: sympathetic pity and concern for the sufferings or misfortunes of others. Instead of pointing fingers, placing blame, and increasing hatred, we should become sympathetic to the needs of others. We have a tendency to yell at someone who we think caused the problem rather than run to the people who are hurting during this time. Let me ask you a question: when is the last time you became broken over someone else’s pain? We need to develop more tender hearts towards one another because, the truth of the matter is, we don’t need more voices yelling out, we just need more shoulders to lean on and cry on during difficult moments.
In a world filled with increasing hatred we need more people committed to truly loving one another. I have to be careful when I talk about love because I believe it is one of the most wrongly defined words in our culture today. Jesus gives the greatest practical definition of love in Luke 6:27-36:
“But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. 29 To one who strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also, and from one who takes away your cloak do not withhold your tunic either. 30 Give to everyone who begs from you, and from one who takes away your goods do not demand them back. 31 And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them.
32 “If you love those who love you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. 33 And if you do good to those who do good to you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. 34 And if you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to get back the same amount. 35 But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil. 36 Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.
True love is found when we love those who don’t love us. Or, when we love without an expectation of return. Love in this moment would be coming alongside of those who are struggling and caring for them, but it is also extending grace and forgiveness to our enemies. As much as we need to love the hurting, we should also love those who cause the hurting because maybe they could be hurting too. Loving our enemies is the true test of love. How are we truly loving those around us?
Finally, we can and should respond with hope. Hope is: the expectation of a preferred future. As I mentioned earlier, because of what Jesus did on the cross for our sins we can have hope that a better future is awaiting us. That is, for those that know Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. The only way to have hope in the midst of tragedy is to know that something better is coming. If we have repented of our sins and trusted in Jesus Christ to be our Savior we can truly have hope. Tragedy will one day no longer be, and eternal peace and joy will be our reality.
In conclusion, as a church, community, and country the best thing we can do is to call out to God and ask for His help. If we want anything to change in our country it won’t happen by simply passing a new bill, it will happen by people having new and transformed hearts. I want to leave you with this last Scripture that, if applied, will bring the change that we all so desperately long to see.
2 Chronicles 7:14
If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from Heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.