A Time to Weep, A Time to Mourn

Last night, while many of us were sleeping, a deeply-disturbed young man entered a midnight showing of the latest Batman movie in Aurora, Co., and began firing his guns into the crowd, taking at least a dozen lives and seriously injuring many others. Both the President and Mitt Romney quickly offered their condolences and used the term “evil” to describe this latest in a long line of deadly rampages.

My husband Warren and I are on vacation, visiting family in Michigan. I woke up to find one of our family members, Heidi, just finishing her morning meditation of Psalm 118, select verses of which had been lifting her up as she meditated upon them. Immediately after reading Psalm 118, she opened her computer only to be met with the headlines about this latest shooting.

So, for the better part of an hour, our prayers and discussion centered around the apparent cognitive dissonance that rises out of what we see all around us and what God’s Word says.

For example, how can it really be true that “the right hand of the Lord does valiantly” when we can so clearly see evil all around us? (Psalm 118:15-16) How can this day, which the Lord has made, cause us to rejoice and be glad in it (v. 24) when it begins with news of terror and destruction of human life?

We could go all the way back to Genesis and talk about how God created a perfect world for us, created us in His very image, and then gave us the ability to choose for ourselves whether we would obey Him (Genesis 1-2). We all know Adam and Eve willfully chose rebellion over obedience (Genesis 3:1-7), and sin – thoughtless, willful, unconscionable sin – has been staining our world, twisting our desires and wreaking havoc in our relationships ever since.

While deeply sorrowful whenever this kind of horrific event happens, we should never be surprised that we humans are capable of great evil. What should surprise us, if we rightly understood the depths of the rebellion within every human heart, is how often common grace protects us from horrors like this happening far more often. That unbelievers have an innate sense of right and wrong, and live their lives following those innate morals – despite a rejection of the One who defines right and wrong – is God’s gift of grace sustaining this world.

The Book of Habakkuk tells us of a prophet who comes to understand that God very often works His plan out in ways that, if we were to glimpse His methods, might well horrify us (Habakkuk 1:1-11). That we finite beings cannot possibly begin to understand His ways (Isaiah 55:8-9) or how He might be able to use even horrific evil for the good of those whom He loves and has called to Him (Romans 8:28) does not mean that it can’t be true.

If we had the audacity to cry out to God, “Why do you allow such horrors to happen if you are such a loving God?” we could easily find ourselves in Job’s shoes. When Job questioned God’s goodness following the tragic, sorrowful events in his life – grief that included the loss of all his children’s lives, all his wealth and finally, his own health – God responded by asking him a few questions of His own, pointing out that maybe Job did not, nor could not possibly, have the full story of God’s plan for the world (Job 38-41).

For me, the only source of hope I have when I start out my day with such appalling news of pain and terror is to focus on eternity. This life, right now, is filled with seasons for all of us that seem hard and long, and are sometimes overflowing with pain. From a temporal perspective, this life can often fall far short of the events we think of when God’s Word calls us to “rejoice and be glad” in it. But in those moments, I remind myself that this life is but a breath, a mist, and it will all be gone in a moment when looked back on from the joy-filled perspective of eternity. One day, Christ Himself will wipe away every tear that has fallen today in Aurora, Co., from the eyes of His faithful.

And so, for now, I think the only thing for us to do right now is to weep with those who weep. This, rather than searching for answers or questioning our Maker, may be the most faithful thing we can do, and our best way to comfort those who have lost so much. Stop speaking. Stop trying to explain. Simply weep.

Ecclesiastes 3:1-8
For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:
a time to be born, and a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;
a time to kill, and a time to heal;
a time to break down, and a time to build up;
a time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
a time to seek, and a time to lose;
a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
a time to tear, and a time to sew;
a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
a time to love, and a time to hate;
a time for war, and a time for peace. 

Psalm 118
Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;
    for his steadfast love endures forever!
Let Israel say,
    “His steadfast love endures forever.”
Let the house of Aaron say,
    “His steadfast love endures forever.”
Let those who fear the Lord say,
    “His steadfast love endures forever.”
Out of my distress I called on the Lord;
    the Lord answered me and set me free.
The Lord is on my side; I will not fear.
    What can man do to me?
The Lord is on my side as my helper;
    I shall look in triumph on those who hate me.
It is better to take refuge in the Lord
     than to trust in man.
It is better to take refuge in the Lord
     than to trust in princes.
All nations surrounded me;
    in the name of the Lord I cut them off!
They surrounded me, surrounded me on every side;
    in the name of the Lord I cut them off!
They surrounded me like bees;
    they went out like a fire among thorns;
    in the name of the Lord I cut them off!
I was pushed hard,[a] so that I was falling,
    but the Lord helped me.
The Lord is my strength and my song;
     he has become my salvation.
Glad songs of salvation
    are in the tents of the righteous:
“The right hand of the Lord does valiantly,
the right hand of the Lord exalts,
    the right hand of the Lord does valiantly!”
I shall not die, but I shall live,
    and recount the deeds of the Lord.
The Lord has disciplined me severely,
    but he has not given me over to death.
Open to me the gates of righteousness,
    that I may enter through them
    and give thanks to the Lord.
This is the gate of the Lord;
     the righteous shall enter through it.
I thank you that you have answered me
     and have become my salvation.
The stone that the builders rejected
    has become the cornerstone.[b]
This is the Lord’s doing;
    it is marvelous in our eyes.
This is the day that the Lord has made;
    let us rejoice and be glad in it.
Save us, we pray, O Lord!
    O Lord, we pray, give us success!
Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!
    We bless you from the house of the Lord.
The Lord is God,
    and he has made his light to shine upon us.
Bind the festal sacrifice with cords,
    up to the horns of the altar!
You are my God, and I will give thanks to you;
    you are my God; I will extol you.
Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;
    for his steadfast love endures forever!

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