Sadness, heartache and sorrow. The country mourns with those who have lost loved ones in Newtown Connecticut today. Our thoughts and prayers are with all the families and friends of the victims and with the victims who will be suffering with physical and emotional scars for years to come.
As He allowed Judas to betray Jesus and then permitted the hands of sinful men to scourge and crucify our Lord in order that all mankind would be saved, the citizens of Newtown must know and believe that God did not permit this tragedy to come upon them for their destruction or evil purposes. We cannot see it here and now because we are limited, but the fact remains that He has sent even this for our good.
God has not forsaken the people of Newtown. He has not abandoned them. He is there to comfort them in their grief and their sorrow. He is there to bind up their broken hearts and show them His grace and His mercy even in the midst of their pain and their sorrow. This Sunday, each citizen of that area should seek out a church that will tell them of the love of God in Jesus – who was the Son of God born in human flesh in Bethlehem to live, suffer and die in order to give us life. Even though those living at the time didn’t understand it, that a apparent “senseless act of violence,” was ordained of God to bring hope and peace to all mankind.
As the citizens of Newtown and the surrounding area seek comfort and peace, many of the rest of us will be attempting to make sense of this tragedy and the search for an explanation as to what “made this man do this” will go on for a long time. “What set him ‘over the edge?'” “Why would he do this?”
These questions, and the several dozen like them that will be asked in the days and weeks ahead, have at their core the single thought that there was something that made this man different and distinct from us.
If the story line goes as it usually does, in the next hours, we will hear from friends and neighbors how out of character this was for him. How he “seemed” to always be a loving and caring individual. Perhaps he, “kept to himself,” but there will likely be nothing uncovered that would warn anyone that this apparently normal person was a homicidal madman. And so, whether it was his environment, his upbringing, something that happened to him recently, the search is on to come up with an explanation that answers the question, “what turned this otherwise ‘good person’ into such a ‘monster’?”
But all of these questions belie a false thinking. I know it isn’t popular and it may not fit in with a culture that requires us to be “sensitive” and refuses to allow us to tell things as they are, but the fact is this man is actually no different from you or me . . . except in one respect. For His own reasons and His own purposes, known only to Him, God, for a very brief time today, stopped preventing this man from acting on the homicidal rage and murderous thoughts within him.
To be clear, God did not put a gun in this man’s hand, nor did God pull the trigger. God simply did not prevent this man from truly “being himself”.
And that’s the point.
Like the pharisees of Jesus day, we like to think we’re more refined and morally superior to the brutes and so we have an innate need to look down upon those who commit these acts and see them as somehow beneath us. Or, if we cannot look down upon them, we seek to find an explanation that excuses their action and lays blame upon their upbringing, their circumstances, or something outside of them. Otherwise we would have to face the fact that if God were to draw His hand back from us – if He were to stop preventing us from carrying out the inborn natural desires that we have, we would quickly find out that every one of us has not only the capacity but the will and the desire to carry out all manner of evil and heinous acts upon others.
Therefore, thank God that He continues to uphold and sustain the world. Thank and praise Him that He does not allow more of these tragedies to occur every day. Thank Him that He prevents us from acting on our natural, inborn predispositions and that He keeps us from fulfilling the deepest darkest desires of our heart. “For from within, out of men’s hearts, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly.” (Mark 7:21-22)
If you want to see what the world would look like if God were not constantly active in restraining evil, look to Newtown Connecticut on December 14, 2012 where God briefly ceased restraining a man from doing what his heart and his mind naturally desired to do. Then thank God that He has not completely forsaken the world and that He still upholds and sustains it by His gracious, merciful, omnipotent hand and keeps us from many manifest evils every day. Finally, pray that He continues to do so.