In the wake of the recent mass shootings, it is only natural to search for answers to explain something completely incomprehensible. Here is one of those big questions and where I have landed personally on this issue. Please keep in mind I am not a pastor or a theologian, I am just someone like you trying to make sense of the senseless.
With every one of these shootings I pray, but after hearing about the Ohio shooting, a question popped into my head: “If God hears our prayers why does He still allows these shootings to happen?”
I know we are supposed to pray but what will prevent these mass shooting? I know that prayer can bring peace to the victims in Texas, Ohio, and California, but how can we pray for the change? Does God use the shooting to test our faith? If God Loves everyone how can He decide who to save?
I hate the fact that we live in a world where mass shootings are becoming routine and that we even have to contemplate how to pray for yet another violent tragedy.
In some ways, I think this stuff is even harder to justify the stronger your faith is because you know God has the power and ability to prevent tragedy….but He doesn’t. To me, it comes down to free will. That is a key to our faith: we are not robots forced to love God. The blessing and the curse of free will is that sometimes, someone else’s free will to choose evil has an impact on innocent people. It doesn’t feel fair, it doesn’t feel right, and it doesn’t feel like God even cares. But nothing could be farther from the truth.
God uses anything and everything, even the bad things, to draw people to Him. There are always stories of people who find God through the worst tragedies. I realize this is hard to rationalize, but we do not see the whole picture or the ripple effect that happens following one of the events. In Romans 8:28 the Bible says, “And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to His purpose for them.”
I have come to think this doesn’t mean that it is good for everyone involved, but that there is a greater good that can come about when we let God’s story be told in tragedy. I know in my life there have been things that were not good for me, like the death of my father, but his passing had an effect on others who turned their eyes back to God, and I am thankful for that. I didn’t get to side step the pain, but God provided peace inside of it.
It’s like Algebra. I will never understand how you can combine letters and numbers to solve some sort of problem, but it works, whether I understand it or not. God’s view of life and death is different from ours, and we do not have the advantage of His perspective. I am learning that when there are things that are outside of my grasp, like senseless violence and innocent people being murdered, to pray for peace where there is not understanding. That is something God promises us in Philippians 4:7: “Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.”
I fully admit this feels like a cop out, that I don’t really have a great answer to the tough questions, or that I’m just chocking this up to God having a secret and pointless plan.
However, there is truth in the statement that God has a plan. It is not something we like to hear, but God does “use tragedies for His glory.” I will admit, though, that is a Christian phrase I always had a problem with because it feels extremely narcissistic, and that is coming from a self-aware narcissist. Why would God allow people to suffer so that He could be glorified? I think the concept is true, but the terminology is the problem.
I do believe that God can use tragedy to draw people closer to Him which ultimately supersedes our comfort, but at the same time, I would never tell a grieving mother or family who just lost her child that truth. There is a time and place for everything, and we should be sensitive to the situation before we recklessly dispense truth. I would always err on giving hurting people time to come to find God’s goodness in the bad in their own time.