Where is God? Where is hope and where are our answers? The slaughter, the violence, the carnage is on a continuum, thrusting humanity into the destruction. In Manchester, England a feckless terrorist murdered people at a concert, many of them were teens. In 2016 alone, there were 1,274 Islamic attacks in 50 countries, where 11,774 people were killed and 14,303 injured. Religion-based violence is nothing new. Look no further than to the pages of a dark world history. The Inquisition, the Crusades, the Holocaust and violence against minorities through the KKK.This is where people cry "Where are you, God?" It is a legitimate question along with the moanings of our hearts. But what is the answer? In moments of violence, regardless of who you are – Christian or non-Christian, we seek a definition. None of us have the answer to what ails us so desperately. All we can do is sort through our assumptions and presumptions. In the meantime, we offer 5 suggestions on how to understand God in times of tragedy.
God gave man freedom.Why does God allow bad things to happen in the world? It's the universal question. Phil Hotsenpiller is the co-founder and Senior Pastor of Influence Church in Anaheim Hills, California, he explained that once we start in that precept position, we end up in a bad place. God is good and God is holy and God is just--but also God gave freedom to man. "People, who ask that question, never ask, "If God is a bad God, why do good things happen? If God is not good, why follow Him at all? If God is good, we have to understand through a filter of goodness, objective truth is the Word of God," he said. "We need to view the world in a bigger picture that along with freedom, evil exists." Our free will can't override another person's free will whether it's to hate or to love.
We need to acknowledge evil.Our moral mandate as Christians is to do something about evil in the world. Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a German pastor, theologian, spy, anti-Nazi dissident and a key founding member of the Confessing Church. He was the first to voice that the world needed to pay attention to the rise of Adolf Hitler. Bonhoeffer's whole principle was that if we fail to deal with evil in the world, evil would rise to greater heights and destroy the good in all of us. Just like men are capable of doing evil, as believers, we need to take action against the monstrous commissions against the world. We all have the ability to do good or to tap into the darkness. "We have this capacity for darkness," said Hotsenpiller. "Jesus said in the Beatitudes if this 'light within becomes darkness, then how great indeed is the darkness.' In other words, there is no end to the darkness if man continues to go down that road.
We need to face evil.We talk about loving people, and this is true--but in the wake of evil, you don't need to sit down have coffee with the group perpetrating crimes. That doesn't work the pastor explained when evil is evident in our land and in our world. It is necessary for a good society to deal with evil in a deliberate fashion. This why we have laws to govern our lands. With regards to terrorist attacks, the nations of the world need to call out radical Islam and mandate a war against them. In America, some people believe that American Muslims have not worked hard enough to condemn the extremist in their respective communities, they need to condemn these radical acts more vocally. However, the Muslims United for San Bernardino took a stand and denounced the shooters of the shootings in 2015 and raised over $100,000 to help with the needs of the victims. We need to ban together to take down evildoers, something that we all can recognize.
We need to get the facts.When President Donald Trump wanted to place a travel ban on countries where radical Islamists are becoming an increased threat, it was called a "Muslim ban." Trump initially signed an executive order banning foreign nationals from Muslim-leading countries like Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen from entering the United States for 90 days until they were vetted. Raheel Raza is a Pakistani-Canadian journalist, author, anti-racism activist and is the President of Council for Muslims Facing Tomorrow. "It's against Muslims who are distorting the faith. I realize that the anti-Trump movement is well-funded and very well planned. It doesn't matter what he says. I never believed that this was a ban against Muslims. As president of the United States, he could've banned Muslims from every country," she explained. After the travel ban was issued, there was a terror attack in London. Being soft against radical groups, breeds more violence.
We're in a spiritual battle.Outside of fighting terrorists with guns, another aspect needs to be addressed--we are in a spiritual battle against invisible forces. Hotsenpiller explained: "Lawlessness goes back to Satan and what satan did before the creation. He actually began this pattern of lawlessness that you can trace through the Word of God and it will accumulate finally in the Book of Revelations. That is why the antichrist is referred to as the man of lawlessness. We are dealing with the spirit of lawlessness." Just like there are angelic beings assigned to do good in the world, there are demonic forces and demons at work.
Remember what the Lord said in 2 Chronicles 20:15, 17-18: “Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army. For the battle is not yours, but God’s [for] you will not have to fight this battle. Take up your positions; stand firm and see the deliverance the Lord will give you [and] do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. Go out to face them tomorrow, and the Lord will be with you." This is a moment that you need to hold onto His sovereignty and power because we may never know the reasons behind the why's.