It’s one of those stories that make you shake your head and question the heavens. A lunatic walks into a movie theater and sets off tear gas canisters and starts shooting people. What was supposed to be a special night out turns into a massacre. There were couples on dates, parents treating their kids to a late night out at the cinema and excitement at being the first to see ‘Batman: The Dark Knight Rises’. Instead of precious memories to cherish they received nightmares too graphic to forget. Twelve dead, thirty-eight injured and too many questions with too few answers.
It is times like this that people come to me (and other preachers as well) looking for answers. “Why did this happen?” “Is this a sign of the times?” and perhaps the most honest question of all, “Where was God?”
Can I be honest with you? I don’t have all the answers. Sure, there are some Sunday-school answers I could give:
- Why did this happen? – We live in a fallen world full of sin-deceived people
- Is this a sign of the times? – Could be. We’ve been living in the ‘last days’ for nearly 2000 years.
- Where was God? – God is omnipresent. He is everywhere at all times, so in a real sense He was in that theater.
Not much comfort in those answers is there? If anything, the answers raise more questions: “If God was there why didn’t He stop it?” “Doesn’t God care that we suffer?” “Why would God allow one sick individual to ruin so many lives?”
Let me answer the same way Jesus did. In His time two tragic events occurred. The first was Herod had executed some innocent people (among them would eventually be Jesus’ own cousin, John the Baptist). Another was when a tower fell killing several construction workers. Jesus, being a skilled teacher, was asked to reconcile these events with the existence of a ‘good God.’ His answer? Let me warn you, it’s less than comforting. His answer was, ‘Repent, or you will likewise perish’ (See Luke 13:1-5). If anything events like those in Aurora, CO should remind us of two facts: (1) Life is fleeting. We do not know when our next breath will be our last breath. And (2) Judgment is certain. God is good, but He is also just. Jesus did not want the people of His day wasting their lives on things that don’t matter, He wanted them to pursue the things of God; things that have an eternal reward.
I don’t want to come across as calloused or unfeeling. My heart breaks for the victims of the tragedy in Aurora. So I do offer these words of hope. But I warn you, this comfort is only guaranteed to those who have heeded Jesus’ command to repent. For us who have drank deeply of the grace of God we know that this world will not last forever. God’s word assures us that “weeping may last for the night, but joy comes in the morning.” (Ps. 30:5). Pain, suffering and death will one day be eradicated, and we will rejoice with Jesus forever. That’s the promise of God spoken into a dark night. It is a promise available to all and it is sealed with the blood of Jesus and authenticated with an empty tomb. It is a promise that a glorious dawn will break, shattering darkness with it’s first rays of light; a promise that whatever we endure on earth will pale in comparison to the glory to come; a promise that I pray you will partake in before the dark night ends.