Aurora, Newtown, San Bernardino, Orlando, and now Las Vegas—these places and others now trigger in our memories images of helplessness, terror, and pain. I’m so sick of this. I hate waking up in the morning to news of more people—God’s image bearers—murdered. And yet, here we are—again.
It could be the most lethal mass shooting in U.S. history. A gunman targeted a music festival from the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay Hotel and Casino and fired from his hotel room onto the Las Vegas Strip last night, killing over 50 people.
Why do bad things like this keep happening to us, according to Christianity? What can we do when we wake up to horrific news trending? Can we do anything at all?
A Christian Response to Terror and Tragedy
Acts of terror, natural disasters, disease, hunger, poverty, and war all exist because of that tragic moment in world history when Adam and Eve took the fruit from the forbidden tree and disobeyed God in the garden of Eden (Genesis 3).
This ancient act of treason caused ripple effects that continue to span across all time and every place. There is not one square inch of this world that does not ache with the effects of original sin. Sadly, tragedy is one unnatural aspect of life in this sin-cursed, fallen world, and evil is an ever-present danger.
Yet, on the darkest day in human history, when God forsook his one and only Son at Golgotha, Jesus triumphed over all tragedy and evil through the tragedy of tragedies and the death of deaths. In God’s plan of salvation for humanity, Jesus Christ’s defeat was ultimate victory—death has no more sting through the power of the risen Lord.
Even though death still marks this present evil age, there will be a day very soon when everything will be different. There won’t be one square inch of the world to come that will hurt or weep: every tear and all pain will be ended, and life will be full of endless joy, peace, and eternal bliss for all of those who love and are loved by Jesus (Rev. 21:4).
Every religion has to deal with evil and suffering. Christianity faces the reality of evil or suffering, and God promises to do something about our evil and suffering.
What You Can Do Right Now
I always feel so helpless when I hear about another mass shooting or terrorist attack. I feel small and insignificant in the wake of events that are out of my control.
I’m just a distant bystander unable to do anything about the tragedy that confronts my neighbors. We are all spectators, not actors, in this cruel game called "life." Wrong! We have the ability to be more than spectators.
We can be participants with others through the act of prayer. Paul encourages us to “rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep” (Rom. 12:15). We are able to do this through prayer—even if we are thousands of miles away from those who are suffering and grieving.
Intercession is often frowned upon by our culture, and it is viewed as inaction by many Christians. But the Lord Jesus Christ stands, even now, interceding for you (Rom. 8:34). Why should we stand by, doing nothing, when others stand in need of our prayers?
So, the first thing you can do when you hear bad news, is to get down on your knees to pray. There is no better time than right now to pray for those who are grieving and mourning in the midst of mass terror and suffering:
Father, we pray for those in Las Vegas who are terrified and worried. We ask for your comfort for every family who has experienced great loss and who presently suffer from great pain. We pray for justice to be brought to all of those who took part in carrying out this great evil. We know that we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against spiritual forces of evil who seek to destroy people made in your image. We thank you that, even though we don’t presently see it, you have put all evil under your feet at the foot of your cross. Help us to see that evil and death will not have the last word. Lord, have mercy on us. Amen.
One day soon, all of the wrongs of this world will be made right by the second coming of Christ and his new world to come. There will be no more tragedy, only victory. It is toward this end that we look, and it is because of this future that we have certain hope.
In Christ, God has turned our hopeless weeping into a more hopeful joy. We look forward to a kingdom, as Russell Moore so aptly said in Time after the Orlando shooting last year, “where blood is not shed and where bullets never fly.” There at Golgotha, death died—and violence will soon be no more.
That’s our Christian hope, even today. And it will be our hope tomorrow.
More Resources on Suffering, Violence, and Mass Shootings
4 Ways the Bible Deals with Evil
Gun Control and Jesus
My Thoughts and Prayers Are with Brussels
God and Suffering
The Problem of Evil
What One Black Church Taught All of Us
Watch this brief video with Timothy Keller: