Dear children, let’s not merely say that we love each other; let us show the truth by our actions. 1 John 3:18 (New Living Translation)
Ross Abdallah Alameddine, 20; • Christopher James Bishop, 35; Ryan Clark aka "Stack", 22; Jocelyn Couture-Nowak; Daniel Perez Cueva, 21; Kevin Granata; Austin Cloyd; Caitlin Hammaren, 19; Jeremy Herbstritt, 27; Rachael Elizabeth Hill, 18; Emily Jane Hilscher, 19; Jarrett Lee Lane, 22; Henry Lee, also known as Henh Ly, 20; Matthew J. La Porte, 20; Liviu Librescu, 76; G.V. Loganathan, 51; Daniel O'Neil, 22; Juan Ramon Ortiz, 26; Erin Peterson; Mary Karen Read, 19; Lauren McCain, 20; Reema J. Samaha, 18; Maxine Shelly Turner, 22……………………and Cho Seung-Hui, 23 who is the alleged killer…
A partial list of the thirty-two victims from the Virginia Tech massacre, ages 18 to 76 and from Virginia, a scattering of other states in the US, and even other countries. All, with the exception of Cho, woke up Monday morning expecting another day on a bustling, dynamic campus of learning. All had aspirations and dreams, plans and schemes to obtain their goals. All were desired and loved by their Savior. Even the alleged shooter, Cho Seung-Hui. All are no longer among us.
There are the additional victims, the 'lucky' ones who escaped with their lives but with scars both physical and mental. And then there are those of us who knew some of the victims, alive or dead, who mourn with a nation at the loss of so many and the violence in which they fell.
Even in the midst of the horror and tragedy, there were shining lights. Two of the fallen are being hailed as heroes; Ryan Clark, who was known as Stack by many, who stepped to the aid of a friend, who was the first two victims of the shooter's rage and Liviu Librescu, a holocaust survivor who two hours after Ryan fell, held the classroom door shut against the shooter so that his students could escape from the shooter's planned rampage. There are most likely more heroes, who did the little things that went unrecognized, that allowed brief moments of time in which more were saved from the intended outcome.
Not hours after the ending of the physical actions taken by the alleged gunman, accusations flew and questions were poised by newscasters, reporters, and students about the police handling of the initial shooting at the dorm and the engineering classroom shootings two hours later. How could a gunman, loaded with weaponry and ammunition, traverse a college campus undetected? Over the course of the days since the massacre, we have outcries over the connection of the shootings, the availability of the weaponry and ease of purchase, the warning signs, the disregarded warning of a VT professor about the alleged gunman, Cho, and outrage over the senseless tragedy. And, certainly, in a nation that purports a 98% Christian faith, the question boils up to: "Where was God in this? Why didn't a just and loving God intervene?"
Churches in Virginia were full of those grieving the lost, praying for the wounded, and offering comfort in a situation where comfort seemed distant. The President offered the condolences of a nation stunned and mourning with the families who lost loved ones. The Presidential hopefuls made public statements cancelling their campaign stops in respect of the tragedy. Sound bites and instant updates flooded the nation's news outlets. In South Korea, the massacre plastered the news and diplomats from that country were dispatched to Virginia Tech to offer condolences and counseling.
Yet, no one answered on the airwaves or in the news media that question. Where was God? Why did this 'biggest massacre on a campus in American history' be allowed? Why?
In the Bible, we have numerous stories both in the Old and New Testaments of God's intervention in the discourse of man. The Holy Spirit sent to the apostles on Pentecost, the whole Gentile outreach and the meeting of key players in that story, Saul's conversion, the Red Sea crossing, and victorious battles against overwhelming odds. Countless, visible, and benefical interventions by the Living God. And, there are countless stories of miraculous healing, unexplainable blessings, and other events in our physical world that are assigned by the faithful to be from God's intervention.
Yet, we also find nonintervention, those moments where our spirits cry out with the lack of compassionate love in spectacular and horrid situations. The flogging of the Apostles in Acts 5:40, the martyrdom of Stephen by stoning, the vicious persecution of the early church by Saul and others like him. Paul's witness after his conversion and almost immediate threatening of his life, countless illness that befell Paul and his brethren in their outreach missions, Paul's stoning to the point near death, a shipwreck that befalls Paul, and Paul's arrest, imprisonment that ultimate results in his death. Not to mention James, Jesus' own earthly brother, who is cruelly beheaded by the sword. In all of those circumstances, God's Great Commission was being pursued. Good deeds, intentions, and actions that seemed only to draw evil results.
Many of us have had situations where we've cried out to God and despite our prayers, pleas, anguish, suffering, and our faith, God sat on His hands. What kind of God would do that?
How can George Wood say, "God is as concerned if not more concerned for us when we are in distress as when we are in success."
Free will, that big fallback that all pastors, ministers, and lay staff use when the unexplainable happens to good, faithful people through the actions of bad, evil people and there seems to be no answer from the Heavens is the answer according to most. As Pastor Wood states, "If we are free, then we are free to do wrong as well as right. And wrong deeds have consequences, and because they do, the innocent might be impacted."
Free Will brings into play the cause and effect prose of the scientific community, where actions cause reactions or human freedom to choose good or bad actions result in good and/or bad reactions. In order for our Free Will to be, well, free, God has to allow us to decide our actions and will not interfere with an individual's choice to twist that freedom to evil intent. And since the effect of actions is no respecter of persons, good people can be harmed by the predisposition and indulgence of an individual to engage in sinful, deadly things. Simply put, we all are predisposed to evil things and because of that, these things will happen due to our own fallen state.
But, it is by faith that I can be assured that God was there, holding the hands of those who believed in Him, witnessing the power of His grace to those who sought Him, and weeping over those who became lost to Him. I can be assured that He wept over Cho's free choice to follow the evil intent of his actions. I can believe this because of Christ's actions.
In the Bible, the shortest verse is, "Jesus wept." He was weeping over Lazarus' death. He wept to the point where others around him remarked, "How he must have loved him." He knew the depth of sorrow, and felt the sadness of His Father over the destruction that was wrought upon a perfect creation. So intensely and harshly that others could tell the depth of his love for another, it was visible and clear in the agony on his face. He also knew that He had power over death, and was thankful to God that faith was to be proven that day in Lazarus' resurrection, but it simply says, "Jesus wept."
In the garden, before He was to go into the most intense, violent, and brutal torture devised by man to inflict upon another, he cried out. He pleaded with God to let the cup pass beyond Him. He suffered such psychological stress that the physician Luke remarks that he 'sweats drops of blood'. He gets up in torment so severe it causes the three closest disciples fear over his state. And yet, He shows us how to comprehend the noninterference of God in such tragedy…… by turning the lack of understanding over to God in faith. He asks that the suffering pass him by, but only if it is God's will.
The rage I feel about the killing of the thirty-two people at Virginia Tech, to me, reinforces my faith in God. Because, if we were not designed to live in a perfect world and to be God's children, why do I and countless others feel the bitter taste of righteous rage about such a tragic and senseless massacre? If we were simply chance evolution from protoplasm, why do I feel the evilness, and wrongness of what's happened?
I don't know why my Heavenly Father chose to not interfere in terms my humanity could understand in the tragedy at Virginia Tech. I don't know if any interaction with the alleged killer would have altered his course. I don't know how to explain what I know, that God was there.
All I know is that God was with those who sought Him, answered those who cried out to Him, and wept for those who were lost to Him.
And I weep like Christ for the suffering and pain, even thought I know this too is not the end.