UPDATED 12/14/12: In the wake of Newtown, I’m bumping this post I wrote around the time of Aurora, and, no doubt, I will have to bump it again some day. (Please note: atheist comments will be flushed. I am not in the mood for you people today.)
There is little that can, or indeed should, be said right now about the eruption of evil in Aurora. Those of us who can add nothing new to the swirling currents of information, misinformation, and pointless commentary act most wisely when we just shut up and pray.
At the same time, we cannot help but turn our hearts and minds to these total strangers, so suddenly thrust into our lives by tragedy. We seem to think this is something new for modern man: the spasms of random and grotesque violence, the senseless death of innocents. It’s not, as even a cursory reading of the Scripture makes clear. More than 60 of the Psalms are laments: pleas to an absent God to answer a simple question: How long must the innocent suffer? How long will the wicked prevail?
Each lament ends with a simple answer: hope and trust in the Lord. We have accepted the good things God has given us, Job says. Shall we not also accept the bad? Again and again, in the midst of the suffering, the psalmists return to the good God has given us, the blessings we have received, as though they must be kept always before our eyes as a reminder in times of trouble.
Because those times of trouble overshadow the times of joy. They cut more deeply, and if we are honest, they shape us more permanently. It’s in trials that we’re tested and formed, and in tragedy that we turn away from our sometimes careless ways of living, and return to community, to love, to prayer, and finally, to God.
After events such as this, my mind always returns to a passing remark by Jesus which shows that sudden tragedy is nothing new. Hidden among passages of wisdom and healing, there in Luke 13:4, he tells us of 18 innocent people killed when a tower collapsed in Siloam. Were those people wicked, he asks? Did they deserve to die that day? No, but death comes to us all, and we must be ready. We must repent and return to the Lord. We must remember that our lives are poised between two stunning mysteries: creation and destruction, beginning and end, life and death.
We all–every one of us–live in the shadow of that tower at Siloam, and it is always falling.