When tragedy strikes, it is very normal to ask the question, “Where was God while this was happening? Why didn’t God stop the tragedy that happened at Southerland Springs, Texas?"  In times like these, it is important to be open and honest with ourselves and with the truth of what God’s Word teaches us. What we know for a fact is that we live in a sinful, broken, and evil world. Our society is filled with selfishness, hurt, pain and destruction. We live in a fallen world where people intentionally choose to disobey God and hurt others, usually because they have been hurt in some way themselves. The recent shooting of our friends at FBC Southerland Springs is a stark reminder of these facts.

This was not God’s plan! From the beginning, God created a perfect world full of life, joy, fulfillment, peace and love. God gave people the free will to choose their own paths. Because Adam and Eve chose to disobey God, sin and brokenness entered the world. We are all sinners by nature and by choice. We can choose to do the right things or the wrong things in every situation. Too often, we choose to do the wrong thing, even if the wrong thing hurts us or others. Sin and evil entered into this world and one of the very first things we read is that Cain became filled with rage, jealousy, anger, and hurt to the point that he lashed out and killed his brother Abel. You see, that is what sin and evil do. They hurt both the innocent and the guilty. Sin and evil affect all of us. We have the freedom to choose to do good or evil. God did not create us to be robots who mindlessly are forced to love and obey Him.

Because of our sin, God sent his Son Jesus to live a perfect life, die on the cross to take the penalty for our sin, and rise from the dead proving that he was God in the flesh and the one who can give us eternal life. Jesus is the way of life that is both abundant and eternal. When a person turns away from their sin and surrenders their life to Jesus as Lord and Savior, they are forgiven of their sin and God makes them new. They are changed from the inside out and are saved by God’s grace.

Tragically, too many people reject this offer of salvation. They choose to follow a different path. We all know this is true because often we are the ones who personally choose the wrong path. Even we choose to do the wrong things in this life. What we forget is that any path away from God is a path that leads to destruction.

So, you wonder where God is in tragedy or why God allowed this to happen? I’m confident that God’s heart was broken to see His people murdered in Texas, just like his heart is broken over every act of violence, all of the needless suffering we cause in the world, and every person who ignores His love and acts like or lives like He does not exist. God loves us so much that He gives us the freedom to choose to follow Him or to choose to reject Him. And, it’s not surprising to find followers of Jesus are right there when tragedies occur! God’s people are right there in the midst of the mess, bringing comfort and hope and compassion and love to people. God’s people are pointing others to the hope of eternal life found in Jesus. And in a very real sense, when God’s people are there, God Himself is there, helping to restore broken lives. God is there now giving peace and comfort to hurting families.  God is there providing for the needs of these hurting people and He is using many of God's people to do it.

While the tragedy is absolutely shocking and heartbreaking, I do not understand why we are always so surprised when these things happen in the US while this is happening to people of faith everyday around the world. Jesus assured us that His followers are going to face trials and tribulations in this world. He warned that God’s people would be treated like He was treated knowing He would be killed and die on a cross for our sin. Jesus warned that evil is out there and it is real. Jesus warned that Satan is doing everything he can to attack God’s people, not just in Texas, but in also in Tennessee and throughout this world each and every day.

Sadly, people are quick to politicize these tragedies. We talk about this being a gun issue, or we talk about a mental health issue. Well, as a minister of the gospel I want you to know the issue is not any of these things. The issue is a heart issue. While the lips of Americans give acknowledgment to God, our hearts are far from Him. All of us are far too focused on worldly things instead of the things of God.

Let’s be really clear…We have pushed God out of our schools, out of our communities, out of our government, out of our courtrooms, out of our families and marriages, and ultimately out of our lives.  Why are we so surprised that the enemies of God walk freely into the doors of God’s house to bring about destruction? Why do we blame God? Why do we point our finger at Him when God rarely even makes the top 10 on our list of priorities?

We in a spiritual battle in this world every day. God’s people may often become victims of evil in this world, but ultimately God’s Word shows us clearly that we are the victors because of Jesus. We must be diligent to show Jesus’ love to one another. We must be all the more diligent to put plans in place in the Christian community to deter future tragedies like this. We must not bury our heads in the sand and act as if we should hide in the corner. Rather, we as God’s people should mount our forces and go boldly into our communities with the good news that in Jesus there is hope, forgiveness, and eternal life. We must not back down or back up. We must not be politicized or pushed around.

Where is God? God is where you have left Him! You choose today how close or how far you are from God! He has never moved!

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