This past Friday morning I participated in a Psychology research study that took me through a series of surveys and questions about the brain. The study took about two hours and the only reason I did this was to earn the $10/hr they promised me (yes the struggle is real in college). While participating in the survey I could not help but notice that some of the questions involved God. So as a devoted Christian I marked all the right answers to substantiate my beliefs about God. Towards the end of the survey, they even asked me to draw an image of God protecting a child from danger. So I drew an Army airplane dropping bombs from the sky on a little boy, but I drew a cross protecting the boy from these bombs. But it never crossed my mind that the whole study focused on the existence of God and how He intervenes on our behalf during times of danger. They do not tell you this until the end of the research study.
After the study I could not help but think about what happened in Charleston, South Carolina this past week. I wondered where God was in all of this and what role if any he played in it. I know there have been many shooting tragedies just like this in recent years. But what did not sit well with me is that this instance happened in a church, a place where we draw our strength, protection and courage. Church - a place where we dwell in the presence of God. So how could He let this tragedy happen in such a place and why would He do so? I wrestled with these questions this past week and found it difficult to even draw strength from the Bible. Yes I doubted. I doubted that such a God would let this happen to his people who were devoted and gave their lives to Him. I honestly did not know why He would let such a thing happen.
But here is what I do know, I know that “There are six things the Lord hates, seven that are detestable to him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked schemes, feet that are quick to rush into evil, a false witness who pours out lies, and a person who stirs up conflict in the community” (Proverbs 6:16-19). In Genesis, after his brothers perpetrated wrongs against him, the figure Joseph told them essentially, “What you meant for evil, God intended for good” (Genesis 50:20). The enemy of this world wants us to believe that God is not on our side during this time and he wants to put false claims in our mind that reject who God is in our lives. But my prayer is that we the children of God use this time remember and reflect on his goodness and sovereignty (Psalm 77:5-12).
Another thing I am confident of today is that the 9 Charleston victims are dwelling in the presence of the Lord, a place where there will be “no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away" Paradise is what Jesus called it (Revelations 21:4). Which I am certain is a far better place than where our nation is at today. I also know that a tragedy such as Charleston should humble us to examine ourselves, to remember that our sins make us deserving of wrath at the hands of a holy God. But then, may we to remember that God gave his Son for us, that He became a refuge for us. Tragedy is an invitation to turn once again from our sin and find rest in God alone.
My prayer is that God would heal those who are hurting today and bring comfort to the victims’ family, and most importantly, that we would draw even closer to Him during this time.
“No matter what circumstances come our way, God is good, and may we never forget it.” - Yed Anikpo