Where is God Today? Making Sense of the World's Chaos in the Wake of Baton Rouge & Falcon Heights

 

Today I watched the videos of the recent shootings of Philando Castile and Alton Sterling, two black men killed by police officers. Those videos shook me to my core. Not because they are graphic; I’ve seen blood. But to witness someone’s life so violently pass before your eyes is an experience for which there are no words. The grief I felt is but a drop in the ocean of emotion their friends and family must be feeling, particularly given all the questions surrounding each situation.

It is moments such as these that I struggle most to find God. It is hard to see the news, read the papers, or even scroll through Facebook posts and see all the ugliness in our world. It is hard to read all of these things, to have these images burned into your brain, to be constantly bombarded with horrific news as it happens from all avenues of media and believe that there is any good left let alone a Creator who loves us eternally. Where was God in Baton Rouge? Where was God in Falcon Heights? Where was God in Orlando? Or in Bagdad? How can God exist in all of this hatred and blood? How can God exist when innocent people are dying every moment of every day?

bullet-408636_640The answer is he doesn’t. That is to say that I believe that what happened in Baton Rouge and Falcon Heights happened outside of God- It happened in the hearts of men. Philando and Alton died because the hearts of men are ugly and stained. Our hearts, yours and mine, are ugly and stained too. It’s easy to call the police officers “racists” and other such words because it frees us from the idea that we may have reacted the same way. We don’t have to stop and examine the issue from their angle because they aren’t “like us”.

Like it or not, we have conditioned ourselves (via media, friends, family, life experience, etc) to distrust others based on trivial things such as skin color, dress, or speech patterns. Most of us would like to say that we don’t, but we do. It’s in our very nature. It’s primal and it is human. Sin is also human. I am not in any way condoning what was done or how these situations were handled. I wasn’t there. I wasn’t them. I have never had to put my life on the line for my job or fear death as I dress in the morning. I also have never had to fear being shot during a traffic stop simply for reaching for my wallet. Despite the uniform and the ideals of police officers, they are still only men and women. They, like you and me, are human and therefore sinners. They may or may not be believers in Christ. If they are not believers then what fear should they have other than that of bodily harm or death? What greater offense could befall them? None, really. So why wouldn’t we expect any man or woman who is without fear of God or an afterlife to be willing to do anything at all to defend their life? If you are in harms way you act. Simple as that. It’s pure instinct. And what of believers? Again, we are selfish by nature. We lose sight of God constantly, particularly when we are most vulnerable, steeped in fear or anger. Why would our hearts instinctually trust in Him to keep us safe? Why would our hearts stop, in that split second, to remind us that gambling my life to potentially save the life of an innocent person would be worth while? That this is a plausible and faithful option? That it would be what God would desire of us, to risk our lives for our neighbor? To put our trust fully in Him even if it means giving our life? After all, that is not their natural state.

As I meditate on all of this I am always reminded that this is unfortunately the state of world and that the Bible tells us that it will only get worse. Our world is flawed because of us. As sinners we cannot expect peace and happiness because that is not of us. That is of God. Ultimately, we serve ourselves. Really, just stop and think about it for a minute. I know we all like to think we are ultimately good people, but when we wake each morning is it not to make the best day possible for ourselves? To make us comfortable. Anything that challenges that is not seen as “good”. Therefore, we will always lack to see “good” in others because they are busy serving themselves and their comfort. Our hearts whisper to us in fear, anger, and hate whether we always hear it or not. Sometimes it shouts and doesn’t stop shouting and we listen. And sometimes we listen long enough until we react. We see Baton Rouge, Falcon Heights, Orlando, Paris, Bagdad, spouse abuse, sexual assault, all of it play out day after day after day. It’s a sad, soul crushing thought if you stop right there and don’t look any further.

However, if you are willing to look further, to alter your gaze, you will see that the good news is God was there and is here today. He is constant. Just because our eyes can’t see him and our hearts don’t feel him doesn’t mean he is gone. He is always there. God knew what he was doing when he created the world. He knew what he was doing when he created people in all shades, shapes, and sizes. God knew the troubles that would come about. He knew the fear it would cause in the hearts of man. I don’t think this is without purpose. God can see all of Time and it is my belief that he has a plan- I won’t insult him to guess what it is, but it is my belief that He can use this period of time to stir up love and goodness in the hearts of many. He can and will use these times to draw people to Him, because He is the only real reprieve we have from any of this. It is the only comfort we can truly cling to. It will not get better here on this Earth, but it will be better after it is gone. It is coming and it will be soooo good.

So if you would, pray with me today. Pray that the families of these men might find some comfort in the fact that their sons/fathers/loved ones are with God today. That God will use these tragedies to bring about good and not let their deaths be in vain. Pray for the police officers involved that they not be vilified in all of this, but that we as a nation will realize that the hearts of all men are flawed and that though their actions may have been reactionary and unjustly based in fear, they were not intentionally malicious. Pray for the families of these officers and all that they may face in retaliation of this week’s events. Pray that they have the strength to support these officers in the coming days/months/years. Pray for the children who have lost fathers, that they might hold on to the memories of better times and see justice, but most importantly find solace in the arms of their Father. Pray for the children and adults, believers and non-believers alike, who watch these events in the world and struggle to understand all that is happening here in this world today. Pray for all of us that we find it in our hearts to mourn these men, all of them, and the tragedy that has befallen them. Pray that we all remember that hate and fear got us here in the first place and that love, God’s love, is the only way to stop any of this hurt. Pray that you and I can hear God in all of this and by His will help to bring forward the good; that He give us wisdom and the words to bring about  much love for Him everywhere we go.