Making Sense of the Senseless

We all want to know why. We all want to try to fit a senseless tragedy into a sensible little box that we can wrap our minds and emotions around. More than explanations, we’d rather it go away, we’d rather it have just been a terrible nightmare, we’d rather it have never happened. Whatever the tragic circumstances you are hearing about, reading about, or living, the longing for answers is real.

Unspeakable tragedies seem to occur quite frequently in our world today. It’s a new normal that has replaced a previously assumed utopia of goodwill and safety. Tragedy has been a part of our world since sin entered it in an act of selfishness, distrust, and deceit at the center of an real, perfect utopia.

It’s been a little over four years since a gunman destroyed the lives of 26 people, including 20 children, and altered the lives of so many others at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. Daily we hear reports out of Aleppo, Syria, and the devastation faced by those who call that city home. Berlin, Germany, was on our hearts a few short days ago as a truck plowed into a Christmas market in the center of the city, killing 12 people. Closer to home a similar incident unfolded on the campus of The Ohio State University as students expected that day to march on like any other. As these days unfold a fearful and mourning world watches and asks the question we may never fully answer…why?

To compare tragic events in one part of the world to those in other parts doesn’t serve to make any of them more acceptable. But the kinds of tragedies involving innocent children and those who have done nothing to provoke violence against them have happened before.

Moses was born in Egypt during a time when the Israelites were increasing in number and strength, and the Pharaoh feared they would become too strong. He issued this decree, “Every boy that is born you must throw into the Nile, but let every girl live” (Exodus 1:22).

After Jesus was born and the magi from the east had come to worship the newborn King, the current and reigning king, Herod, was disturbed at this threat to his rule. In his anger “he gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under” (Matthew 2:16).

Imagine being a parent during any of these times (and, unfortunately, many others not mentioned). The questions are the same: Why does my child have to die? Why would someone do something so evil to innocent people simply minding their own business? Where was God in all of this?

The answers to these questions, again, are still not easy and often incomplete. However, the reality of the fallen, sinful world we live in should drive us to our knees. The sinful state of man’s heart should strike fear in us all.  “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9).

The perfect world that we all long for was interrupted many years ago in the Garden of Eden when Adam and Eve chose sin over obedience. Through their choice, sin entered the world and has spiraled out of control for all of human history. The only suitable explanation is that we live in a world where sin will continue to wreak havoc apart from the saving work of Jesus in our lives and the future hope of an eternity together with Him.

There is a cure for the sinfulness of the human heart. There is a remedy for the fallen world that we find ourselves in. God, the Father, sent His one and only Son into the fallen, sinful world to live a perfect life and suffer death in our place as He bore the sins of the world upon himself.

God identifies with the parents of these tragedies. He lived it. He gave His only Son so that sinful, undeserving people can have hope for a relationship with a loving God and hope for a future home away from the brokenness and senselessness that surrounds us.

As you cry, as you get angry, and as you identify with the families who lost their dear children and family members, know this: We have a savior, Jesus, who is able to sympathize with our weaknesses because He was tempted in every way we are, yet He remained sinless. “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and grace to help us in our time of need” (Hebrews 4:16).

Let this, and many other tragedies, open your eyes to see the unseen all around you. Don’t waste the opportunity to point people to the loving arms of Jesus. Allow yourself to be moved, not calloused, by tragedy and choose to hate sin like never before.

John 3:16
For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.

Dave Nicodemus is the Communications & Creative Arts Pastor and has served at Grace Polaris for over nine years, seven and a half of those as the High School Pastor. Dave joined the Grace staff after serving at a church in eastern Pennsylvania. Prior to that, he studied youth and family ministry, minoring in art at Grace College (2001) and completing a masters degree from Grace Theological Seminary (2003). He’s the husband of Carly and father to Jack, Henry, Emilia, and Charlie.


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