**This is a re-post of some thoughts I shared back in 2007, following the campus shooting at Virginia Tech University. In light of today’s tragedy at Umpqua Community College in Oregon, I hope these words will encourage and buoy grieving hearts.
April 22, 2007
By 11:00am on Monday, 33 hearts stopped beating at Virginia Tech. But the number of those affected is much greater than 33. It is multiplied among the injured survivors and uninjured witnesses. And it is exponentially multiplied among the parents and friends and families of those who died. And beyond this, others are affected—a shocked and grieving kinship is felt among college students everywhere; so aware that it could have easily been their school. It is natural to hurt and to grieve and to fear. It is natural to shake your head at the unimaginable scene. I picture a room where cell phones keep ringing—parents trying to reach their sons and daughters who will not answer…because they cannot answer. Yet this tragedy stirs something of hope in me. It is a deep and mature hope—grown out of knowing God. We’ve seen the pictures and the videos and heard the stories of this nightmare. Let’s turn our attention to hope in God—something just as real and compelling.
- Hope in the nearness of God. “TheLord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” (Psalm 34:18) God is a tender-hearted Father. And he is right in the thick of the weeping and brokenness. He is active. He is responding and defending and healing and comforting right now.
- Hope in the ultimate triumph of God over Satan and evil and sin. Satan and God are not rivals. God was neither surprised not bested by the events of last Monday. “Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord.” (Romans 12:19) God will most certainly settle accounts with the perpetrators of evil. Satan’s work will end in a final submission to God and eternal punishment. (Revelation 20:1-3; 7-10)
- Hope in the Life that is to come. Heaven is a real place of eternal life, promised to those who believe in Jesus. (John 3:16) Believers will be reunited with family and friends in heaven. “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.” (Philippians 1:21) For those of us with saving faith in Jesus, nothing can steal our hope of Heaven. (Romans 8:35-39) The Believers who died on Monday are with Jesus right now. Their hope is fulfilled—they are at home in heaven with the Lord. Make certain you can face death with the hope and peace of heaven awaits you. Have you believed in Jesus for the forgiveness of your sins? There is no other way to be saved.
- Hope in the gift of another day to hear the good news about Jesus. None of us know when death will come for us—when our time on earth will be done. As you read this, be thankful for the gift of this day and the opportunity to receive God’s offering of grace through Jesus. Believe in Christ, ask forgiveness for your sins, and follow him with your life.
- Hope in the gift of another day to tell the good news about Jesus. The family members and friends you treasure are alive today—but we do not have assurance that they will be here tomorrow. Push away any fear of an awkward conversation. Eternity is at stake. Talk to your family and friends about life and salvation in Jesus.
- Hope in the Sovereignty and Goodness of God. He is both great and good. We cannot look at these circumstances and make assumptions about God. There is never a moment when he is not fully in control. Our world is fallen, but not unmanaged. Now is not the time to attempt to explain what God is up to…or to understand how it all fits. (Romans 11:33-36) We want answers…but they are unlikely to be found on this side of heaven. Do not presume that you know why this event happened. Do not presume to explain the plan or motives of God.
- Hope in the power of God to change a life. The shooter…and others like him can be completely changed. Loners don’t just need a friend to have lunch with—they need Jesus to make them alive and new. Life-change is the result of inner transformation. We need life-change through Jesus Christ because sin has a genuine grip on us. In some way, the shootings at Virginia Tech show the real and horrible face of evil; the actual result of a sin-controlled life. For most of life—in-between the tragedies—the horror is masked, lulling us into thinking that abandoning sin to follow Jesus doesn’t matter. We play with sin; we tolerate its leadership over us. But events like this week shine a light on the reality of evil and on our need for God. Everyone needs their heart and life changed so they can be led by the Spirit of God instead of sinful desires. My heart is grieved that the young man who pulled the trigger felt this action was his only option.
- Hope in the strength and comfort found in a local church. If this or some other tragedy has shaken your life, seek out the encouragement and help and answers that can be found in a church near you. It doesn’t matter if you’ve never been to church before or if it’s been a long time, you will be welcome there. You can find hope and help there.
Share this with friends and family—pass it along so that many might be encouraged and God might be glorified out of this terrible event.