How we should respond to the Las Vegas shooting

Sometimes the English language is inadequate when it comes to conveying our thoughts. Thinking about the tragedy in Las Vegas, NV is one of those times when words fall short. This event renders my mind to something like a busy intersection in gridlock.

I have not stopped thinking about the tragedy since I heard about it after waking this morning. Part of the reason I can’t cease from thinking about it is that I am a Christian. Caring is what Christians do.

And I cannot stop thinking about this because I’m a human. We all love life and want to live and enjoy more of it. When a person’s life is snuffed out, there is a sense of wrongness that transcends our differences, while uniting us in our humanity.

It is in these moments when we need guidance on how to think about a tragedy. If we don’t have a way to think about moments like this, our agendas, experiences, and biases will blind us to the actual need at this time.

We need something more objective than ourselves to think about the Las Vegas massacre. Mercifully, the Word of God can help in bringing theological precision to our thoughts by giving us a way to think about the problem of evil in our world.

Likewise, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. Romans 8:26-28

In this passage, I see four key elements that can help us better process what we are collectively experiencing through this tragedy.

Quiet – Before you speak, learn what God says.

Pray – Ask God His perspective on the tragedy.

Believe – Trust the Word of God, as illuminated by the Spirit.

Act – Respond to what God is calling you to do.

Quiet

The Las Vegas tragedy forces me to press into God while being quiet. I have to trust Him–the Spirit–to intercede for me. Because of my many weaknesses, I do not know how to think or what to say. It is wise for me to be quiet, initially.

If I do not, more than likely I will say something inappropriate or unhelpful. Quietness not only applies to this tragedy, but to any negative event in my life. James gave us similar advice in James 1:19-20.

I also want to be quiet because there is an element of mystery to what happened in Las Vegas (Deuteronomy 29:29). I have no answers for this tragedy, other than I am to do what God has called me to do–to trust Him, even when life makes no sense.

This particular tragedy has brought me to a place of biblical introspection and quietness, even more than other negative events in my life or my world. The reason for this is because I have been here before and I know words won’t work, at least not in the beginning.

In 1987 my oldest brother was murdered and in 1997 my second oldest brother was killed. In those moments of profound loss, there were no words that could bind the wounds of the brokenhearted.

This recent tragedy reminds me of the time when Ezekiel went to bring comfort to some folks in Tel-Abib, who was in deep distress. He found it better to sit, be quiet, and to mourn.

And I came to the exiles at Tel-Abib, who were dwelling by the Chebar canal, and I sat where they were dwelling. And I sat there overwhelmed among them seven days. And at the end of seven days, the word of the LORD came to me. – Ezekiel 3:15-16

Prayer

When tragedy happens, a hug and a tear can be more effective than words. Not knowing what to say should not be a problem. Our first call to duty should be to pray to God rather than speak to others.

I want to trust my Father and lean into Him. I want my heart informed and controlled by His perspective and His will. Only God can see in the darkness. Only God can bring sense to an evil world.

If I don’t speak to God first, I may say something wrong, uncharitable, unbiblical, or harsh. I need the Spirit to take my heart and search it. I want the Father to receive my first words. I want Him to sort out my confusion and my hurt.

The cultural noise-makers are not being quiet. They will talk about everything but trusting in God. While their talking points have a place in the discussion, it is God who is of first importance.

I’d rather begin by being dependent on the Spirit to search my heart so He can re-translate my groanings. This response will enable me to receive what I need from the Lord. How in the world can you know what is appropriate in a moment like this–unless you’re talking to God while being informed by His Word?

Over the past couple of hours, I have found a renewed rest, knowing my prayers have been accurately re-translated to the Father. With God working in my heart, it does not take long before His goodness reassures me.

Though I don’t know the particulars, I do know He is making all things come together for His good purposes. Big tragedies need a big God to walk us through them. Without Him, there is no way to endure the works of evil satisfactorily.

Believe

Having my mind reoriented by God, I can now live in biblical clarity. I’m not as lost or as confused. The pain is still there, but my heart is informed by and submitted to God.

Trusting God will always put the accent mark on His active goodness rather than the active evil in our world. This worldview is a major dividing line between us and the unbelieving culture.

Believers believe God. This posture is about faith not about known outcomes. God will not tell us what He is up to or how He is going to bring good out of this event. His appeal to us is to believe in Him.

If you had asked me how God could have brought good from the murders in my life, I could not have told you then. I can tell you now. God has used sin sinlessly. He always has and He always will–as long as sin exists.

God was amazingly good to me through those dark days. God’s responsiveness has not changed. His Word says He will be good and my experience affirms this to be true. We will either believe God and act accordingly, or we will not trust Him and act accordingly.

Do you believe in the active goodness of God in spite of this tragedy?

Are you more controlled and informed by God’s purposes rather than Satan’s purposes?

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. – John 1:5

What do you see most of all–the darkness or the light?

What is controlling your heart right now–the darkness or the light?

Act

Before Jesus responded to trouble, He spent time getting His heart adjusted before the Father. He gave us a wise model to follow. Though there were people in trouble who were looking for His help, it was more important for Him first to spend time with the Father (Matthew 14:23-24).

There is a place for responding to the tragedy, but prayer should always precede those actions. God will give you what you need to know and say when the time comes for you to steward and share His active goodness with other people.

My hope and appeal for you are your heart will be saturated in prayer when those times come to respond to tragedy. This perspective will guard your thoughts and your tongue as you present a biblical response to the evil in our world.

Our actions must be Spirit-led and biblically informed, and this will come in proportion to the time we spend with God and His Word. God is willing to guide us in the truth if we are willing to seek and trust Him. (See Matthews 10:19-20; John 16:13)

If you do this, I promise the Spirit, who will intercede for you before the Father, will also intervene for you before others. He will give you the words you need to say when the time comes for you to speak His truth.

It may not be clear to our friends how God’s purposes are greater and how He is a relentless Redeemer. People may lose sight of these truths because of how they think about such things as the evil in Las Vegas (Acts 2:23).

Our call is to present prayer-based, Word-informed answers to the world’s problems. Through our humble obedience, the Father may draw some people out of the darkness and into His glorious light.


After several years as a counselor and pastor, Rick Thomas founded and launched his training organization to encourage and equip people for effective living. He is an author, podcaster, speaker, and life coach who specializes in making the Bible come alive practically in lives.


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