“Keep your head on a swivel.”
I’ve spoken those words more than once in conversations with Younger Son as he and his wife have planned a trip to Great Britain. Mr. Pettit and I love to travel, so I’d never dream of asking them to cancel their journey due to the possibility of terrorist attacks. But I have stressed the importance of not becoming so lost in the moment that they lose sight of what’s happening around them.
“Keep your head on a swivel.” “Maintain hyper-awareness.” “Look around.”
But I never added this: “Look up.”
Not that looking up would have helped those killed or wounded as they attended a concert in Las Vegas Sunday night. Indeed, doing so might have caused them to stop and stare, leaving them even more vulnerable to the man unleashing Hell upon them from the 32nd floor of a nearby hotel.
I will not say the murderer’s name. I refuse to give him the notoriety he probably craved.
As law enforcement searches for even a wisp of motive the news channels run video of the attack on an endless loop, accompanied by endless speculation. We all long for the cold comfort of closure, of knowing why this man murdered 59 strangers and wounded hundreds more. We’re not wired to accept “We don’t know,” as an answer.
But even if reasons are uncovered---a hatred of government, a love of government, financial crisis, religious fanaticism, atheism, a broken relationship---they won’t be enough. They will never explain the inky darkness in this person’s soul.
Only one word can: Evil.
These days we like to think that we're close to figuring out everything. A probe sends back pictures of Saturn. Surgeons can stop a heart, fix it and start it up again. The smartphone in a teenager’s pocket has more computing power than the machines used to send man to the moon. And psychologists and psychiatrists and behavioral experts have made real progress in helping people scarred by abusive childhoods or other traumatic events.
But then we stub our toes against a hulking black stone in the corner of the room, something even our most powerful floodlights fail to illuminate. As we stagger in the aftermath of loss we seek sense in the senseless and find that none of our technology or theories can answer a simple question: Why? And for the loved ones left behind, another: How? How do I go on?
I don’t know.
But I know Who does.
Not that God is Google, offering me answers in a tenth of a second. A dear friend, a retired pastor, once told me that a fellow minister had concluded that some questions have to be filed away under the heading, “Awaiting further light.” He said that he didn’t know if that light would shine in this life or the next, but in time all would be made clear.
Human beings have free will. But why didn’t God intervene in this madman’s plans, causing his car to break down or his guns to jam? Why did some survive unscathed while those around them fell? Why?
I don’t know.
But as a Christian I hold fast to those things of which I’m certain:
“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33 (NIV)
‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” Revelation 21:4 (NIV)
“Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.” Matthew 5:4 (NIV)
Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. 1 Peter 5:7 (NIV)
We don’t yet see things clearly. We’re squinting in a fog, peering through a mist. But it won’t be long before the weather clears and the sun shines bright! We’ll see it all then, see it all as clearly as God sees us, knowing him directly just as he knows us! 1 Corinthians 13:12 (The Message)
No darkness can withstand the perfect luminosity of God’s love; it shrinks back into the depths from which it comes. Today I pray that everyone who has suffered at the hands of evil---whether in the streets of Las Vegas or the mountains of Afghanistan---will be covered by “the peace that surpasses all understanding” (Philippians 4:7) and become aware of strong Arms carrying them through this valley.
Look up. Not at death, but Life.
Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. John 1:3-5 (NIV)