Which god?    God or god?

“Thou shalt have no other god before me.”  (Exodus 20:3 KJV)

Which God Saves Us home Is God Still Here home Contact Me Site Search

Finding Faith in Dark Times

December 15, 2012

Anyone who has any contact with any type of news at all today has seen or heard about the school massacre in Newtown Connecticut.

I’m not providing any links to the articles on it - it’s not the details that I’m going to write about today.

The stuff I saw and read yesterday - when it happened - was all about how can this happen - especially how can God let this happen? Also about what can we do about it - how can we stop it - how can we prevent it?

Naturally, some will bring up gun control.

My first thought - it’s not the gun control so much as the culture that we’ve created.
These days - and for a while now - kids are playing video games that are all about killing virtual people. I remember being shocked when these things first came out - the bottom of every screen was a gun that the kids were pointing at people to kill them. By today’s standards - a very crude game (from a technical sense). By today’s standards - also a very tame game (in a violence sense). When we bring up a whole generation that’s made numb to guns and killing - what can we expect?


When I was a kid - at a boy scout summer camp - we had target practice with rifles and bows & arrows. Wouldn’t that last one be popular today! Anyway - we also had swimming in a real pond. Early on in the camp I decided to jump in from one of the big boulders on the side of the lake. Went feet first - which probably saved my life. I hit sharp rocks - totally cut up my feet - and broke a few toes. That was the end of swimming for the rest of that camp. They let me do whatever I wanted during the swimming time. So - I went for extra time at the rifle and archery ranges. I got to be pretty good - but also picked up a healthy respect for both the bow & arrow and especially the guns. They can kill - even if only by accident.


But then I was watching Fox News this morning while drinking my coffee and they had a segment on “Finding Faith in Dark Times” - the title that I’m borrowing for this article.

One of the people in the segment was talking about how ever since Cain and Abel - people have been killing other people. No matter what laws we pass - now matter how restrictive we become - “if someone is hell bent on killing … they will find a way to do it”.

Going back a little bit from Cain And Abel - ever since Adam and Eve ate from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil - we’ve been slaves to sin and are both ruled by it and suffer the consequences of it.

It’s not something God did -
it’s something He allowed us to do -
and we did it.
Not Him.
Us.

A bit later in Genesis 6:5-6 - we see God’s reaction to what we did -

Ge 6:5 The LORD saw how great man’s wickedness on the earth had become, and that every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time.

Ge 6:6 The LORD was grieved that he had made man on the earth, and his heart was filled with pain.

God wasn’t sad and grieving over His original creation -
He was sad and grieving over what our choice to sin did to His creation -
over the choice we made that turned it into what it is.

And so - next comes The Flood - as written in Genesis 6:5-14 (and further) -

Ge 6:5 The LORD saw how great man’s wickedness on the earth had become, and that every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time. 6 The LORD was grieved that he had made man on the earth, and his heart was filled with pain. 7 So the LORD said, “I will wipe mankind, whom I have created, from the face of the earth—men and animals, and creatures that move along the ground, and birds of the air—for I am grieved that I have made them.” 8 But Noah found favor in the eyes of the LORD.

Ge 6:9 This is the account of Noah.

Noah was a righteous man, blameless among the people of his time, and he walked with God. 10 Noah had three sons: Shem, Ham and Japheth.

Ge 6:11 Now the earth was corrupt in God’s sight and was full of violence. 12 God saw how corrupt the earth had become, for all the people on earth had corrupted their ways. 13 So God said to Noah, “I am going to put an end to all people, for the earth is filled with violence because of them. I am surely going to destroy both them and the earth. 14 So make yourself an ark of cypress wood; make rooms in it and coat it with pitch inside and out.

So - God gave us a second chance -
a chance to not repeat the cycle of corruption and violence.

Guess we didn’t do so well on that count -
since it’s the same stuff in the news today.


And so - we know that’s the way this life is going to be.

It’s not like it’s a big secret -
it’s not like we’re really going to be able to stop it -
it’s the way it is.

But -
it doesn’t have to stop there.
That would be a truly cold response to say
“that’s the way it is - deal with it”.


One question is -
how do we get help to deal with it.

In his address to the country, President Obama had three statements that I want to bring up. The quotes I’m using are taken from CP N.AMERICA -

"Each time I learn the news I react not as a president, but as anyone else would -- as a parent. And that was especially true today,"

"He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds."

Although Obama did not make a direct reference to future gun control legislation, he did say: "We're going to have to come together and take meaningful action."


This is an interesting combination of thoughts.

Reacting as a parent - caring for his girls - that’s a good thing.

The second quote is a reference to Psalm 147. Here are the first 11 verses of Psalm 147 -

Ps 147:1 Praise the LORD.

How good it is to sing praises to our God,

how pleasant and fitting to praise him!

Ps 147:2 The LORD builds up Jerusalem;

he gathers the exiles of Israel.

Ps 147:3 He heals the brokenhearted

and binds up their wounds.

Ps 147:4 He determines the number of the stars

and calls them each by name.

Ps 147:5 Great is our Lord and mighty in power;

his understanding has no limit.

Ps 147:6 The LORD sustains the humble

but casts the wicked to the ground.

Ps 147:7 Sing to the LORD with thanksgiving;

make music to our God on the harp.

Ps 147:8 He covers the sky with clouds;

he supplies the earth with rain

and makes grass grow on the hills.

Ps 147:9 He provides food for the cattle

and for the young ravens when they call.

Ps 147:10 His pleasure is not in the strength of the horse,

nor his delight in the legs of a man;

Ps 147:11 the LORD delights in those who fear him,

who put their hope in his unfailing love.

Let’s hope and assume that he meant for the flavor of the whole Psalm to be taken.


The real question comes with the intent of the 3rd quote -

"We're going to have to come together and take meaningful action."

By that I mean - who is “we”?


Does “we” include the God he referred to in the second quote -
or does “we” mean him and congress with the God of his second quote left out?

It’s important -
because no one - not the president - not congress - not any part of the government or any law “heals the broken hearted and binds up their wounds”.

Evil things like this have no explanation that can help us.
to say it’s evil and let it go at that is cold and cruel and pointless.

To say it’s evil and we (people) can do something about it seems cruel and pointless - because it’s just not true. We - people alone - cannot triumph over evil - or the grief that comes with it. Not without His help.


There are plenty of examples in the Bible related to grief.
here are but a few -


In the book of Job - after Job lost his children and everything he owned - his friends came to comfort him. (True - they didn’t do a very good job of it - but at the end of the book there is a lesson on what they should have done) -

Job’s Three Friends

Job 2:11 When Job’s three friends, Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite and Zophar the Naamathite, heard about all the troubles that had come upon him, they set out from their homes and met together by agreement to go and sympathize with him and comfort him. 12 When they saw him from a distance, they could hardly recognize him; they began to weep aloud, and they tore their robes and sprinkled dust on their heads. 13 Then they sat on the ground with him for seven days and seven nights. No one said a word to him, because they saw how great his suffering was.

So - friends - who are with God - can be a source of comfort - real comfort.


In his second letter to the Corinthians, Paul writes on this topic as well in 1:3-7 -

The God of All Comfort

2Co 1:3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, 4 who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God. 5 For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows. 6 If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer. 7 And our hope for you is firm, because we know that just as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our comfort.

Again - friends - friends who have God’s comfort and can give it to us.

And - beyond that - being a friend to others who need comfort -
recognizing that the source of true comfort is God.


But - the question that has to come up at some point -
will all this pain and grief ever end?

The Bible is clear on this -
and the answer - in this life - is no.

But -
there will be an end to it -
as we see in Revelation 21:1-4 -

The New Jerusalem

Rev 21:1 Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. 2 I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. 4 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.”

Verse 4 -
this is the ultimate -
and everlasting -
comfort from God.
This is what we wait for -
and knowing that it’s coming can lead to that “peace beyond understanding” that I wrote about earlier this month.


Even here though -
God doesn’t force this on us.
It’s up to us to choose whether we want to experience it or not.

Note these words from verse 3 -

“Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God.

God doesn’t force Himself on us in the end any more than He forces Himself on us now -
meaning we don’t have to accept His comfort now -
or later.

That the choice exists is made clear in the next verses - Revelation 21:5-8 -

Rev 21:5 He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”

Rev 21:6 He said to me: “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To him who is thirsty I will give to drink without cost from the spring of the water of life. 7 He who overcomes will inherit all this, and I will be his God and he will be my son. 8 But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars—their place will be in the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death.”



We can choose to “die” many times.

The Bible speaks explicitly of two -
one being the death of our bodies -
which will happen to all of us -
the other being the death of our souls - the eternal separation of God -
which we choose of our own free will.

What I’m writing about here is another kind of “death” -
what we experience in our grief -
especially things as traumatic and tragic as what happened in Newtown.
We can choose to continue living through that sort of “death” by never getting beyond it.

Grief is natural.

We saw in Genesis how God (The Father) felt grief.

We also see in John 11:33-35 - when Lazarus is dead, before Jesus raised him -

Jn 11:33 When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled. 34 “Where have you laid him?” he asked.

“Come and see, Lord,” they replied.

Jn 11:35 Jesus wept.

So - The Father felt grief -
Jesus felt grief -
it’s no surprise that we also feel grief.

We should feel it.

It’s what we do after that that I’m writing about.


The opening verses of Psalm 30 sum this up quite nicely -

Ps 30:1 I will exalt you, O LORD,

for you lifted me out of the depths

and did not let my enemies gloat over me.

Ps 30:2 O LORD my God, I called to you for help

and you healed me.

Ps 30:3 O LORD, you brought me up from the grave;

you spared me from going down into the pit.

Ps 30:4 Sing to the LORD, you saints of his;

praise his holy name.

Ps 30:5 For his anger lasts only a moment,

but his favor lasts a lifetime;

weeping may remain for a night,

but rejoicing comes in the morning.


I don’t pretend that this article will make you get over your grief -
it wasn’t intended to do that.

It was intended -
if you need it -
and if you choose to follow where it leads -
to point you to The One who can help you get over grief and sorrow.

weeping may remain for a night,

but rejoicing comes in the morning.


Again -
Evil things like this have no explanation that can help us.
to say it’s evil and let it go at that is cold and cruel and pointless.

To say it’s evil and we (people) can do something about it seems cruel and pointless - because it’s just not true. We - people alone - cannot triumph over evil - or the grief that comes with it. Not without His help.


There will be grief -
there will be sorrow -
but there can be comfort -
and there can be rejoicing after that.

Who’s comforting you?

If you need someone -
here’s a good place to start -
it’s a story of a father whose only son was killed.