Another day, another report of a shooting in the US. This time it happened at a grocery store in a small town in Arkansas at around 11:40am on 21 June. It was at least the third mass shooting at a U.S. grocery store in the last three years. The gunman first opened fire at people in the parking lot before turning his attention to employees and customers in the store. It was a completely random, senseless act.

Among the four people fatally wounded and 11 injured was Callie, a nurse and a happy mum of a delightful 10-month-old daughter. Just an hour before, Callie told her mum how grateful she was that her daughter had let her sleep in until 9am that morning. According to authorities, instead of fleeing the store, Callie was fatally struck helping another gunshot victim. 

Her dad said, “She died doing what she always does: helping”. Her mum added, “God gave her the strength to run into that store to help. She was strong enough in her faith that if something happened, she knew where she was going, and that was paradise”.

A pastor was having the time of his life with his family on the first week of his sabbatical. His six year old daughter, Lucy, said it was the best week of her life. Then tragedy struck: on 1 June, Lucy died in a freakish accident while she was playing badminton with her brother.

Four weeks earlier, Lucy asked her mum about ‘how to be with God and be saved’. After her mum shared the gospel with her, she went into her room and put her faith in Christ. She wrote in her prayer journal, ‘God is so amazing and he is the true God and he created everything and he died on the cross for our sins’. Her dad wrote, ‘She is with Jesus’.

While we rejoice that Callie and Lucy are with the Lord, what about the heartbreak their loved ones are experiencing? How can an all-powerful, all loving God allow this to happen? I don’t have the answers. All I know is that we’re not spared from undergoing trials and suffering. All I know is in times of crises, our character is revealed. As an author wrote, “Earthquakes don’t produce fault lines – they reveal them”. 

The issue is more about what choices we will make in times of crises. We can either decide that God is not who his word claims to be or he is who his word claims to be. Perhaps wise words from the brilliant 17th century French mathematician and philosopher, Blaise Pascal is worth considering. He wrote: “Let us weigh the gain and the loss of wagering that God is. Let us estimate these two chances. If you gain, you gain all; if you lose, you lose nothing. Wager, then, without hesitation that [God] is”.

Jim Denison, a theologian and cultural commentator adds, “…A relationship with God, like any other relationship, requires a commitment that transcends evidence and becomes self-validating. You cannot prove that you should go to a particular school, trust a particular friend, or marry a particular person – until you do. You examine the evidence, to be sure, but then you must make a decision that becomes self-affirming.

In the same way, when we choose to trust God even though we do not understand him …when I choose to step beyond what my finite, fallen mind can comprehend and trust the omniscience and omnipotence of my Father, I have found that, to paraphrase Kierkgaard: God is not a problem to be solved, but a reality to be experienced!”

Christ in us, the hope of glory!