This is a slightly edited repost of a blog I wrote for “A Couple of Christians” after the Boston Marathon bombing in April 2015:
How long, Oh Lord, must I call for help, but you do not listen?
Or cry out to you, “Violence!” but you do not save?
Why do you make me look at injustice? Why do you tolerate wrong?
Destruction and violence are before me; there is strife and conflict abounds.
Therefore the law is paralyzed, and justice never prevails.
The wicked hem in the righteous, so that justice is perverted.
Life is hard. This woeful plea could easily have been written by a Florida high schooler just this week. It could have been written by a victim of the Tampa Bay massacre. It could have been written by a survivor of Newtown or Charleston. Maybe it was penned many years before by a soldier in Iraq; a young victim of apartheid; or someone widowed by the Titanic.
The poem is actually the opening of the Old Testament’s Book of Habakkuk (1:1-4). It was written in the late seventh century BC just before the Babylonian conquest of Jerusalem. Habakkuk was unique among the Biblical prophets in that he openly challenged God’s reasons for what He did. God answers the questions above by revealing His plan to use the Babylonians to impart justice on the sinful people of Judah. When Habakkuk expresses surprise that God would use an empire so evil to mete out his justice, God assures Habakkuk that the Babylonians will ultimately be judged as well.
Inexplicable horror and sadness are injected into the lives of unsuspecting and ill-prepared people every day. Accidents, fires, violence, sudden death, and devastating illness show no favoritism or prejudice. Broader tragedies can mark us personally as well. Where were you when the terrorists’ plane crashed through the second tower; or when pieces of the Challenger sprinkled all over the Atlantic?
Why? Why do these things happen? It is a legitimate question, but to whom is it most important that we ask? Congress puffs its chest and forms committees to investigate church and school shootings. More than a decade later, people still question what “really” happened on 9-11. Last year, someone dug up a famous hundred-year-old corpse to test for cyanide residue because “people need to know the truth”.
The truth is evil happens. It always has happened. It will continue to happen as long as we are here on earth. Sometimes the devil wins a round. It is a result of the fall.
If we believe in Jesus and the Trinity, then we know the devil exists and he has his own plan. The war between Good and evil is very real. But evil doesn’t win by killing innocents or causing destruction. Evil only wins when it causes us to doubt or lose trust and faith in our Lord. Pulling closer to God foils the devil’s plan.
Ravi Zacharias, the noted Christian apologist, once spoke of a young mother bringing her child for an immunization. “Why mommy?” asks the child. “Why will you let the doctor hurt me?” The child is too young to understand the importance of immunizations and how they work; so the mother offers soothing words and a brightly-colored Band-Aid, but she really can’t make it hurt any less. Someday, the child will be old enough to understand what was going on and how important it was. He will be happy his mother cared enough about him to let him be hurt.
Life is good. My prayer for all of us is that when tragedy strikes us, we will grow stronger in faith and trust God to make things right. I pray we ultimately wind up where Habakkuk winds up at the end of his oration:
“Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines,
Though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food,
Though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls,
Yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior.
The Sovereign Lord is my strength.” (Habakkuk 3:17-19)