Where was God on the morning of Wednesday, February 14, 2018? On that day deranged killer Nikolas Cruz entered Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida and massacred 17 people. How do we process such incomprehensible events? The horror of innocents slaughtered wholesale staggers the imagination. One has to wonder how such evil can exist. Nothing about it makes sense until we look at it from God’s perspective.
School shootings were all but unheard of until the 1960s. The first incident was in 1966, when Charles Whitman killed 14 people at the University of Texas in Austin. Mass shootings now occur with frightening regularity and have accelerated in recent years. Clearly our nation is headed down an unwanted path. We must pray ardently for these events to cease in our schools and for those affected in Florida.
I attended elementary, middle, and high school in the 1960s and 1970s. School shootings were unimaginable, despite the presence of guns in schools. Many of my friends regularly brought their rifles into school, even into the classrooms, in anticipation of afternoon rifle team practice. No one ever worried and no one was ever hurt.
But something else was brought daily into the classroom – prayer. Every morning the school-wide announcements included a prayer and a moment of silence to give students a chance to pray. No one worried about offending atheists; instead, they worried about offending the God who provides divine protection to a society committed to Him.
In 1963, Madalyn Murray O’Hare’s lawsuit officially removed prayer from the classroom. Is it mere coincidence mass school shootings began three years after the Supreme Court decision? Subsequent to the school prayer ban, atheist groups have intensified their lawsuits, and have in some cases succeeded in removing prayer from public meetings and governmental proceedings. Their goal is to eliminate God from all areas of our lives. They seek Freedom from Religion, Separation of Church and State, and An Absence of God. These are dangerous bromides, which spell disaster for a nation. “When the foundations are destroyed, what can the righteous do?” (Psalm 11:3). These people are demanding an absence of God.
An atheist may tell you God doesn’t exist, then use an event such as the Parkland massacre to prove the point. They argue a loving God would not permit such atrocities, adding to the list horrors such as child abuse, sexual molestation, painful diseases, and other grim realities of a fallen and sinful world. Hence, they conclude God doesn’t exist; in other words, He is completely absent.
Such thinking is agonizingly close to the mark. Our loving God is patient and kind, who would gladly show mercy and grace to a society dedicated to Him through prayer and obedience. He can provide a hedge of protection that no man, no law, or gun restriction can accomplish. He is willing to forgive much if we repent and turn to Him for our protection.
Here’s the flaw in the logic: when we kick prayer out of schools and public places, when we give sin euphemistic names such as hooking up, same-sex marriage, partying, and a woman’s choice to the sins of promiscuous sex, homosexuality, drunkenness, and child murder respectively, God reacts. As a Holy God, He must punish sin. Being the gentleman that He is, He withdraws from us as we withdraw from Him, and He takes His protection along with His absence. By doing so, He turns us over to our sin, which is all that is needed to punish us. How ironic – in His absence, we punish ourselves Romans 1:18-32).
How bad can absence be? It is hard to understand God’s absence in spiritual terms, but we can examine physical analogs to frame the concept of absence. For example, darkness is the non-existence or absence of light. There is no physical measurement for darkness, only for light. We can study light, but not darkness. Therefore, darkness is simply a term we use to describe the absence of light. God is light, so His absence necessarily creates darkness.
Similarly, temperature is a measure of the amount of heat in an object. There is no measurement for cold, only heat; therefore, cold is simply an absence of heat. At absolute zero (-460 F), there is a total absence of heat and everything stops working. At that temperature, all matter becomes inert and incapable of reaction. When heat is absent, matter, in effect, becomes dead. When God is absent, the world is dead.
Physical world examples provide a bridge to the spiritual world, specifically, evil, which does not exist in and of itself, even though we describe the events at Parkland, Florida as such. As with darkness and cold, evil is just a word man has created to describe an absence, in this case an absence of God. Evil occurs when there is an absence of God in a man’s heart. Evil is not a creation of God, it is absence of Him and His presence in a person’s heart.
God loved everyone present in Marjory Douglas Stoneman High School that morning, even the shooter. God, however, also loves holiness, justice, obedience, and our worship and prayer. He is merciful and gracious for a time, but He must punish sin in order to maintain justice and His holiness. Therefore, He may choose to turn us over to our sin, which inevitably brings misfortune upon a rebellious nation. This should get our rapt attention.
It is not normal to have an absence of God, for when He is not present, evil reigns. God was present at Parkland, Florida on February 14, 2018, but not in every heart. God was with the heroic teachers and staff who protected innocent lives, some of whom died in their efforts. However, God was absent in Nikolas Cruz’s heart, and evil resulted.
We cannot remove God from our daily lives and expect Him to continue to provide protection. Our nation’s motto is “In God we trust”. He will protect us if we trust Him and seek Him. “If my people, who are called by my Name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from Heaven and forgive their sins and heal their land.” (2 Chronicles 7:14).
An absence of God is the situation we should fear most. Last month God walked away from one man and 17 people died. Imagine what would happen if He walked away from our entire nation. To those who would have Him leave, be careful what you wish for.
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A servant of Jesus Christ
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