Stop giving simple answers to evil
Dani Hampton (who you should follow on Twitter if you don't already) commented on Kayla Mueller's death earlier this evening.
I don’t know why I am still constantly surprised at the amount of times people say “it was all in God’s plan” when dealing with tragedy.— Dani Hampton (@danihampton) February 12, 2015
Maybe it’s because I don’t believe in a god that it seems so wacky to me. What plan are we talking about?!— Dani Hampton (@danihampton) February 12, 2015
If someone was like, “here’s the plan, we’re gonna kill this person you love because of THE PLAN…” I wouldn’t get behind that plan.— Dani Hampton (@danihampton) February 12, 2015
I'm not posting this to argue with her. I don't want to argue with her because, to a large extent, she's right. I just have more to say than what will fit into 140 characters.
I've heard it said that Job's friends were wisest when they were silent. Then they had to start talking and ruin it. Like them, to many Christians try to give simplistic answers to very complex, painful issues.
So, yeah, I have a lot of sympathy for the way she's thinking. I think a lot of well-meaning Christians end up reciting trite clichés because they don't know what to say, but feel they have to say something. This "fill the silence" narrative is usually wrong. For example, Romans 8:28 is a wonderful promise, but I'm of the opinion that, if you immediately quote it to people who are grieving, it's acceptable to punch you in the face.
I don't claim to be an expert in this, but I do have some experience. I've preached funerals of family members, including my father-in-law. I've sat in a hall with a young lady whose friend committed suicide, and then was one of three people addressing an entire youth group about it. And that's not counting all the other tragedies I've encountered, whether personal to me, to my friends, or to all of us, like Kayla Mueller and the three young people murdered in Chapel Hill.
Obviously, I come at this not just as Christian, but a certain type of Christian. I'm happy to debate the merits of my particular bias some other time. I just hope to explain my thoughts on this, for what it's worth.
First, take the Bible seriously when it says to weep with those who weep (Romans 12:15) and bear one another's burdens (Galatians 6:2). Remember Job's friends, and be present, but (mostly) silent.
Second, let people vent. This, too, is biblical. Job pointed out that, "the speech of a despairing man is wind" (Job 6:26 - I learned this from John Piper). Job certainly did this, ie "my eye will never again see good" (Job 7:7).
Third, you don't know why it happened. Obviously you may know details about Kayla Mueller. You might know all the information about the murders of Deah Shaddy Barakat, Yusor Mohammad Abu-Salha, and Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha. But you do not know "the plan" Dani was referring to. You simply do not. Don't pretend to, no one really expects you to.
Finally, point to Christ. Ultimately, this is all we can do. I do not know why these people died, or why so many others have suffered. I agree that God is doing 10,000 things, and we may be aware of three.
I do not know why any one thing happens, but I do know this: The murder of Christ was the greatest evil ever committed. And through it, God brought about the greatest possible good for us.
The captivity of Kayla, and her death, is evil. The murder of Deah, Yusor, and Razan is evil. I do not know why these things happened. They hurt me, and I did not know any of them.
What I do know, though, is God brings good out of evil. That does not mean these things were good in disguise, any more than killing Christ was good. It means, however, that God is sovereign still, even -- or perhaps especially -- when the evil is greatest.