In the last two posts, we have talked about two primary issues. The first was, “When terrorists strike, are they doing God’s will?”

The answers provided were “no” and “yes.”

No, because sinful acts are never God’s will. He hates sin. In fact, He came to earth to deal with it, giving His life because of it, absorbing into Himself the full measure of our sinfulness. We, the guilty ones, go free, and He, the innocent one, is punished.

Yes, because nothing happens on the earth or in the universe that He doesn’t cause or allow. He is sovereign over all.

Then, in response to a thoughtful reply from a long-time friend, this issue was broadened in the follow-up post: Is it God’s will, for instance, that children are raped? I did not answer that question but instead maintained that the series of questions given pressed us toward a skewed perspective. That perspective implies that there are crimes so heinous that the doing of them could not possibly be God’s will, and if they are, God is not good or just. To counter that perception, I wrote that all of us are, to offer the naked, brutal truth, sinners—not just sinners but horrible sinners. How can I say that? Because Scripture tells us that if we have broken one law, we have broken them all. Have you ever lied? I don’t believe it stretches credulity to say that everyone has. So, each of us are guilty of each of the Ten Commandments. You and I are murderers and thieves. However, this does not fully deal with the issue of whether appalling acts are God’s will. It just informs us that we are all guilty of horrendous sins, just like rapists are. The article was an attempt to adjust our perspective so we will not be taken aback by questions such as, “Was the Hitler-caused Holocaust God’s will?” “What about the slaughter of innocents in Rwanda?” and doubt that somehow God is good, allowing terrible deeds to be done.

This post, however, will be aiming at how Christians are to help those who are victims of hideous acts. So, for now, God’s will concerning terrible crimes will take a back seat.

First, let’s deal with how Christians sometimes think about such victims. Unfortunately, we may conclude that, somehow, the sufferers deserved what happened to them. Jesus opposed such reckoning.

“There were some present at that very time who told him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. And he answered them, ‘Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered in this way? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them: do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who lived in Jerusalem? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish’” (Luke 13:1–5). 1

In other words, people die unfairly, sometimes unexpectedly, and often those deaths have nothing to do with their sinful condition. The reality is that any one of us could die suddenly or in ways that have nothing to do with our actions.

However, how should Christians respond to such tragedies, regardless of their causes?

We should be careful not to offer easy, simplistic answers, throwaway responses that may indeed be biblical but betray an insensitive desire to serve up an accurate truth instead of showing empathy and compassion for the one who is suffering. A greater truth needs to be applied in such cases, and that is to express God’s loving and compassionate nature with our actions, not theologically correct facts. I would hope by now that we Christians have learned that we are often too quick to speak and offer statements which are insensitive to devastating suffering. We are instead to respond with compassion. Love. Comfort. Empathy. After all, you will probably be sitting in that chair of mourning yourself someday, sorely in need of succor. Biblical understanding can wait. And, truth be told, even after waiting, the answer to “Why?” often never appears. One simply needs to listen and speak very little. We weep with those who weep, comfort the wounded, and pray for help and healing.

1All Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.