Terrorism has drastically affected Americans in the 21st century. It seems there are constant news stories of one gruesome attack after another, which can leave us all feeling overwhelmed and scared. With attacks in hotels, malls, restaurants, concerts and even churches around the world, one can be left feeling that no place is safe from terrorism.
So as Christians, how do we cope with terrorism? How do we encourage our young people who may be asking us tough questions? How do we walk out our faith in Jesus in an increasingly dark and dangerous world?
Let's look to God and his Word for our answers.
Why does God allow terrorism and mass murders?
To answer this question, we need to look at four truths found in the Bible:
Truth One: God is good.
God is holy, pure and good. He is light; there is no evil in him. In fact, darkness is just that - the absence of God.
This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. - 1 John 1:5
The Lord is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and rich in love. The Lord is righteous in all his ways and faithful in all he does. - Psalm 145:8,17
Truth Two: All mankind is wicked.
For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. - Romans 3:23
Indeed, there is no one on earth who is righteous, no one who does what is right and never sins. - Ecclesiastes 7:20
The evil we see in the world is not from God; it is a result of Satan, his evil angels and the sin that stains every human heart.
When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death. - James 1:13-15
Truth Three: God is omniscient (all-knowing).
God is so far beyond our understanding. We cannot, as simple created beings, stand in a place to question our creator. How can we, who are so limited, ever understand God’s infinitely vast ways?
Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God!
How unsearchable his judgments,
and his paths beyond tracing out!
“Who has known the mind of the Lord?
Or who has been his counselor?”
“Who has ever given to God,
that God should repay them?”
For from him and through him and for him are all things.
To him be the glory forever! Amen. – Romans 11:33-36
And God in his goodness works all things, even the bad things that happen in a Christian's life, for our good.
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. - Romans 8:28
Truth Four: God has already won the war.
Since we live in this world our focus and thoughts are often on the here and now, the day-to-day battles. Yet, God sees and cares about the big picture. Our life on earth is like a vanishing mist, while our eternal lives will go on forever. Through the perfect life, innocent death, and resurrection of Jesus, God has defeated sin, death and Darkness, winning the war.
But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. - Romans 5:8
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. - John 3:16
Even though Satan has been defeated and his day of judgment is coming, the world continues on, not because sin is winning, but because God is using all things to bring people into the knowledge of his son, Jesus. God desires all men to be saved and come to repentance.
The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. - 2 Peter 3:9
So why does God allow terrorism?
We cannot completely understand why God allows terrorism. However, what we do know is that God is not the cause of terrorism, sinful man is at fault. We take comfort that we have a good, holy God that has full understanding and full control over all things. We rejoice in the fact that he has won the victory over sin, death and Satan. Moreover, we thank God for his patience and desire for all people to repent and believe in Jesus as their Savior.
Is God really in control of this world?
While the changing times may feel scary and uncertain, God is a constant; he does not change.
Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. - James 1:17
Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. - Hebrews 13:8
In the beginning you laid the foundations of the earth,
and the heavens are the work of your hands.
They will perish, but you remain;
they will all wear out like a garment.
Like clothing you will change them
and they will be discarded.
But you remain the same,
and your years will never end. - Psalm 103:25-27
In addition, while the earth may seem to do as it pleases and nations seem to rise and fall, God is truly the one who determines the course of all history. We see this in the Old Testament prophecies when God lays out the course of human history from the time of Daniel up until the time of Jesus. Daniel 2 shows how God not only knows what will happen in years to come, but also how he is in complete control of all of it.
Daniel himself says of God after he reveals visions of the future to Daniel:
“Praise be to the name of God for ever and ever;
wisdom and power are his.
He changes times and seasons;
he deposes kings and raises up others.
He gives wisdom to the wise
and knowledge to the discerning.
He reveals deep and hidden things;
he knows what lies in darkness,
and light dwells with him. - Daniel 2:10-22
God also reminds his people, the Israelites, how he is in complete control of every single nation. He compares them to clay in his hands.
Then the word of the Lord came to me. He said, “Can I not do with you, Israel, as this potter does?” declares the Lord. “Like clay in the hand of the potter, so are you in my hand, Israel. If at any time I announce that a nation or kingdom is to be uprooted, torn down and destroyed, and if that nation I warned repents of its evil, then I will relent and not inflict on it the disaster I had planned. And if at another time I announce that a nation or kingdom is to be built up and planted, and if it does evil in my sight and does not obey me, then I will reconsider the good I had intended to do for it. - Jeremiah 18:5-10
God sits enthroned in heaven ruling over all the earth and is in complete control of all things.
Why do the nations conspire
and the peoples plot in vain?
The kings of the earth rise up
and the rulers band together
against the Lord and against his anointed, saying,
“Let us break their chains
and throw off their shackles.”
The One enthroned in heaven laughs;
the Lord scoffs at them.
He rebukes them in his anger
and terrifies them in his wrath, saying,
“I have installed my king
on Zion, my holy mountain.” - Psalm 2:1-6
What if I’m afraid of terrorism?
God cares about you and your welfare more than any human ever could. He loves us and tells us we need not be afraid!
When you hear of wars and uprisings, do not be frightened. These things must happen first, but the end will not come right away.” - Luke 21:9
But seek His kingdom, and these things will be added to you." Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has chosen gladly to give you the kingdom. - Luke 12:32
And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” - Matthew 28:20
“So do not be afraid of them, for there is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known. What I tell you in the dark, speak in the daylight; what is whispered in your ear, proclaim from the roofs. Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.” - Matthew 10:26-31
We need to remember that dangers, persecution, and even death cannot separate us from the love of God.
Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written:
“For your sake we face death all day long;
we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. - Romans 8:35-39
So how do I live as a Christian in this increasingly dark world?
The darker the room, the more brightly a candle shines.
You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. "Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven. - Matthew 5:14-16
We cannot let terrorism, sin and darkness drive us into fearful seclusion. We need to step out with more boldness than ever. Proclaiming with every part of our lives, the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ. We can trust that God will not only be with us, but that his Spirit will equip us with the words to speak.
But when they arrest you, do not worry about what to say or how to say it. At that time you will be given what to say, for it will not be you speaking, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you. - Matthew 10:19-20
Yes, the world is dark and it will continue to grow darker until the glorious day that Jesus returns to make all things right. But, God never wanted his children to live in fearful dissipation. In fact, we can live the exact opposite way. We can fearlessly continue to spread the good news of Jesus and give every part of our lives for his sake knowing that:
- Even when the the world looks out of control, God IS in control
- God has won the ultimate victory over sin and death through Jesus
- God tells us that he watches over his children so we don't need to be afraid
- Those who know and follow God can go confidently into this dark world living not for now, but for eternity
So let us rejoice! Our God reigns!