Something that results or follows from an event, especially one of a disastrous or unfortunate nature; consequence: the aftermath of war; the aftermath of the flood.¹
Or what about ...
The aftermath of a massacre?
Here we are as a nation, as a culture, and as individuals…trying to process an event that defies what most of us could even imagine in our darkest dreams. A madman overtaken by the clutches of a murderous psychosis ends the lives of 12 individuals who were guilty of nothing other than seeking enjoyment from a much anticipated film.
First there is the shock and utter disbelief. How does this kind of thing happen? Could it have been prevented somehow?
Then the insatiable craving for answers sets in. What was the shooter like? Who were the victims? And of course, the relentless media coverage is there ad nauseum to plaster every minute detail of the tragedy in our face. Yet no amount of information will get at the answers we are all seeking.
Trust me, the complete solution to this puzzle won't be revealed on this side of eternity.
But in light of that, how do we anchor ourselves in the aftermath of the Aurora massacre that left us adrift in a sea of anxiety, doubt, fear and questions about the presence of an all powerful and loving God?
May I suggest two thoughts on which to dwell as we all continue to wrestle with how to harmonize this unspeakable incident with our internal dissonance?
First, remember that our faith is expansive enough to engulf every fear and question imaginable. In the Bible, the men and women who walked closest to God also carried some of the deepest doubt - especially the one described in Scripture as "a man after God's own heart":
Psalm 10:1 Why do You stand afar off, O LORD? Why do You hide in times of trouble?
Psalm 22:1 My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me? Why are You so far from helping Me, And from the words of My groaning?
Psalm 44:23 Awake! Why do You sleep, O Lord? … 24 Why do You hide Your face, And forget our affliction and our oppression?
Psalm 74:1 O God, why have You cast us off forever? Why does Your anger smoke against the sheep of Your pasture? … 11 Why do You withdraw Your hand, even Your right hand?
Has your heart echoed the feelings of King David? Good! An eternal God is big enough to handle our uncertainties about this temporary existence. But remember that God is not Google…you can't just input an inquiry and expect a nicely wrapped godopedia type answer. In fact, much of the healing comes simply from knowing we have the freedom to ask. That's why David answers his own questions about God with this response:
LORD, my heart is not proud;
my eyes are not haughty.
I don't concern myself with matters too great
or too awesome for me to grasp.
Instead, I have calmed and quieted myself (Psalm 131:1-2).
At some point in our struggles with tragedy it is possible to cross a line. God is in control even in the chaos. He is sovereign but He is not a micromanager of human existence. When you approach the line between pleading and pride, it is best to sit in silence and acknowledge that God is God – and we are not…
Secondly, consider the fact that when great evil occurs, it should serve as a warning of the greatest calamity that will ever take place - spending an eternity in hell:
Now there were some present at that time who told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices. Jesus answered, "Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans because they suffered this way? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish" (Luke 13:1-3).
This tragedy in Jesus' day was a result of a sociopath named Pilate, who murdered innocent Galileans while they were worshipping God. Basically, this was the cultural equivalent of a public shooting. When this calamity occurred, the crowds wanted answers - and God Himself was on the scene.
What is amazing, though, is that Jesus doesn't even try to explain the causes or solutions to the calamities. He purposely avoids going into a social discourse about the disintegration of society, or the effect that the violence in the coliseum has on people. In fact, He doesn't even launch into a sermon about free will and God allowing bad things to happen.
Instead, Jesus speaks to this situation with a reminder of ultimate destiny: "...unless you repent, you too will all perish."
Does God Himself not know God's answer on the subject? Not at all. He simply had a completely different perspective on tragedy, which is one that we must consider, as well.
Jesus didn't look back and try to piece together the causality of these events. Neither did He issue a current political statement regarding immediate actions to be taken by His Father. Instead, He looked forward in order to remind everyone about the ultimate question: what will happen to me and my friends when we die?
In the aftermath of the Aurora shootings, remember that there are and will be many complicated and puzzling aspects that cause us to question the foundations of our reality. Yet in the midst of all the tragedy, questions, and confusion, keep Christ's perspective close at hand. We must:
Be very careful, then, how you live--not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil (Ephesians 5:15-16).
The days were evil then and they are still evil today…but take heart my friends! We've been given a great opportunity to share the light of the gospel in the midst of darkness.
So may THE Cause shine like a beacon in the shadowy days of 2012.