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Why did God allow the Lakewood Church shooting?

Pastor Joel Osteen speaks at Lakewood Church on Oct. 18, 2020.
Pastor Joel Osteen speaks at Lakewood Church on Oct. 18, 2020. | YouTube/Lakewood Church

In the aftermath of the tragic shooting at Lakewood Church, led by Pastor Joel Osteen, it is only natural for us to question why God allows such horrific things to happen on earth. These moments can test our faith and leave us searching for hope and answers. As Christians, we turn to our faith for guidance, finding solace within the pages of the Bible. While the Word of God may not offer immediate solutions or eradicate all forms of suffering, it does impart profound wisdom and hope that can sustain us through our most challenging times.

Suffering is an unfortunate reality of life that has plagued humanity since the fall of man in the Garden of Eden. It is necessary to acknowledge that God does not desire suffering for His children; however, He allows it as a consequence of living in a fallen world. The Bible reminds us that God is compassionate (Psalm 34:18) and promises to be near the brokenhearted (Psalm 147:3). It may not seem as though God is present in the pain or utter darkness, but He is. Even in our darkest moments, Jesus extends His comfort and understands our pain because He experienced great suffering during His time on earth. By trusting in His wisdom and love, we can find comfort in knowing He walks alongside us during our darkest moments.

Trusting in God amid tragedy can be challenging, but it presents an opportunity for spiritual growth. In Romans 5:3-5, Paul writes these profound words, "but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us."

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In the Old Testament, Job is a prime example of a person who grew and developed due to enduring suffering. In his ancient story, Job experiences the unimaginable loss of his children, wealth and health. And yet, Job remained steadfast in his trust in God's sovereignty over his life (1:21). Despite his turmoil and confusion, Job kept communicating with God, which led him to a deeper understanding of God's greatness and love for him. A valuable lesson we see in Job's life that still resonates in our hearts today is that our faith is not contingent on circumstances or material objects but resides in our Creator. We find great hope and assurance in Job because he demonstrates the ability to endure suffering without allowing it to corrupt his character or spiritual convictions. 

Through his suffering, Job became more resilient and reliant on God, showing gratitude for being alive and developing a greater capacity to empathize with others.

Another example is the life of Paul, the apostle, in the New Testament. Despite facing numerous challenges in his mission to disseminate the teachings of Jesus Christ, Paul asserted that his afflictions and suffering were a gateway to experiencing Christ's power (2 Corinthians 12:9). This serves as a potent reminder that even in times of adversity, we are presented with opportunities for personal growth and transformation.

As Christians, we must not lose sight that when we encounter suffering or tragedy, our experiences are part of a larger narrative orchestrated by a loving and sovereign God. While we may not fully comprehend His intentions, we can have faith that He is working all things together for our ultimate benefit (Romans 8:28). This means that even though we may not presently understand the purpose behind our suffering, we can be confident that God will ultimately use it for a greater good.

In times of hardship, our faith can prove to be a great source of strength. It not only helps us build qualities like resilience, empathy, and compassion but enables us to get closer to God through prayer, seeking His guidance as we face the difficulties that lie ahead. 

In the face of tragedy, another beautiful quality emerges —the gift of connecting with fellow believers who offer immense comfort, support, and understanding. This connection enriches our lives during difficult times and reminds us that we are not alone in our struggles.

Perhaps you're feeling a lot of pain and confusion right now and questioning why things are happening the way they are. I may not know what you're going through, but I know this: God hasn't left you alone in your grief. He has a plan beyond what you can currently understand or see. It may take some time before everything becomes clear, so be patient and lean on Him for comfort. As the great British preacher Charles Spurgeon penned in Pain and God's Grace, "God is in life and death, in sickness and in health. This, surely, will soften the pains of sickness, and gild the joys of recovery."

In the face of the Lakewood Church tragedy, the Christian perspective offers hope and guidance. We find solace by placing our trust in God's unwavering love and promises, knowing that our suffering is not in vain. We can navigate challenging times with courage and resilience through prayer, seeking biblical wisdom, and leaning on fellow believers for support. Let us rely on Jesus Christ as we endure suffering, recognizing that He holds the answers to our most challenging questions and will ultimately bring beauty from ashes (Isaiah 61:3).

Jason Jimenez is the founder and president of Stand Strong Ministries and is a respected Christian-worldview speaker, and faculty member at Summit Ministries. He is the best-selling author of Hijacking Jesus: How Progressive Christians Are Remaking Him and Taking Over the Church, Challenging Conversations: A Practical Guide to Discuss Controversial Topics in the Church, and Parenting Gen Z: Guiding Your Child through a Hostile Culture.

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