Les Sillars: Meaning in the midst of tragedy

MEGAN BASHAM, HOST: Today is Monday, August 19th. Good morning! This is The World and Everything in It from listener-supported WORLD Radio. I’m Megan Basham.

NICK EICHER, HOST: And I’m Nick Eicher. California Highway Patrol officer Andre Moye died earlier this month in a shootout during a routine traffic stop. The driver of a pickup, Aaron Luther, pulled out a rifle and started shooting. He wounded the officer, who did manage to call for help before he died. 

And the shooter would also die in a nearby hospital.

BASHAM: WORLD Radio’s Les Sillars says that it’s natural to want to find meaning in the aftermath of a tragedy. 

But sometimes the best explanation is no explanation.

LES SILLARS, COMMENTATOR: After a shooting, everybody has an angle. Not enough gun control, too much gun control; not enough mental health care, too much social media. The alt-right or the radical left.

So when a relative of Officer Moye, Debbie Howard, is grieving, desolate, and lost, it is heartbreaking yet fitting.

HOWARD: I been knowing him since he was a baby. I don’t understand. I don’t understand.

No, Debbie Howard doesn’t understand why this happened. Neither do the pundits, politicians, and activists who use the latest cop, church, or school shooting to push their own agendas.

In fact, those people remind me of Job’s friends. You know, Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar. God allowed Satan to rip away Job’s wealth, health, and family. And Job complained to God. Bitterly.

“May the day of my birth perish,” he said. “May it turn to darkness.”

Soon Job’s friends showed up to explain why, exactly, God allowed Job’s suffering. Job has sinned, they say, and he should repent. No I didn’t, Job insists. For the next 35 chapters it’s, Yes you did, No, I didn’t.

In Job 38 the Lord finally responds to Job out of the storm: “Who is this that darkens my counsel with words without knowledge?”

God’s reply is, basically, where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth and hung the stars in the sky? You know nothing.

Then the Lord says something surprising. He tells Job’s friends that He is angry with them, quote, “because you have not spoken the truth about me, as my servant Job has.”

This is puzzling. Job was accusing God of injustice. His friends were offering orthodoxy: God punishes sinners. Isn’t this true? What’s the problem?

The sin of Job’s friends was presumption. God allowed Job to suffer for reasons of his own. In trying to explain tragedy, Job’s friends assumed they knew the mind of God. He has revealed some things, but nobody knows the whole mind of God.

Investigators may eventually come up with a motivation for Officer Moye’s killer. But that doesn’t answer Howard’s real question.

HOWARD: If you knew him, you would be like, wow, he was such a nice, good, kind-hearted person…

All the investigations in the world can’t fix the pain of a heart shattered by evil.

Should we push for policies that reduce gun violence? Sure. But that’s not where our hope lies. Does God sometimes punish the wicked and discipline the wayward? Yes, but remember what Jesus said of the man born blind: “Neither this man nor his parents sinned. But this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him.”

Only Job’s response makes any sense: “I spoke once, but I have no answer—twice, but I will say no more.”

For WORLD Radio, I’m Les Sillars.

(Terry Pierson/The Orange County Register via AP) The casket of slain CHP officer Andre Moye is transported to a hearse from the Riverside University Health Systems Medical Center after he was shot and killed while two fellow officers were wounded during a traffic stop on Eastridge Avenue overpass over the 215 Freeway in Riverside in Moreno Valley, Calif., on Monday, Aug 12, 2019. 

WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.

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One comment on “Les Sillars: Meaning in the midst of tragedy

  1. Ed Schick says:

    While there are some cases that involve inexplicable tragedy, this slaying of a law enforcement officer doesn’t fit the mold very well. My understanding of the incident is that there were many people responsible for allowing Aaron Luther the opportunity to do this not to mention the evil act of Luther himself. This case needs to be thoroughly investigated in order to heal broken hearts and to repair the broken society and justice system that produced this loss. There are too few wise and courageous voices addressing the spiritual and moral needs of our society. This kind of approach to fallen law enforcement officers is shallow and callous.
    I think Dr. Sellars biblical theology is correct (Job, blind man) it’s just that he applied it very poorly to this situation.

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