Las Vegas: God’s Glory in the Midst of Tragedy

The following was written by my close friend Trent Radding from the University of Richmond. Thank you for these hard-to-hear words about the Truth and for pointing to hope when all else is hopeless.

What happened Sunday sucks. Plain and simple, it was horrifying and heartbreaking. People died in the saddest and most evil of ways. We don’t know much about the people who were shot, and details are coming out about the shooter, but what we do know is that wrapped around all of this is the sovereignty and glory of the almighty God.

God rules over all the earth with absolute sovereignty, and everything, good and bad, that has happened, he has used for his glory. It is easy for us to see how God uses the good things of the earth for his glory, but how can he use the evil things like what happened in Las Vegas for his glory? God allows the evils of man like this to happen on earth because he knows several things will happen as a result.

People will seek him for strength in the midst of pain and sorrow. God is glorified when we take refuge in him.

People may begin to question what would happen to them in eternity when thinking about the possibility of a similar event happening to them. They seek Christ as their eternal deliverance from sin and death, again something that is glorifying to God.

God’s justice will be made manifest. When people see what happened, they will know that the shooter will receive God’s just wrath in hell for what he has done. His justice will also begin to be shown to the number of those killed who never knew him. Though we should feel bad about what happened to these people and saddened about the past and eternal pain they will experience, we should know that like the shooter, they too will receive God’s just wrath for their sins in hell. We should avoid thinking that the pain these people suffered in being killed somehow pardons them for the insult to God’s precepts and laws that they committed over their lives. If they have rejected Christ, they will not enter the kingdom of God. What happened to them is only a foretaste of the just wrath that will be poured out on them in the time to come. God has shown to us the nature of his justice and wrath, and while it may be hard for us to believe, it is just as glorious as his mercy, love, or any other part of his character. God has blessed us in showing us this justice, moving us toward repentance from the evil acts we have committed against him and toward refuge in the mercy of Jesus Christ.

God shows his glory in the way he gave the believers an early trip home. We are saddened by the pain they endured, but being children of God, we know that their temporary pain will be worth their eternal joy and communion with God in Heaven. They were blessed because God gave them an early chance to leave behind their dead, sinful worldly bodies and live in the fullness of the Spirit in Heaven.

How is God good after allowing evil?

God himself never did an act that was evil. What that man did Sunday was a very clear manifestation of the naturally sinful heart that dwells within every human being. Before we were ever slaves to righteousness in Christ, we were slaves to sin. This sin within us manifests itself in different actions for every person, and for this man it was mass murder. It is that sin that we are accountable for by the wrath of God and are only delivered from by the propitiation (payment) of Christ’s blood on the cross. God is not the one sinning in the transgressions that we commit, we are. If God didn’t commit an evil act with his own hand, then his steadfast goodness remains, and the fault belongs to the man who did the sinful act.

But the real question here is does God know what was going to happen, and if he did, how would he still be good to allow it to happen?

The answer to the first question is yes. God foreknew everything that has or ever will occur. To say this is not true to any degree would take away from his glorious sovereignty and omniscience over all the earth.

Before answering the second question, it is necessary to establish that above all, God’s highest priority in all the universe is HIS glory. God cares for his children, but his glory will always come before our happiness. This isn’t easy for us selfish people to hear, that his glory is more important than our own. But it is the truth we all must accept. He is God, you are not. We are stupid to think our happiness, the happiness of an evil sinner, is something we are entitled to, and that it deserves to come before the glory of God. All we deserve in our sinfulness is suffering like we saw Sunday, and every happy thing we experience is a graceful gift of God. We should ask in everything we see, first and foremost, not how do we feel, but how was God glorified in it? This is not to say God doesn’t care for the souls of those who were lost (love and mercy are his traits too!), or that we shouldn’t weep for those people. But I am saying that our feelings are a secondary priority behind the glory of God.

How can God allow bad things to happen? Because somehow, some way, he can be glorified in the events and their fallout. Just as God hardened the heart of Pharaoh to not let the Israelites go, so that he could be glorified in his deliverance of them from captivity, so God is working all things for his glory in ways we can’t even begin to comprehend. But we have to trust him, that his ways are greater than our ways, and his plans are greater than our plans.

I can’t pretend to know exactly why God does what he does. I can’t tell you why he chose to take my grandfather in a plane accident when I was 12 years old, or why exactly he allowed the events last night to unfold. But I can tell you that I trust his plans and goodness above all, and will continue to do it until he calls me home. I pray that the same can be said for each one of you. If any of you would like to discuss what I just said, feel free to contact me and we can meet up. Grace and peace to you all.

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