But I sense a deeper tragedy here, one with eternal consequences. Most of us picture death as a medical condition. We will fight it as long as we can, denying its intimate relationship with life itself.
If we picture dying at all, it's in our bed, old and infirm, with family gathered all around, saying good-bye and then closing our eyes, and off we go. Or we go to bed one night and not wake up the next day.
But Orlando, Boston, Ft. Hood, San Bernadino, Aurora, and September 11th all force us to face a very uncomfortable question: Are we ready to face death?
That question alone may cause you to leave my blog.
We don't like to discuss death, let alone face our own.
But this is critical.
Irrespective of foreign and domestic policy, gun laws, mental health laws and society's treatment of various identity groups, we will have to face this question. At some point. At some time.
The greatest tragedy is not death itself, it is not being prepared for it. How so? I cannot change death's inevitability, but I can choose how I will respond to its inevitability.
A quick and less disconcerting example would be I cannot stop the hurricane brewing off the coast, but I can secure my house and my family, and if need be, leave the area and go to safer ground.
So, let's go deeper and look at this world through spiritual lenses. 1 Peter 5:8 says, "Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour."
Jesus said, "The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly." (John 10:10)
OK. Let's review: We have an enemy. He is on the lookout, stalking and waiting to strike. He wants to steal what we have, destroy who we are and lead us down the road to destruction. He pushes our destruction on all fronts, with the final stroke being our lives. Yes, we can choose how we proceed, but he lies in wait and when we are not sober and alert, he strikes.
He destroys us "by any means necessary": addiction, murder, abuse, illness, insanity, and yes, terrorist attacks. He destroys the one who perpetrates the attacks as well as those who are the targets.
Ezekiel 18:23 says, "Do I take any pleasure in the death of the wicked? declares the Sovereign LORD. Rather, am I not pleased when they turn from their ways and live?" Clearly, God wants all to come to repentance, but Jesus comments on those who are being used by the enemy to bring the destruction: "Woe to the world because of the things that cause people to stumble! Such things must come, but woe to the person through whom they come!" (Matthew 18:7)
So, we have now peered behind the cosmic curtain, and see the ultimate source of evil in this world. Jesus, before His final act of love to this world, His willingness to die for our sins, said,
"'Now is the judgment of this world: now shall the prince of this world be cast out. And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me.' This he said, signifying what death he should die.
The people answered him, 'We have heard out of the law that Christ abideth for ever: and how sayest thou, The Son of man must be lifted up? who is this Son of man?'
Then Jesus said unto them, 'Yet a little while is the light with you. Walk while ye have the light, lest darkness come upon you: for he that walketh in darkness knoweth not whither he goeth. While ye have light, believe in the light, that ye may be the children of light.' These things spake Jesus, and departed, and did hide himself from them." (John 12:31-36)
There it is. We walk in the dark without Jesus, and it is His death and resurrection that we must choose to embrace to be prepared, at any time, to meet death. His death will save us, and His life will change us from citizens of a world ruled by Satan to children of God, whose kingdom, like our Lord, is forever.
But, you say, that is too simple. Accept Jesus, receive eternal life and live victoriously and die victoriously only to live with Him? But what about now?
We can change laws, but we cannot change human hearts. What is the state of the human heart? Jesus says, "For out of the heart come evil thoughts--murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander." (Matthew 15:19)
We can change our attitudes, but we cannot change our deepest nature, which is sinful. "I find then a law, that evil is present with me, the one who wills to do good. For I delight in the law of God according to the inward man. But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? I thank God—through Jesus Christ our Lord!" (Romans 7:21-25)
So, in the end, we grieve for those who were lost in these attacks. We pray for their families.
One last point. Jesus commented on two tragedies that occurred in His lifetime and it is instructive:
"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. Or those eighteen who died when the tower in Siloam fell on them—do you think they were more guilty than all the others living in Jerusalem? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish.'” (Luke 13:1-5)
The true tragedy of unexpected and sudden death is not being ready for eternity.