Megachurch Pastor Greg Laurie of Harvest Christian Fellowship in Riverside, California, has shared his thoughts on why God allows tragedy following the worst mass shooting in U.S. history that occurred on Sunday, when 64-year-old Nevada resident Stephen Paddock killed at least 59 people and injured 527 others.
Speaking to CBN, Laurie said the attack, which took place during the final night of the Route 91 Harvest country music festival, is “unnerving, unsettling, and frightening.”
“I think you need to be really aware of small children in the room if you’re watching the news and think about how it’s impacting them and maybe explain it to them,” he said, “because you know, when something like this happens, it just can make everyone be in a state of perpetual anxiety.”
Amid such tragedies, it’s important to remember that God is here and in control, Laurie said.
Still, the pastor acknowledged that the question always comes up: Why did God let this happn?
“God allows evil in the world,” he contended. “What this man did was the most evil thing imaginable, to just mow down people with an automatic machine gun who didn’t even know where the fire was coming from, and it’s a horrible thing. But having said that, yes, God allows evil, and bad things happen and quite frankly, not to be a downer, but bad things will always happen.”
It seems like more and more bad things keep happening today, Laurie said, pointing to the recent bout of hurricanes that hit Florida, Mexico, and Puerto Rico, and the unrest in North Korea.
“These are very unsettling times,” Laurie said, “but here’s what Jesus says: ‘Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid. You believe in God, believe also in me.”
He continued, “Really what Jesus is saying to us in times like this is, ‘put your trust in me, put your focus on me, and remember that even in the midst of all of these horrible things, God can still bring good.'”
When asked how the Church can comfort the victims of such atrocities, Laurie said: “I know a little bit about this, because nine years ago, our son died in automobile accident, so ever since that day, I’ve spent a lot of time comforting grieving people because I have been since that day a grieving person. The grief that happens in the immediate aftermath of a tragedy like this is very strong.”
When talking to someone who has lost a loved one, never say, “I know what you’re going through,” because you probably don’t, Laurie said.
“Don’t try to connect on that level,” he advised. “I think the best thing to say is, “I love you, I’m sorry, and I’m praying for you.”
The Bible says to “weep with those who mourn,” but often, Christians try to “put a smiley face on everything” and say, “well, if they were a Christian, they’re in heaven and so rejoice.”
“Well no,” Laurie said, “the Bible says there’s a time to mourn.”
God doesn’t promise to turn bad things into good things, but He does promise to cause all things to work together for good, Laurie said, referencing Romans 8:28.
“I think one thing we’ve seen is…all these amazing act of heroism,” Laurie said, explaining that the bravery of the many of the concert-goers reminds him of John 15:13 – “greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”
“We’re really seeing that this has happened, that people risk their life, and in some instances, gave their lives for others,” he said. “Despite bad, despite evil, good can come. We hear of amazing stories of courage, but I think it should be a wake up call to all of us to live our lives in the light of eternity, remembering we don’t know when life will end for us. But if we’re right with God, we can know that we’ll go into His presence.
Laurie ended his interview by issuing a call to prayer: “Pray that America wakes up and turns to God,” he said, “because it just seems…that there are so many alarming things happening right now with all of these natural disasters and this horrible shooting and other things that remind us life is fragile, life is short, eternity is real, and we all need to be ready to meet God.”
He added, “If we saw a national awakening happen, I would certainly rejoice.”