Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. – Psalm 23:4
Most of us are still in shock over the horrifying carnage in Aurora, Colorado, that ended the lives of 12 people and injured many more. Our reactions range from fear, to rage, to heart-felt sorrow for those whose lives will never be the same. Personally, I don’t know how I could carry on if I lost one of my children in such an unspeakable way.
Reading the news, I long for some meaning, hope, and comfort. The whole thing seems so dark and terrible, and one’s heart breaks for the victims and their families. As the stories emerged, I noticed two hopeful messages.
God Is in Control
The story of one survivor’s miraculous protection captivated me. Petra Anderson’s brain “defect” (a harmless, aberrant channel of fluid traversing her brain) acted as a pathway for a bullet, guiding it through her brain so that it missed all vital brain tissue. Of all the places the bullet could have entered Petra’s brain, it hit the beginning of her fluid channel. (If you haven’t read the story, click here and here.) Even the surgeons who worked on Petra were ecstatic and amazed.
It sounds like a miracle, doesn’t it? God prepared a channel through a woman’s brain just as bizarrely as he prepared a basket and a river to save baby Moses from a murderous Egyptian Pharaoh.
At least, we can choose to see it that way. We could also ask why God would go to all this trouble when he could have prevented James Holmes from killing anyone in the first place. And what about those whom he did not protect? Why was Petra singled out for the miracle?
Our world is broken, and God does not always prevent the fallout. Instead, he steps into the mess. He reaches out to us, longing to carry us through, but giving us the choice to accept or refuse his help. Using even human oppression, he deepens our love and ultimately leads us through our dark valleys to his glorious presence.
I believe God has given us a message in Petra’s miracle. Her story teaches us that God is in control before, during, and after the traumas we experience. We can take refuge in him. Through his unique preparation of Petra’s brain for a bullet, God momentarily pulled back the curtain on his constant, detailed involvement with every life. The Petra miracle strikes me as a vivid plea: God revealed his protection of Petra to show us that he is always in control. We may not understand why things happen the way they do, but God sees the whole picture, from the eternal perspective. When life doesn’t make sense, he Helongs for us to turn to him and trust him, no matter what.
We Still Have Heroes
I don’t know what lead James Holmes to his actions. As a mom, I find his situation devastating, too. It is likely he was delusional (click here). Although he alone is responsible for his actions, his behavior does reflect our society. Increasing isolation, violent entertainment, and the devaluation of human life could all have contributed to his mental state. So it’s consoling to know that we are not abandoned.
Did you know that of the twelve people who died, three were men who died shielding their girlfriends? These amazing men – Alex Teves, Matt McQuinn, and Jonathan Blunk – were prepared to give their lives defending their loved ones; when the moment came, they responded. While I grieve for their families, with them I feel incredibly proud of these men. Their selfless choices triumphed over evil, shouting the message that heroism is alive and well.
Dear Lord, thank you for the assurance of your presence and care. We choose to trust you. Please comfort and sustain those whose lives have been torn by the atrocities in Aurora. Hold them in your care, and bring them through their dark valley to great peace. In Christ’s name, amen.