The world is watching the UK as the fourth terror attack since March, and the fire in Grenfell Tower with current death toll near 80, have filled the headlines with darkness. As a foreigner in this country, I usually find out about these attacks and tragedies first from worried text messages from my mom in America, since she’s watched these events unfold as I’ve been asleep.
As a Christian working with young people in schools and churches, I begin to fear that the darkness of these events will cast a shadow on faith, and the children and teenagers will be haunted by the very real question of “Why would a loving God allow this to happen?”
This is an age-old question, and to be quite honest, it often unsettles me. I’ve wrestled with this question in multiple seasons of my faith journey, and it sometimes seems to serve as an anthem for anti-Christian views.
So how do we address this question, this fear, this search for hope that young people carry?
The good news is God addressed this question first–from the beginning of time in fact. Genesis chapter one, the first words in the Bible, tells us that where there was darkness, God breathed in light:
“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters. And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. God saw that the light was good, and he separated the light from the darkness.”
Genesis 1:2-4 NIV
God responds to darkness with light. He fills the empty, void places with brilliance and splendor. Dark places do not stay dark. This is His plan.
Genesis chapter one also says that God created man in his image. This brings forth the additional question, “Then why are men so evil?” But the root of this answer is simply the darkness that we as humans often choose—sin. Sin was never God’s hope or intent with mankind, but the love he lavishes on us means we get to make our own choices. So God responds even to the darkness of sin—He redeems.
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”
John 1:1-5 NIV
Jesus is this Word that John speaks about, and God intended from the beginning of time for Jesus to be the hope of mankind. He also serves as a clear example of what it is to be light in the grim circumstances of life, and commissioned people to follow his example.
“You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” Matthew 5:14-16 NIV
With this simple look at what light is, what it really does, it’s simple to switch the conversation to the hope that shines in the darkness.
Mr. Rogers, the American children’s show host communicated how we can see the image of God reflected in people during dire circumstances. “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.”
So how do we encourage young people in the midst of such darkness? Show them the light. Direct their gaze to the hope that blazes brighter than the hate. Tell them how they can be a helper—how they, too, can shine in the darkness.
Please join us in prayer as we, and countless other youth workers, share this message of hope with young people in the U.K.