When the Darkness Overwhelms

October 12th, 2019. Three year old Kamille McKinney was abducted; taken from a birthday party, drugged, sexually assaulted, killed, and then discarded in a dumpster. Put your phone down and think about that for a minute.

Three years old.

For her to die apart from anybody she loved and who loved her, terrified and abased, stolen and defiled, should put knots in your stomach and tears in your eyes. This degree of maliciousness should invade your thoughts and remain there until you say something to God. And what do you say? What can you say?

A dumpster.

I hardly know where to even start. Can a Christian pray for judgement to fall on such people? Would it be hypocritical to do so, given that I’m a sinner that deserves to go exactly where they deserve to go? Hell. Eternal conscious torment, forever. Because that’s what I feel like praying. 

Am I bound only to hope for their good? Remember, three years old. A dumpster. If this were my daughter that they took from my care to molest and murder, must I forgive them for that? In what universe could I ever? Must I forget justice to forgive such an offense? Is that what God does? Is that right?

Comfort in the Pain

There are no words we can utter which will undo what was done on October 12th. And if that’s the case, where can we find any comfort? Is there any to be found?

Is there a way out of the darkness?

For He rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

Colossians 1:13-14

In short, our comfort comes from God, who hates the darkness and can bring us through it, even rescue us out of it. We must find our consolation in the condescension, resurrection, and perfect judgement of Christ, for it exists nowhere else.

Allow me to elaborate. We don’t get all the answers to these questions, but I believe we get enough of them. What everyone wants is Kamille back in the arms of her mother, yet what we get is the opportunity to confide in God. In contrast to the deep hurt of losing a daughter to such vile passions, such a statement might come across as flippant or vapid. But suffer it to be only puzzling for now.

Puzzling in this sense, that God who offers to be our comfort through all suffering and injustice, when He came in the person of Jesus Christ, did not immediately stop all suffering and injustice- and He could have. Instead He willfully subjected Himself to suffering, loss, and the barbarism of sinful man; coming into the world to be humiliated for the salvation of His people and to sympathize with the dejected soul. God did not stay far off then and He doesn’t stay far off now.

What should procure our comfort on days like October 12th, 2019 is a steadfast assurance that God has gracious reasons for permitting even the cruelest sins and has no issue drawing near to the brokenhearted. If ultimate good, the salvation of the world can come through something as heinous as a Roman cross, then (although we may not understand it fully) we can trust that God is in control and working good, even out of our misery, and is quick to hear our cries. 

What of Justice?

What can atone for the murder of three year old Kamille? Can anything make this wrong right? Is there a penalty harsh enough or long enough that will do justice to the evil perpetrated against this little girl? Can God be God and let this slide?

Do you see now why Hell is necessary?

God cannot let this slide. He will not:

Then I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse! The one sitting on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he judges and makes war. His eyes are like a flame of fire, and on his head are many diadems, and he has a name written that no one knows but himself. He is clothed in a robe dipped in blood, and the name by which he is called is The Word of God. And the armies of heaven, arrayed in fine linen, white and pure, were following him on white horses. From his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron. He will tread the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty. On his robe and on his thigh he has a name written, King of kings and Lord of lords. 

Revelation 19:11-16

God is just and He will punish sin.

Either judgement for sin will occur at ‘The End of Days’ much in the manner described above or else it has already occurred for the soul who has cast all hope of forgiveness on the shoulders of Christ- who has judged the merits and suffering of God the Son to be sufficient and unbelievably necessary to reconciling with God. 

Are we then to feel remorse or satisfaction when God renders perfect justice?

Before we answer this, let’s remember that the Cross was unmitigated judgement, and yet we glory in it.

We rejoice in and sing songs about the Son of God bearing every ounce of the righteous indignation we were due because of our sin. We are brought to our knees in adoration and we revel at the thought of God in Christ, taking to Himself our collective burden of filth, dragging it up a tree and with Him into the grave.

To think that joy can come from judgement is not a novel idea for the Christian. 

Though there is a sense in which we should be grieved at the reckoning of a fallen image bearer, there is another sense in which we can hardily affirm passages like Psalm 58:10-11:

The righteous will rejoice when he sees the vengeance; he will bathe his feet in the blood of the wicked. Mankind will say, “Surely there is a reward for the righteous; surely there is a God who judges on earth.”

Perhaps the strongest apologetic for how God can permit evil to persist on the Earth is the retaliatory vengeance that will be exacted against the wrongdoer in the Final Judgement. His patience is mercifully granted to allow for repentance, but be certain of this, it’s destined to expire. 

The Christian agrees with God, that His justice is good and rejoices in it whenever it’s rendered.

But how does this square with the Christian’s charge to love their enemies?

Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.

Ephesians 4:31‭-‬32 

This may be shocking to hear, especially after all that’s been said, but Kamille’s killers, her kidnappers and defilers, may actually, eventually share Heaven with her.

God may save them.

While there’s still breath in their lungs and Bibles within reach, it is a possibility… and more than that, we are encouraged to pray for it. If this sounds unfair to you, you have no concept of fairness or awareness of your own sin.

The wages of sin is death [period]. No exceptions. On the spectrum of righteousness, we are all far nearer to Hitler than to Jesus Christ, and yet:

While we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Romans 5:6‭-‬8

This is every Christian’s cry, that Christ died for the ungodly. For me, the ungodly. And if Christ can save a wretch like me, He can save a wretch like them; Kamille’s torturers.

God’s justice will prevail. No wrong will be overlooked. Vengeance is the Lord’s, and so is mercy. With this in mind, we can seek the eternal welfare of our neighbor. It is in fact our great joy because of the grace we have received in Christ.

Before that fateful day when Christ shall judge the living and the dead, the Christian’s hope is that justice would reign in the case of Kamille’s abductors, but that in their case, justice would be accomplished at the Cross. That they would be forgiven for their gross sin, even every sin. And if not accomplished at the Cross, dealt with in eternity. In Hell.

These aren’t easy things to say, but God is good and we are not. He is to be praised for all His works. When He casts a sinner into Hell, He is to be praised. And when He plucks a brand from the fire, saving a sinner from Hell who most assuredly deserves it, He is to be praised. 

Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! “For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor?” “Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid?” For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.

Romans 11:33‭-‬36 

A Closing Thought

Though I think we have every reason to believe God has a plan and righteous purpose for allowing the abduction and murder of Kamille McKinney, the knots remain. The tears persist, for now. I don’t pretend to know exactly how God plans to work good from this tragedy. But if I had to speculate, I would say that such egregious acts are permitted to take place that we might learn to hate sin like God hates sin. 

We don’t think much of our own envy, our white lies, our secret disdain for our neighbor, but they are all branches of the same tree that killed Kamille McKinney on October 12th, 2019. Only in hating the tree can we truly love the One who chops it down.

And love Him we will.

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