Easter

Sri Lanka bombings: The pain of lives lost

by Gabriel Ong // April 22, 2019, 4:53 pm

Sri Lanka collage

Original photo sources: The New York Times, Associated Press, Global News

This was the story I never wanted to write for Easter. 

I first wrote about Palm Sunday a week ago and then another piece on – would you believe it – the villains of Easter. The irony, man.

It’s pure barbarism and evil that people would attack and kill Christian believers on Easter. The suicide bombers brazenly joined breakfast crowds in hotels and walked into worship services where innocent people were at their most vulnerable. Then in between bites over breakfast and the quiet intimacy of people praising their God – the attackers detonated the bombs.

In 8 locations across Sri Lanka. At least 290 killed. Nearly 500 fighting for their lives.

Passion Week has been pretty painful this year, if we’re being honest.

Just last week in Paris, the spire and oakwood roof of the Notre-Dame burned down. Yesterday, hundreds of people were blown up in a country that has been largely violence-free for the last 10 years. An ancient cathedral in ashes, a peaceful people in pieces. We demand answers for each disaster.

Why don’t the nice things last? Why do bad things happen to good people? 

Notre-Dame fire: Losing a beautiful treasure

You don’t have to be a cynic to see that this world is broken. For all of its goodness, it’s still tainted by hate, malice and anger – it’s bent and fallen. And because it’s no longer perfect – because we’re no longer perfect – chaos runs amok in the world, and suffering and such senseless brutality can occur.

And the scary thing is, while we still live on this planet, this could happen anywhere and to anyone.

It’s so easy to feel resigned. Like, it all feels hopeless. The next tragic school shooting is going to happen anyway. The next earthquake or tsunami is on its way. What’s the point?

But it’s possible to have hope. Jesus said plainly that we will have “trouble” in this world. However, he also said that we can “take heart” and be encouraged because he has “overcome the world” (John 16:33). 

Easter culminates in Resurrection Sunday – the day Jesus rose from the dead and defeated death. The attackers sought to bomb, bloody and break bodies in one deadly day – but they’ve ironically made more salient the living hope that believers have in Christ. 

“Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope. For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him.” (1 Thessalonians 4:13-14)

When we believe in Jesus Christ, death is no longer the end of all things. Jesus becomes the starting point for all of us to enter into new and eternal life (Romans 5:19-21).

Resurrection Sunday: Brokenness is not the end of the story

So would you dare to believe there’s hope for people like the attackers? Remember, Jesus says: “Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them.” (Romans 12:14)

Even as I write of terrorists and killers, and am tempted to demonise them, I am reminded of the apostle Paul who himself was a religious extremist and terrorist earlier in his life. While he was still known as Saul, he helped to kill and persecute Christians (Acts 8:1-3). But Paul’s whole life changed for good the day he met Jesus (Acts 9:1-22).

If God can use Paul, the chief of sinners, there’s yet hope for men like these

Nearly 2,000 years later, Paul’s writings still help us to make sense of senseless suffering.

“Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you” (1 Peter 4:12-14 ESV).

A bomb exploding in the midst of believers worshipping in church – how literal a “fiery trial”. And yet Paul encourages us a number of ways about this: We’re not to expect suffering as something strange, but we’re to “rejoice” because Sunday’s afflicted are “blessed”?

They’ve been blown to smithereens! The victims’ families are literally picking up the pieces of what the evil did to the innocent. How can anyone say they’re blessed?

Only Jesus can: “Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:10)

Certainly, such barbaric strikes may boggle the mind and leave us shellshocked. But as Christians, these instances should not come as a surprise. Jesus himself said: “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first.” (John 15:18)

So don’t believe our lives will be smooth-sailing just because we know God. It won’t, but we can smile at the storm. Because Jesus is in the boat with us – just as He was in those churches with His children as they went to be with Him.

Though this story on death and destruction is an Easter story, death will not have the final word.

The only reason there’s hope in this life and beyond is because Jesus died and rose again. Do you know what that means for you? 

It’s often said that life guarantees only death and taxes, but there’s a God who guarantees life. We have a greater guarantee knowing He will raise believers from the dead (1 Thessalonians 4:16). So we’re not cynically waiting for the bad things to happen. We’re waiting to see Jesus in paradise, and to receive our rewards and crowns.

Today, let us remember both the victims and the attackers in prayer. May God comfort those who are walking through the darkest valley of their lives (Psalm 23:4) and may He have mercy on the souls of the assailants.

THINK + TALK

  1. What are your thoughts on the Sri Lanka deadly blasts?
  2. What does hope mean to you? 
  3. Are you currently facing persecution for your faith?
About the author

Gabriel Ong

Gabriel isn't a hipster, but he loves his beard and coffee. In his spare time, he'd rather be on a mountain.