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Summary: If we will cease blaming others, we must be controlled by the Spirit of God. A study of the impact of God's Spirit in the life of a believer.

“God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.” [1]

It was an exceptional week, even for a broken world. One morning in June, we awoke to horrific news that an alligator had dragged a two-year-old boy into a lake at Walt Disney World. Though the presence of alligators had been known, Disney had failed to close the beaches at its resorts. More than fifty law-enforcement personnel searched the lake; they eventually found the boy's body. Some blamed Disney for not posting signs warning about alligators in the water. Others were quick to blame the parents. As with the boy who fell into a gorilla pit in Cincinnati, people on social media lambasted the mother and father for allowing their son to play in the water. Doctor Jim Denison asks “Why do we feel such a need to assign blame when tragedy strikes?” [2]

Immediately after reporting almost every tragedy, the media begins looking for motives. Making the task harder is the fact that officials are inevitably reluctant to assign motive—even when it is apparent! After the Orlando shooting, the media, looking for motives, questioned whether Omar Mateen was conflicted about his sexuality? Was he truly inspired by ISIS? [3] Meanwhile, authorities were still seeking a motive for the killing of singer Christina Grimmie. Since the murderer killed himself, we may never know his reasons. [4] More recently, though admitting he shot and killed victims in the Burlington Mall, police cannot say what motive Arcan Cetin may have had for the shooting. [5]

We tend to justify our search for motives by saying that we want to know why tragedy strikes so we can prevent future tragedies. If Disney or the parents could have done something to prevent the alligator attack, people could be saved in the future. If we can understand why murderers kill, we could prevent homicides in the future.

But there's more to the story. Dr. Denison notes that “according to the United Nations, 437,000 people around the world were murdered in 2012 (their most recent report). However, National Geographic reports that 725,000 people die every year from diseases transmitted by mosquitoes. Freshwater snails transmit schistosomiasis, which kills between 20,000 and 200,000 a year. Annually, snakes kill 94,000 to 125,000; scorpions kill 3,250; sharks kill six people. And there's no one to accuse for any of these tragedies.” [6]

Perhaps you recall how there was a sustained hue and cry following the shooting of Cecil the Lion. However, on the day Cecil died, 5,296 African children died of preventable disease! [7] Society’s focus tends to be on emotion-driven issues, ignoring true tragedy. Moreover, it is human nature to blame others—this allows us to maintain the illusion of safety for ourselves. Perhaps we wouldn’t allow our children to play at the edge of the Disney lagoon, but how many other times did we unknowingly put them at risk? It is doubtful that we would keep our children from ever going to the mall or even attempt to restrict loved ones from attending an office party.

Though we should exert every effort to prevent tragedies; we should also admit that much of life is beyond our control, as is emphasised repeatedly in the Word of God. James warns us, “You do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes” [JAMES 4:14].

Solomon has written,

“Do not boast about tomorrow,

for you do not know what a day may bring.”

[PROVERBS 27:11]

Jesus has taught those who would follow Him, “Do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble” [MATTHEW 6:34].

Know that the same law of gravity that enables us to walk causes us harm when we fall. Again, alligators are essential to the Florida ecosystem, but alligators are dangerous to humans. In short, we cannot have natural laws without the consequences of these laws. Therefore, control what you can and trust your Father for what you cannot. Know that “God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control” [2 TIMOTHY 1:7]. Work at making courage and serenity part of your witness to a fallen culture [see ISAIAH 26:3].

THE GIFT OF GOD — “God gave us a spirit.” Recall that Paul has just urged Timothy “to fan into flame the gift of God” [2 TIMOTHY 1:6]. The times in which Timothy served were intimidating, frightening. The early congregations were beset by religious opponents intent on extirpating the Faith from the earth. Political leaders were at best indifferent to the welfare of the faithful. The congregation in Ephesus had begun under threat of riot—and a riot did break out eventually. After cutting into the profits of silversmiths who crafted images of their goddess, the guild turned against the Christians and sought to rid themselves of these whom they saw as the source of their troubles [see ACTS 19:21-41].

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