The Profile of a Mass Shooter

photo credit: Furryscaly via photopin cc
photo credit: Furryscaly via photopin cc

Once again, the United States has been rocked by a mass shooting in which mothers, fathers, husbands, wives, siblings, children, and grandparents have been brutally murdered. The shooting at the Washington Naval Yard was serious enough (meaning that enough people were killed) to give our nation collective pause—to take a momentary break from our daily pursuits, to express sadness for the senseless loss of life, and to express our continued sense of bewilderment over the escalating number of mass shooting events.

Guns are a factor, for sure, but as I’ve written before, the problem runs much deeper than the availability of weapons. Indeed, we have seen enough of these events to identify common themes at play in the lives of those who commit such acts of violence.

Most mass shooters have been men with identity issues (sometimes to the point of mental instability). Their struggles with insecurity may stem from broken or dysfunctional family environments, or from the systematic mistreatment by peers. Often, detectives uncover a pain-filled combination of the two factors. Immersed in a toxic environment of violent TV shows, movies, and video games that desensitize a heart to the value of human life, their emotions are like dry tinder just waiting for a spark—any spark—to ignite a wildfire.

photo credit: Ansel Edwards Photography via photopin cc
photo credit: Ansel Edwards Photography via photopin cc

In addition, there is another theme that is all too common in our increasingly fractured society—isolation. Don’t get me wrong—there is such a thing as good isolation, such as those times when we withdraw from the daily clamor of life to seek God and to recharge. This, however, is not that. The isolated world of a shooter is full of dark, brooding, life-stealing thoughts. In such situations, the human mind left to its own musings will come to no good conclusions.

What many of us fail to realize is that a shooting rampage is merely the culmination of an ongoing process. For every mass shooter, there are thousands, perhaps even millions of people living in their own isolated worlds, brooding over mistreatment, abandonment, betrayal, and a host of other unjust acts against their persons. Each bitter thought is an act of violence in its own right, and if allowed to run its course, some form of damage will certainly result.

This form of dangerous isolation is a type of “spiritual wilderness”—desolate territory where God appears to be absent and people uncaring. Most of us have these types of experiences to one degree or another; what marks the difference between life and death is the manner in which we process the adversity we face.

God is greater than any difficulty—even injustice—that any of us will ever face. But only those who trust Him, who learn to process their circumstances through the eye of faith, will emerge as champions over darkness and hate. No matter how bleak the horizon may appear, the eye of faith will look beyond the storm clouds to see dazzling rays of hope.

photo credit: Ashley Pollak via photopin cc
photo credit: Ashley Pollak via photopin cc

Though a wilderness experience of this sort may be nothing of our own choosing, how we process such circumstances is entirely ours. May we never forget that the sovereign Creator of the Universe is able to turn even sinful human choices toward His eternal purposes. That, after all, is one of the things that makes Him God. But what about us—will we believe?

(This post is loosely based on the content of my new book, Champions in the Wilderness, which is now available for sale through Amazon and through our new SfMe Media website. This site is now being phased out with this final post. All future blog entries will be posted to our new ministry website, You can subscribe by entering your email in the subscribe panel on the right-hand side of the new website.)

God’s Masterpiece!

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The air is beginning to chill. The leaves are turning spectacular colors as they die and begin to fall. Soon the howling winds of winter will cause snow to drift in my driveway. But it won’t last–spring will eventually bloom! Somehow there’s just something special about living in a geographical area blessed with four specific seasons (although winter becomes less and less desirable as I grow older).

Beneath the surface of Pennsylvania’s seasonal changes something dynamic is happening. The cycles of life and death are producing hardwoods that are both beautiful and durable. PA hardwoods are highly sought, producing some of the finest furniture available—all made possible by seasonal cycles.

Photo by mxruben - MorgueFile

Life too has its seasons. How bored we would be otherwise! Of course, we’d always like to see the good seasons last longer, but how refreshing it is to remind ourselves that wilderness seasons are not intended to last forever. They will end. A new day will rise. Wilderness seasons are only intended to be temporary.

There are extended times when sacrifice seems to always be the word of the day and others when we feel overrun by blessings. On some occasions we may feel the heat of conflict or the coldness of isolation. But how we are affected by life’s seasons depends in large part on how we respond to the challenges accompanied by the cycles of ease and difficulty that we all face. Fail to respond in faith and love, and the desolate nature of a wilderness experience can last a lifetime!

Of course, every illustration has its limitations and while God seeks to grow us as strong and durable people, the last thing He desires is for our hearts to become hardened and cold. In fact, wilderness seasons are intended to soften our hearts—facilitating faith and creating practical avenues for love to find its full expression.

Those who seek to identify with Christ and lay hold of His promises are transformed into beautiful and durable works of art by the hand of the Master. Those who choose self-centered paths soon become characterized by darkness and cynicism. It really is all about how we choose to weather the various seasons of life.

In the coming weeks I’ll share some thoughts about forgiveness, love and unity. Dark forces in this world constantly seek to harden our hearts and to chill our love. If we can learn to navigate the dangerous waters of our tumultuous times, we’ll see the mighty hand of God revealed in powerful ways!

“For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.” Ephesians 2:10 (NLT)

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