In wake of the shooting at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT this morning I found myself asking the same question.
20 children dead. 27 victims total.
Surely this can’t be your master plan can it God???
I imagined the homes of the victims where Christmas trees are proudly displayed and wrapped toys are nestled snuggly beneath it. I imagine this year Mom and Dad got them that special something that they really wanted. I imagine the joy they would have opening the present and the shrieks of excitement. But this Christmas there will be no child’s giddy laughter….only mourning in the homes of the victims who will stare at unopened presents. A taunting reminder of what tragedy has befallen their family.
And perhaps they will ask the same question of God.
WHERE. WERE. YOU?
And I’m hoping they hear a soft whisper that says, “I was there and I care.”
In the book of Hebrews God consistently tells us he identifies with suffering. “I am a husband to the widows. I am a father to the fatherless. If you oppress the poor you oppress me.” Perhaps the most astounding text to me is that it says he “sympathizes in EVERY WAY”. God’s heart is so closely bound to his people he feels the effects of a broken world on himself.
Moreover I know God is not immune to suffering. He didn’t sit in heaven ruling the universe but instead put on flesh and blood and came lived among his creations as one of us. And he didn’t take the form of an Emperor but as a poor carpenter born in a feeding trough, suffered, and was eventually brutally murdered.
I could never worship a God that hasn’t felt the effects of suffering. That doesn’t know the pain and aguish of betrayal, loss, suffering, and ultimately death. And yet the cross of Christ screams at me, “I KNOW. I’VE BEEN THERE.”
So why didn’t he stop it?
Ultimately…..I don’t know, but I do know he cares.
But beware. Beware of people that will say because God is sovereign and all knowing he is in everything because he knows about it. Therefore he’s in the earthquake that hit Japan, your mom’s cancer, genocide, and they practically make God out as the source of evil while claiming he’s good. If they KNOW for a fact that God decided to let this shooting happen then doesn’t that technically make them God because they know his mind? And doesn’t God say repeatedly, “I’m a mystery, who’s ever given me council or known my mind”?
And on the other end of the spectrum, people will say, “Well we’re free willed creatures and therefore God doesn’t want to intervene, and if he had to intervene then he would have to intervene for all evil and suffering and that would be robbing us of choice and freedom and he loves us too much to do that” and they completely dethrone God of being God.
The truth is, he’s God, I’m not and the answer lies somewhere in the middle. It’s tough to live in that tension, isn’t it? Beware of what you hear for the explanations on this shooting, but know that God cares, he understands and has endured suffering.
So remember the example of Christ. God in the flesh doesn’t say, “No forget this world and the evil in it,” he instead enters in and takes our place. Has the flesh whipped off his back and dies BARBARICALLY and goes, “No, I understand….I understand……I have not abandoned you….I’ve been through it myself….I’ve been there and I took it all so that you could fully live….TRUST ME….please trust me…with your life….when you suffer….when you think I’m not there”.
And so in the wake of this tragedy I’m reminded of the Apostle John. John the lone, surviving apostle when all the other disciples have been murdered. John who was tortured, exiled and left alone on an island and writes as a simple prayer at the end of Revelation:
Come, Lord Jesus, come quickly.
***For those of you that pray, please do so for the families affected by this tragedy Let us rally together as a community for their community which is grieving and broken over the loss of innocent life****