Today is a day of mourning, a day of asking many questions. My heart is broken for the parents of the children that were killed in the tragedy in Connecticut. It is unspeakable, it is unexplainable, it is evil. As I have prayed, I have asked God to bring peace and comfort to all involved. I am also asking, "how could this happen? Where were you God? Why?"
I am brought back to the character and nature of who God is. God did not turn his back on this. He did not make it part of his "plan" for those children to die. He did not leave them. But, why does God allow suffering and evil to happen in this world? I will never fully understand why? But I know that it’s not because God doesn’t care.
Timothy Keller, a pastor in New York, explained it beautifully in a message he gave after 9-11.
“One of the great themes of the Hebrew Scriptures is that God identifies with the suffering. There are all these great texts that say things like this: If you oppress the poor, you oppress to me. I am a husband to the widow. I am father to the fatherless. I think the texts are saying God binds up his heart so closely with suffering people that he interprets any move against them as a move against him. This is powerful stuff! But Christianity says he goes even beyond that. Christians believe that in Jesus, God’s son, divinity became vulnerable to and involved in – suffering and death! He didn’t come as a general or emperor. He came as a carpenter. He was born in a manger, no room in the inn.
But it is on the Cross that we see the ultimate wonder. On the cross we sufferers finally see, to our shock that God now knows too what it is to lose a loved one in an unjust attack. And so you see what this means? John Stott puts it this way. John Stott wrote: “I could never myself believe in God if it were not for the Cross. In the real world of pain, how could one worship a God who was immune to it?” Do you see what this means? Yes, we don’t know the reason God allows evil and suffering to continue, but we know what the reason isn’t, what it can’t be.
And this is key:
It can’t be that he doesn’t love us! It can’t be that he doesn’t care. God so loved us and hates suffering that he was willing to come down and get involved in it. And therefore the Cross is an incredibly empowering hint. Ok, it’s only a hint, but if you grasp it, it can transform you. It can give you strength.
And lastly, we have to grasp an empowering hope for the future. In both the Hebrew Scriptures and even more explicitly in the Christian Scriptures we have the promise of resurrection. In Daniel 12:2-3 we read: Multitudes who sleep in the dust of the earth will awake….[They]… will shine like the brightness of the heavens, and…like the stars for ever and ever. And in John 11 we hear Jesus say: I am the resurrection and the life! Now this is what the claim is: That God is not preparing for us merely some ethereal, abstract spiritual existence that is just a kind of compensation for the life we lost. Resurrection means the restoration to us of the life we lost. New heavens and new earth means this body, this world! Our bodies, our homes, our loved ones—restored, returned, perfected and beautified! Given back to us!”
I probably won't ever understand, but I can find the peace that passes all understanding. I can find the strength and courage to keep believing. I can know that God will not leave us to fend for ourselves. I am praying for the families of those children and the teachers that were killed. I know God won't abandon them, I know God will bring healing.
For some reason, it gives me great courage that in the midst of tragedy, God will not abandon us. I pray you will take hold of that, and look for God as you mourn and grieve. There you will find the peace, hope, joy and love that we all want in this time and forever.
Please join us at All Saints this Sunday as we pray together and for the people who are suffering most.