This morning I dropped my son off at Mother’s Day Out. We call it school because it helps him feel big and grown up and makes him more excited to go.
Then I went with my wife to meet a guy at McDonalds about selling an old computer to him that we don’t use anymore. While we were in McDonalds we saw CNN report that there had been a shooting at a school in Connecticut. We mused about the fine line between news reporting and voyeurism, waited for this guy who was 30 minutes late. And left.
And now while my son is at school I’m trying to get some work done. I pause, get online, and learn that 20 people have died. 10 of them kids.
And I ask myself the question all of us ask for a split second when this stuff happens. Where was God?
Over the next few days people will be asking this question and several people will try to answer it. I wonder about the fine line between news and voyeurism, but am reminded of Barth’s belief that Christians should live with the Bible in one hand and a newspaper in the other.
There’s going to be a lot of questions and the answers will almost always come in the form of a theodicy, a justification of God in the presence of evil. There are generally two main theodicies:
- The greater good: The Lord works in mysterious ways. His will is perfect and good and we may not always understand it but everything happens for a reason.
- The free will: God gave man free will. God isn’t responsible for what people do with free will. It is better to live in a broken but free world than a perfect but robotic world.
Here’s the thing about theodicies: they suck. They don’t fix anything, they’re just mental and moral gymnastics designed to make people who aren’t suffering feel better about their preconceived belief in God. They’re phrases repeated by pastors who don’t know what to say to a husband who lost his young wife because they’ve never suffered.
I don’t know why bad things happen. I don’t know that God has a greater purpose that requires 20 people died this morning and I don’t know that he is so committed to our freedom that he sits back and watches us kill each other and says, “Well, that’s better than no choice, right?”
I don’t know where God was. But I know where he is now. He is with the suffering and the grieving.
The first murder in the Bible is committed by the victim’s brother. And when God shows up he says “the voice of your brother’s blood is crying to me from the ground.” Where was God when the murder happened? I don’t know, but the spilling of innocent blood sure summoned him fast.
And this is what God does. He constantly shows up on the side of those who have been hurt. In the Old Testament he advocates for the suffering just as often as he condemns wrongdoing.
This is the whole story of Jesus. By taking on flesh, Jesus took on all that is included in being human and that includes some pretty nasty suffering. He took it up in himself and as the Apostles Creed reminds us, he suffered. He suffered as a human so that he could save us and comfort us in our suffering. And he did that because he loves his creation. And I have to believe that a God that loves his creation that much continues to suffer when they do.
Where is God? He is beside people everywhere that are suffering, suffering alongside them, broken over the brokenness of creation, absorbing into himself all the hurt caused by that brokenness and pouring love into them through His presence.