Hurricanes, Earthquakes, Tsunamis, mass shootings–tragedies never make sense and they never seem fair. In the aftermath of such horrific events, it’s human nature to question God. Often, people will take such opportunities to challenge those of faith. We’ve all seen it. Social Media has provided a huge platform for it.
Where was your God in the Las Vegas Shooting?
How could a loving God allow those poor people in that little church in Texas to be slaughtered as they were gathered to worship?
Shameful as it might be to take advantage of a tragedy to take shots at people’s faith, the questions themselves are not invalid. Truth be told, those kinds of questions eat away at all of us, whether or not we care to admit it.
I’ve never heard a truly satisfying answer to those kinds of questions. I’m not sure there is one. When it comes right down to it, I’m not sure we are supposed to know the answers to those kinds of questions. I’ll come back to that in a moment, but first let me address another matter.
Here is what I am absolutely certain of; the answer isn’t to assign blame for such tragedies to certain groups of “sinners.” In the wake of each catastrophic tragedy, there will be no shortage of conservative evangelical leaders coming forward with statements implying that these events were the result of God’s punishment for–fill in the blank. I’ve seen blame ascribed to gays, America’s acceptance of gays, America’s legalization of abortions, America’s resistance to Donald Trump, God being “removed from our schools”, the list goes on and on. Far-right fundamentalist Christians never let a tragedy go to waste. They quickly pounce upon every opportunity to politicize tragedy with their warped interpretation of a wrathful God.
I can think of nothing that more quickly drives people away from the message of Christ than these kinds of opportunistic, reactionary, pseudo-Christian attacks. Every time I see them happen, my heart sinks. It is absolutely shameful.
Reasonable folks of faith can agree that pointing fingers at groups of people and blaming them for tragedies is, at best, counterproductive, if not pure evil, but what is the answer? Where is our God when terrible tragedy strikes so seemingly unfairly? How can a loving God allow such horror to strike and permit people to suffer so?Let me come back to the previous point that I started to make earlier. I really don’t think that it is ever for us to know the answer to these questions.
I came to this conclusion at the cross.
It is extremely difficult for us to fully comprehend the concept of the triune nature of God. We understand it on some surface level, the Godhead, three-in-one–God the father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit–but we can never seem to completely grasp it. We often fail to recognize, for instance, the fully human nature of Jesus. It is so difficult to understand that Jesus was fully God and fully human–it’s that fully human part that is so vital when we see Jesus on the cross. It is here that we begin to see that Jesus Himself, in the time of unimaginable and, frankly, completely unwarranted suffering, did exactly what we would do in His situation…He questioned where God was and why He was allowing this to happen.
“Eloi Eloi lama sabachthani”
Those are the words Jesus cried out in his last moments of life on the cross. Translated, they mean, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
If Jesus Christ who, while fully human, was also fully God–designer of the very plan that placed Him on the cross to take on the burden of our sins–in His moment of ultimate suffering and grief could cry out in utter despair and question where God was, how are you and I ever going to figure out the answers when those questions arise in our times?
The answer, in my opinion, is that we aren’t going to figure it out, nor do I believe we are meant to do so.
The only thing to do, then, is to seek comfort in the cross–to try to understand that Christ himself suffered in unimaginable pain and He did so in our place. As man, Christ suffered with the same confusion and anguish that any of us would–it wasn’t fair, He didn’t like it, and He questioned it. And God the Father suffered just as any parent would in seeing their beloved son suffer so unfairly.
When tragedy strikes again, and it will, I’m going to try to look to the cross and understand that God doesn’t abandon us in times of tragedy, He suffers with us.