Children die. Sometimes peacefully at home, as my eight-month-old son did about a year ago. Sometimes when bombs blow up churches, as was the case in 1963 in Birmingham, Alabama, when four little girls died. And sometimes they are slaughtered, as in several biblical tales and during the shootings in Connecticut. These are horrific moments that leave us wondering, “where is God?”
We are not the first, and sadly, we will not be the last, to wonder about the place of the sacred amid the deaths of innocents. That theodical problem is with us – theologically unsolved and socially unresolved. But history and personal experience have taught me one thing: silence can be powerful.
“God has a plan for this,” a woman explained to me as she prattled on just before the memorial service for my son Elijah. She meant the words to be comforting, but I swallowed them as if lumps of clay. They have sat in my stomach ever since, and try as I may I have been unable to vomit them out spiritually. Providential interpretations of everyday life sometimes feel satisfying – like when bad traffic slows me or down or when a friend has a cold. The deaths of children are quite another.
This chatty woman was Elijah’s very evangelical grandmother. She meant well; she loved and loves Elijah, but to her, everything was in the hands of a big, all-seeing, all-powerful Father. For me, the thought that God had a plan for my son to be unable to eat, that God intended for my son to fail to breath, or that God was instrumental in my son dying in my arms was disgusting. To me, that God could only be an awful and wicked monster.
And the thought, today, that God perhaps has a plan amid the Connecticut shooting sickens me as well.