These past few days I have been all over the map with my emotions. I see pictures of sweet little seven-year-olds and I weep and cry and ache for their parents. I tuck my sweet little seven-year-old in for bed and I weep and ache with gratitude – but also with a sense of guilt as I feel the empty arms of mothers and fathers just a few states away. That I still get to hold her and feel her breath slow as she settles into dreamland seems unfair.
I read news stories and get downright angry that these killer’s faces and names become iconic figures to the American people whilst some will-be terrorist fantasizes about his name in lights and his face emblazoned in the minds of millions.
I feel fearful as I kiss my children goodbye and send them off to school on that big yellow bus.
I feel anxious for teachers all over the country who will be comforting their children and looking over their shoulder in what should be just another day enjoying the freedom to learn.
I feel empty when I think about the fact that thousands of children die in the streets of our cities every year – from hunger, from violence, from abuse, from neglect. And it takes THIS for us to stand at attention.
I feel immobilized as I think about the billion-piece puzzle that needs to be disassembled and put back together with leadership that is calm and steady, confident and faithful – yet also passionate about securing a safe future for our children who will always be our most precious earthly treasure.
- Some say the problem is gun control
- Some say the problem is access to mental health care
- Some say the problem is the isolation that our independent society fosters in people who are already predisposed to reclusiveness
I say “Yes” to all of those. And I say “No” to all of those. There is no ONE problem. To try to clear the fog until the picture is clear simply will not happen. It will never make sense. There are no easy answers. There are no overnight solutions. What this will take is each and every one of us admitting that we are broken – that we need each other – and that we all need God.
Woah - wait a minute. Did you say we need GOD? Don’t talk to me about your GOD. Where was GOD when those 26 souls perished in a flash of violence? Where was GOD when those parents couldn’t kiss their babies goodnight?
It is a legitimate question. I understand where it comes from. I would be lying if I told you I had never asked the question myself. Even Jesus – hanging from the cross – screamed out – “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
Here is what I know to be true. God did not protect even His own Son from the violence of this world. In fact, God intentionally sent Jesus into the darkness so that we would know that even in our darkest hour; especially in our darkest hour – GOD IS WITH US. God has wept these same tears of agony. And God weeps with us today.
All over scripture – and especially in the Psalms, people cry out to God with a sense of abandonment. It is natural to feel God-forsaken in times like these. The thing is - God did not promise that our lives would be void of pain or that our world would be free from tragedy and violence. In fact, He says quite the opposite. In John Chapter 16, Jesus says – “In this world YOU WILL HAVE TROUBLE. But take heart. I have overcome the world.” You see – God’s promise to us is not that things have been made all right already. If that were the case, we would not have choices in this life. God’s promise to us is that ONE day, when God’s Kingdom of Love has come on earth as it is in heaven - the lion will lie down with the lamb…we will all live in love together.
Jesus came to earth, wrapped in skin, crying human tears – so that we would know that GOD IS WITH US in all things. And he came to show us that there IS another way to live. For those who follow Jesus, that WAY is to turn the other cheek; to look at the world through eyes of love; to care for the orphan and the widow; to weep with those who weep; to speak healing words into the pain; to believe that God is LOVE – and anything other than LOVE is simply not of God.
This is what I choose to believe and what I know to be true. That as those terrified children took their last breath; it was God who was holding them. God did not choose this. God did not will this. There is no “heavenly purpose” for this tragedy to have taken place. God doesn’t need more angels in heaven and those who were killed were not “taken” from us by God. They were taken by the evil actions of one man who made a choice. One man who, himself, was in the unfathomable terror of his darkest hour. God did not take them – but God receives them into the fullness of love and light and peace. Those children know no more pain, no more sorrow, no more suffering. Only pure and complete love.
I know it is hard to believe right now. And God knows that too. But if we turn our backs on God in the midst of tragedy – then we have surrendered to evil. The one thing that evil desires most is to separate us from God. Our faith tells us that even in the midst of deep darkness – there is a light. It might only look like a flicker right now – but the darkness cannot overcome it.
So I encourage each and every one of you to look for the light. Look for the places where people are helping. Look for the tender hearts that are weeping out of love and compassion. Look for the ones who are entering into the pain of the other – offering hugs, meals, prayers, hope. Look for the ones who are bringing light. And be a light-bringer yourself. When you are feeling God-forsaken – show someone else the light of Christ through a hug, a listening ear, a warm meal, a place to rest. That is where love is found. And that is where God is found.
The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness HAS NOT, WILL NOT, CANNOT overcome it. (John 1:5)