With alarming frequency we stand as helpless bystanders to rolling acts of senseless violence and share in the grief of parents, family, friends, educators, entire communities, and indeed the world. As we bear witness to the unthinkable, a sense of our own powerlessness seeps into every corner of our life. The bedrock of our faith and the beliefs at the heart of all we hold dear are tested and shaken. From the depths of our soul we ask, “Where is God?” We want to know. We insist on answers when there are none. We question, we probe our faith, and again ask, “Where is God?”
When people die randomly, suddenly, or unexpectedly, the human heart is forever changed. In ways unlike any other grief, the immediate shock of the moment co-exists with anger, outrage, fear, helplessness, and an overwhelming sense of loss. The question, “Where is God?” comes from this place of deep woundedness.
Intellectually and spiritually, we know that God does not cause physical disease or mental illness. God does not plot against us, plan our harm, or punish us. When we pause to pray and reflect, we discern that slowly, lovingly God moves us beyond the unanswerable “Why did this happen?” to the tentative hope of “How will I go on?” to a bold expression of faith, "How may I help?" This is God at work, God for us, especially in these days of unimaginable shock, loss, and grief. But how do we know that God is here, present to us in the unalterable circumstances of life?
- God is in the outpouring of loving-kindness as strangers spontaneously reach out to help other strangers.
- God is in families suddenly brought closer together by a greater understanding of the gifts of life and love.
- God is in the strength and wisdom of leaders, first responders, professionals, and volunteers.
- God is at the heart of each act of worship when those who seek meaning in tragedy join hands and hearts to call on
the power and comfort of a loving, caring God.
- God is in every anonymous act of tender care that bears witness to God’s love for us all.
- God is in each moment of self-sacrifice, selflessness, and quiet heroism.
- God is in each whispered pray for those whose grief is much newer than our own.
- God is in life’s worst tragedies when we are inspired to new heights of human goodness and compassion for others.
God is the power that prevails over every act of willful destruction of life. God is the strength within our grief, the victorious right hand that guides us through the darkness of death toward the light of hope, “Do not fear, for I am with you, do not be afraid, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my victorious right hand” (Isaiah 41:10).
God is here, present to us. God is everywhere. We find comfort and strength in the triumphant adequacy of God's unconditional love, mercy, and grace, “Let us therefore approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:16 NRSV).
For the righteous will never be moved; they will be remembered forever. They are not afraid of evil tidings; their hearts are firm, secure in the Lord. Their hearts are steady, they will not be afraid; in the end they will look in triumph on their foes.
Psalm 112: 6-8 NRSV