Some Humble Thoughts On the Newtown, Connecticut Tragedy…
Dearest Loved Ones~
I have no idea regarding/no understanding of the pain being experienced by those who lost family and friends in the recent tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut.
Furthermore, the following thoughts are not intended to try and “sweep up with words” the suffering and emotions that so many are going through.
Rather, since the rehabilitation from such a horrific event will be a process and a lifestyle occuring over the remainder of our earthly lives (as opposed to a “flash of lightening” cure), the ensuing bullet points are intended to hopefully be one of many aloes that can be applied to the emotional, mental, physical, and spiritual burns of not only this tragedy but also of this earthly life.
Finally, it is precisely at the times when we aren’t sure what is happening around us that we need to hold more tightly to those things we DO know to be true. Many people are legitimately asking questions such as, “Where was God during this tragedy? How could He have allowed this to happen?” While I cannot neatly/tidily answer such questions with a “2+2=4” answer, I hope to point us to some of the truths in the Bible that God has made very clear in order to reacquaint us with some of the compasses God has provided to navigate us through the fog of such catastrophic and seemingly soul-crushing events:
1. God has given humans free will.
Without the ability to choose evil/sin, we humans would be little more than marionettes being controlled by a puppet-master. Love is more of a choice and less of a feeling/emotion, but if love were the only choice available it wouldn’t be a true choice. While 99.999% of people, by the grace of God, choose to respond to their pain in godly or at least much less horrific ways, because of the combination of free will with a sinful world there is always the chance that someone will choose to commit an atrocious crime against God and humanity (just as most people who get an infection in the United States are healed/cured, but a small percentage actually die from what is for others a rather routine ailment). This clearly doesn’t explain why God chooses to intervene to stop certain tragedies and chooses not to intervene to stop others, but it hopefully reminds us that each of us as individuals has a role to play in the choices we make.
2. God has protected us from unnoticed & innumerable tragedies over the course of our lives.
We might never know all of the ways that God has spared us and/or the ones we love, but it’s one of the reasons why Psalm 118:24 says, “This is the day the LORD has made–let us rejoice and be glad in it!” Simply to wake up is a blessing (even on a Monday morning!) because it means that the hundreds or thousands of things that could have gone wrong/prevented us from waking up did not happen and the thousands of bodily processes that need to go right in order for us to wake up did happen. Whether near car accidents to health scares/surgeries, there have been many times when our earthly lives could have ended. Again, this clearly doesn’t explain why God chooses to intervene to stop certain tragedies and chooses not to intervene to stop others, but it hopefully reminds us that even though we might at times feel abandoned by God for a season of life, when objectively looking back over our lives we will hopefully realize that He has always been with us (and will therefore continue to be with us now when we need Him most).
3. God has shown that He is in the business of bringing good out of the horrific decisions that humans make.
The Bible is full of accounts where God shows us, with the benefit of a precise and holy hindsight, how He ultimately brought great blessing out of the suffering of others. The Old Testament account of Joseph in the book of Genesis comes first to mind, where Joseph (at the hands of his brothers) was nearly killed, was thrown into a pit and then sold as a slave to traders. Joseph was later locked up in prison for two years for a crime he didn’t commit and was forgotten by a fellow prisoner whom he helped to get released from jail. In the end, though, we learn that God allowed Joseph to experience all of that suffering so that God could preserve His entire Jewish people from a severe seven year famine that clearly no one (least of all Joseph) knew would eventually occur over the entire near-Middle Eastern region. And just as a court of law in the United States utilizes precedent from past trials to make decisions on current cases, may we hold firm in the present to the precedent in the past of God bringing good out of the suffering of those who love Him (even if that good wasn’t realized/understood/experienced on this side of eternity).
4. God didn’t spare Himself from tragedy/suffering.
Finally, may I gently remind us that God does not sit up in heaven perfectly sheltered/protected/innoculated from the sufferings of humans, as if we were simply fending for ourselves alone on earth while He takes an eternal vacation from our mess/squalor. No, the Bible is clear that what we are about to celebrate at Christmas is nothing less than God freely choosing (for OUR eternal benefit) to
–become fully human (while remaining fully God);
–experience every temptation/trial (though w/out personally sinning) that is normal for humans;
–show the true meaning/example of love to those who didn’t/wouldn’t believe in Him;
–finally die a horrific death on a cross to offer forgiveness and new/eternal life to anyone who will accept Jesus’ priceless gift.
I do not understand the suffering of the Newtown, Connecticut survivors, but God does. He knows what it feels like to lose an only child, an only Son, and He knows the anguish even further because not only could He have protected Jesus, but God the Father was the One Who did the punishing/executing of Jesus.
Wow…Since He knows, since He alone truly understands, may we who suffer run to Him Who has suffered like us, may we run to Him Who loves us unconditionally, and may we run to Him Who alone is worth/capable of healing and binding our gaping wounds.
My sincere apologies if there is anything written/implied here that is burlap against your wounds or sandpaper against your burns.
From one pilgrim to another…
This was beautifully written. My Jewish friend Liz & I have had countless conversations over the years (10) on “where’s God..” In fact this tragedy brought it to the forefront once again. I haven’t yet replied as I’ve been praying for words. Through your eloquent words God has answered my prayer. I will forward this to her. Thank u MJ!
You’re very very welcome!