A young mother grieves the loss of her precious child. She remembers her smile. She recalls the way she played house for hours with a doll and some old dishes. This mother is haunted by the way her life ended. the grief seems almost too much to bear.
A father struggles to cope with the loss of his son. The fishing trips had just begun. The dreams of future outings now lie in shattered pieces on the floor of his imagination. Life will go on, but it will not be the life he expected.
As I tell those stories our hearts all go out to the parents in Connecticut who are facing the tragic loss of their children. So many words are being offered as to why God would allow this to happen. So many thoughts being tossed around trying to understand where God is in all of this.
But the reality of those two stories is that they have nothing to do with Connecticut. The young mother lives in a neighborhood just across town. Her daughter died of complications from the flu. This young mother had no easy access to medical care, one reason being that she had no transportation. She and her children walked to their school, to the grocery store, and to the park down the road. This young mother was also not aware of the severity of her child’s illness. She thought she would nurse her through just as she had before. The tragedy of her daughter’s death was the result of numerous difficulties converging at one time.
The young boy? Well, he was the victim of a drunk driver. Properly buckled into the booster seat of his grandfather’s car, he had little chance to survive the direct impact on the rear door of the car by which he sat. The grandfather had done everything right. There was no way he could have foreseen the speed and the impaired judgment of the driver who ran the red light. At the hospital the whole family gathered in utter disbelief.
There is no national outcry for those families. No TV pundits offering their take on where God was in those moments or why God allowed these deaths to occur. And that’s not a criticism. That is just the reality of the world in which we live. Children die difficult and tragic deaths every day. So, we might ask every day, “where is God?”
Well, we are deep into the season of Advent and that may just be the best time to explore this question. There are two schools of thought on what Advent is – one more “church official” and one more lived out in our current reality.
The former is that Advent is a time to remember that we are waiting – not for the birth of the Christ-child, but for his return. It is a time to acknowledge that there will come a day when Jesus will establish his Kingdom in all its fullness. A time to reassure ourselves that there will come a day when death and crying and pain will be no more.
The other school of thought, the one we see lived out in our churches and in our communities, is that Advent is the season in which we look forward to the celebration of Christmas. Our church just had a “Christmas Festival” highlighted by our children telling the Christmas story. Our neighborhoods are decked out in Christmas regalia – and that includes the houses of good and faithful Christians. We soak in the season of pre-Christmas because Christmas is such a day of great hope. We want to enjoy the story of how God came to live among us as one of us. We are comforted to know that God loved us enough to send his Son to save us from ourselves.
And so, there is the answer to where God is in these moments – in school shootings, in the living room where a young girl lies deathly ill on a couch, and in a hospital room where all valiant efforts to save a young boy were just not enough. God is with us in the midst of a sinful and fallen world. God is with us as time marches on toward the promised day when all these tragedies will no longer be known.
We must not be so quick to discount God’s presence, or to decide that we know why God is NOT some place (when in fact God is not absent in any place – see Psalm 139). The reality that we face every day is that we live in a world that is broken, fallen, sinful, imperfect – pick your adjective. And the hope that we have is that in the midst of this broken, imperfect world that is inundated with acts of evil, mental instability, and tragic decisions, God is with us. The hope that we have as we live in our grief and suffer these losses is that there will come a day when we will not have to deal with those troubles ever again.
That is the hope of those who know and follow the Lord and Savior of this fallen world – Jesus Christ. And that is the hope we must bring into the dark places of this world.
Where is God? Supposedly he lives within those who believe in his Son. Supposedly the Holy Spirit of God dwells in us and is working to transform us. Supposedly WE are the light of the world. In times when a mother has a sick child, perhaps she will see the people of God reaching out to help and she will say – “there is God.” In times when a family is overwrought with an avoidable tragedy perhaps they will see the church working to stem the culture of alcohol and drug abuse and they will say – “there is God.” In times when tragedies happen and families are surrounded with love and care, when stories of teachers giving their very lives to save the ones they could, in those times, perhaps, people might say – “there is God.”
May we, through our actions and attitudes, let the God in us be made real in the world around us so that others would know GOD IS HERE.
Holy high-five to you,