My church meets in an elementary school.
Last Friday, states away, a horrific scene unfolded in another elementary school.
The connection was not lost on me.
And Sunday, when we gathered in a school that has not experienced such tragedy, “Why?” rang in my head.
It’s the obvious question, one that is being asked both of the gunman, and also of God.
Why would God let this happen?
I don’t know. That’s not a question I, or anyone, can fully answer.
But it has made me wonder about when we ask the “Whys”. Earlier last week, when a gunman took lives in a mall, and this past summer, when lives were lost in a Sikh temple and a movie theater, we asked, “Why?” When dramatic tragedies occur, everyone asks, “Why did God let this happen? Why didn’t he stop it?”
Though the stories are sometimes hard to find, there are other scenarios that could have ended in a similar way.
But they didn’t.
One took place on Saturday in Alabama, where authorities were called when a man was seen walking through a hospital with a gun. It resulted in several injuries, but police were able to locate the gunman before any innocent lives were taken.
Also on December 14, a high schooler in Oklahoma was taken into custody after police heard of his plot to bomb and shoot his high school. More innocent lives could have been lost, but weren’t.
Yet few stop to ask “Why not?” of those situations and others like them.
Last Friday morning, I didn’t question why the sun came up, why my heart kept beating, why the people on the road next to me stayed in their lanes and followed traffic laws.
Yet as soon as I heard of the shooting, “Why, God?” flickered in my head.
On most news sites, mentions of God are infrequent; until a tragedy occurs, and people jump at the chance to claim that a loving God wouldn’t let this happen, and therefore must not exist. God is used as a sounding block in the pain of tragedies, and will virtually disappear from news sites within a few weeks. Some will remain angry, convinced this proves God’s nonexistence or lack of goodness, while others say the loss of innocent blood is some form of punishment. While I disagree with both of these views, I can’t help but notice that they state their views most strongly in the face of tragedy, then fade.
God often gets blamed for not stopping bad things, and rarely gets mentioned otherwise. He doesn’t get mentioned when bad intentions are thwarted, and when deeds of mercy and love are done, even by and for complete strangers.
In no way am I trying to downplay the horror of what happened at Sandy Hook Elementary; I have no words for the sorrow of what those families and that community is facing.
What I am questioning is the types of questions we ask of God and when we ask them. We are so quick on the “Whys?” when something bad happens, yet so slow to ask “Why nots?” when a potential tragedy is avoided, or when good things happen unexpectedly.
We rarely ask “Why?” of things we have come to expect, or remember to accompany them with thankfulness for the goodness, faithfulness, and mercy God shows.
There are no promises that life will be easy, things always good, that tears will always flow from joy and not sorrow.
But there are times, even if only brief moments, when life is easy, when things are going well, when tears well up out of the sheer goodness of life. I hope that at least I will learn a lesson from tragedy, and take a moment to ask God “Why?” in the good.
And follow it with a thank you, thank you, thank you.
Because God is good. He is love and he is mercy.
And he is near to the brokenhearted.
Til next time…