In light of the tragic massacre of 26 people at the Sandy Hook
We have a need to have God “behave,” and protect us from bad things, especially when we think we are good people. The question of theodicy – i.e., is God all good and all-powerful? If God is all-powerful, and this happened, then is God NOT all good? Or…if God is all good and this happened…then is God NOT all-powerful?
When tragic and senseless things like this happen, people become confused about God. In general, they are not open to hearing about the need to forgive, or to show mercy…No, their pain, our pain as vulnerable human beings kicks in, and we get angry at God and wonder where God was when the disruption of our peace and stability occurred.
Elie Wiesel wrote, in Night, that as he was suffering in a concentration camp, he felt this anger. In one part of the book he wrote that summer was coming to an end and the Jewish year was almost over…people were suffering and for what? Because a maniac was in control and had no sense of shame or morals or compassion. Where was God? Why was God allowing this to happen? Wiesel wrote, “What are You, my God? How do you compare to this stricken mass gathered to affirm to You their faith, their anger, their defiance? What does Your grandeur mean. Master of the Universe, in the face of all this cowardice, this decay, and this misery? Why do you go on troubling these poor people‘s wounded minds, their ailing bodies?” (p. 66)
He and the other inmates were uttering prayers. “Blessed be God’s name?” Wiesel remembers asking. “Why, but why would I bless Him? Every fiber in me rebelled. Because he caused thousands of children to burn in His mass graves? ” He goes on, asking why anyone would bless this God. His pain, his agony, is palpable.
It is in times like these that we often cannot find God, but it isn’t because God is not with us. We don’t really look for God, and if we found God, we are not sure of what we would say. Like Wiesel, we would wonder why we should bless this deity who is either not all-powerful or all good. Tragedies like this shake us to our foundations, and it takes us a few minutes to get back to our center.
These parents of the slain children are in mortal agony…there are no words to describe their pain. The spouses of the slain women are likewise in torment. How does one deal with the fact that he or she sent a child to school, only to have that child dead hours later? How does one reconcile the goodness of God with the fact that such a horrible thing happened to totally innocent people?
What I have learned is that we have to let ourselves go through the process of finding God in dark places. There is no quick and easy fix. We cannot take a pill and feel spiritually and/or emotionally OK. God comes to us…or we receive God…in fits and starts. God allows us to turn away over and over as we writhe in pain…and God receives us when we turn back to Him/Her. Emotional and spiritual pain, both of which is part of the emotion called grief, is like a spiritual virus that must run its course. It cannot be rushed. God allows us to rebel, to scream, to shake our heads in disbelief…and God waits for the pain to run its course, after which God hopes we will have a new awareness and appreciation for the kind of omnipresence that is God and that is with us, even when we cannot feel it.
That is a fact, but does not erase our rage or confusion or both about “what” God is, as Wiesel asks, when horrible things happen. God knows that we have a choice: to sit in our pain and be emulsified by it, or to get up, inch by painful inch, to serve God in spite of the loss and pain we have endured. God does not erase the pain we suffer; Jacob wrestled with God in his pain and wound up with a limp. If we are lucky, we will wrestle with God during our most acute pain, and walk away…albeit with a limp. The limp is the sign that we decided to hold onto God even when we were disgusted or angry or confused or all of the above, because we realized that in spite of our pain, in the end, God was the best answer to recovery and relief from that pain.
I wish that troubled man had not shot and killed all those children; I wish he had not shot the principal and school psychologist and teacher at that school. I wish he had been able to go to God for his tormented soul, or to a doctor if he needed psychiatric help…and yes, I wish God had lent a divine hand and stopped every one of those bullets. But that’ didn’t happen, and the result of that young man’s actions is a slew of people in deep pain. I hope they turn to God, even if that turning is, at this point, sporadic…because in the end, God is the best answer to the questions and the pain that they have.
A candid observation …