Where Is God When Kids Get Shot?


Jesus Christ Crucifix

Jesus Christ Crucifix (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

Yesterday, twenty kindergarten children were mercilessly murdered by an evil young man. Some have  shouted, “Where is God?” in the face of this utterly unspeakable tragedy.  A friend of mine posted a quick reply to the cynical inquisition: “Where is God? He was kicked out of schools in America years ago.” There is truth to that remark.

 

I heard a news panel discussing the situation this morning, and one of the newscasters observed that we refuse to allow mention of God in the schools throughout the year, and, yet, we want to know where He is when tragedy strikes. This particular news commentator then said that prayer returned to the Sandy Hook school yesterday, and he recounted a story of a teacher huddling her children into a closet and praying over them. In crisis, we return to foundational principles of faith to offer some sense to the senseless.

 

But what good is faith in this situation? Where is God?  Actually, God has spoken to this situation. In these last days, God has spoken to us in His Son (Hebrews 1:2).  God, in love, sent His Son, so that whoever believes in him would never perish but would have eternal life.  Jesus did not come to play religious games. He did not come to teach meditation techniques. He did not come to establish a religious cult. He did not come as a football for American politicians to kick around.  He came to deal with the serious curse of death which has reigned since the time of Adam and Eve, our original human parents.

 

Adam’s son Cain committed the first human murder, perhaps wiping out ¼ of the human population at that time.  Abel was innocently worshiping God when his brother Cain fell upon him and mercilessly slaughtered him.  Murder has had its allies ever since. Jesus did not come to earth to rid the planet of murder—at least not yet.  There will be killings until Christ returns.

 

However, though Jesus did not come to answer murder, he did come to answer death. Death is a curse over all humankind.  In love, God has offered human beings an answer for the curse of death.  Christ paid the death penalty for all who believe.  He also has been raised from the dead, demonstrating that death is not final; it need not be the final word. There is another word: Life! Jesus Christ even called himself the resurrection and the life. He said He is the truth, the life, and the way.  Christ did not say this because he was on some exclusive power trip. He said it because it is true. There is only one answer for death: the resurrection life of Jesus Christ.

 

Where was God yesterday? The same place He remains yesterday, today, and forever—speaking to us in His Son, saying death is a curse that you are all under. Young and old alike will die. Some, sadly, will kill.  But Christ gives life.  Christ is the Resurrection and the Life.

 

When Martha’s brother unexpectedly died, she was hurt and confused. She turned to Jesus for answers, and this is what He said:

 

Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies, 26and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die. Do you believe this?”

 

Gordon Lightfoot’s Good Question (and God’s great answer)


One of the greatest secular songs ever written, Gordon Lightfoot’s The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald stands as a monument of musical story-telling.  Inspired by a Newsweekarticle of the November 10, 1975, events that led to the loss of the Great Lakes’ greatest ship, Lightfoot penned a masterful poem capturing the weight of the

Christ theology lightfoot edmund fitzgerald

Source: Wikipedia

tragedy both lyrically and musically.

In the song, Lightfoot asks a penetrating question: “Does anyone know where the love of God goes when the waves turn the minutes to hours?”

The question is an appropriate response to the actual tragedy of the Edmund Fitzgerald. The November gale likely stirred the waves to 35 feet or more.  No doubt, the 29 crew members spent the last minutes of their lives in a sinking agony which both lasted forever and ended their lives in an instant. All that remained were “the faces and the names of the wives and the sons and the daughters.”  All crew members were lost.

In those last moments of terror, where was God? Where, indeed, did the love of God go as the captain, cook, and crew were drowning? Lightfoot’s question is a good one, demanding a sober assessment of our theology.

I would answer in two ways. First, the love of God was at the cross in Jesus Christ. Scripture teaches that God is love (1 John 4) and that in His greatest act of love, God sent His son to die on the cross for our sins (John 3:16; Ephesians 5:25).  What this means is that God has made provision for us when the time comes to meet our maker.

Lightfoot’s rendering of the “Big Fitz” saga is an epic display of the drama of man meeting his mortality.  On the one hand, Big Fitz was the largest of the Great Lakes freighters; it was a workhouse, annually resetting hauling records which it had broken the prior year.  The ship was a maritime marvel of historic proportions. Yet, as Lightfoot so powerfully puts it, “That good ship and true was a bone to be chewed when the ‘Gales of November’ came early.”

Edmund Fitzgerald lightfoot christian theology godRegardless of our size, success, or seemingly invincible ability to survive, we all will face death. “It is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment…” (Hebrews 9:27).  The fact that death is in the world is undeniable for every living soul. The fact that our “appointment” with death is not ours to determine is likewise undeniable.  The love of God in Christ says that God has taken note of our frames (that we are but dust) and has acted in such a way that we need no longer fear death—whenever it calls upon us to go. God did not have to act on our behalf. God loved us and sent His son as a Savior for our sins. The love of God points to the cross when death draws near.

Second, the love of God points to the Resurrection.  When the November gales chewed the ship and its crew, the Resurrection of Christ was screaming the love of God for all who believe. The Resurrection speaks on the authority of God that death is not the final victor. Though death seems to win in situations of shipwreck, the truth is that Christ has demonstrated the victorious power of life (1 Corinthians 15:54-57).  Christ called Himself the Resurrection and the life (John 11:25) because Christ alone has defeated death.

For all who perished on the Edmund Fitzgerald, it is true that their bodies sank in the rooms of Superior’s “ice water mansions.”  But it is also true that God has spoken for any and all to hear that death need not be the end of the matter.  The love of God screams of victory—of life—in the face of death because of the love of God who sent His Son that we might not ever perish but always have eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord.

I am glad Gordon Lightfoot asked the question. I’m even more glad that the God of love has answered it in Christ.

Thoughts on Death and Suffering


What is it with all this death and suffering in our world?  Has science not yet eradicated the inimitable Grim Reaper? In the age of nuclear medicine and MRI’s, we seem to be capable of better identifying the diseases which cause our suffering, but we still can’t seem to eliminate the pains. And as for death, well the funeral business hasn’t died.

Suffering, dying, and death are part of this created life. Since the Fall (in Genesis 3), humankind has been placed under a curse so heavy that it causes many to curse God (ask Job’s wife, Job 2:9).  But for those who are in Christ, the burden of death has been lifted (even if the process of it still lingers in place). Jesus took on flesh and blood so that He might taste death for His followers. He swallowed death’s poison, draining death’s cup. Then, He showed it had no power, as He triumphantly rose from the tomb. Thus, Christ delivered us who had once lived under the power and fear of death.

The writer of Hebrews says it this way:

“Therefore, since the children share in flesh and blood, He Himself likewise also partook of the same, that through death He might render powerless him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, and might free those who through fear of death were subject to slavery all their lives” (Hebrews 2:14-15).

Christians are free from the slavery of death. That being the case, why does death still wreak havoc over our emotions?  Why does it still haunt us and threaten us? We fear dying, and we still fear having our loved ones die. Why? Two reasons come to mind.

First, we are ultimately weak in the flesh. Though we build ourselves up pretentiously with great strength, we are always brought uncomfortably low in the face of death. Death shatters our illusions of strength. We see very big, strong, and tough men weep under the burden of death. Death shows no pity, no remorse—just raw power to shut down hopes and dreams and plans.  Death is an uncommonly powerful foe. This fact is not lost on the evil one who intends to wield the power of death to keep our weakness out front. He hopes to keep us forever weak by reminding us of death’s strength.

God, too, uses death to expose our weakness, but He does not seek to trap us in the bondage of despair. He shows us His strength through Christ and the Resurrection.  God knows our frames that we are but dust. He knows our weakness. He does not seek to exploit it as Satan does. Instead, He seeks to expose it to show us the full-on power of the gospel of our Lord which culminates in His defeat of death through the Resurrection and ascension to the throne of Heaven.  God has a place for death to display the perfection of His great power toward all who believe. The gospel is the power of God (Romans 1).

So, second, we fear death because we forget God’s perfect power.  His power is on display through Christ’s victory over death.  The perfection of His power is on display through our faith, as we suffer through the consequences of death.  Nowhere in Scripture does God minimize the power of death. There is no greater foe. Death is the last enemy of God to be eradicated.

We must deal with death.  The only way to deal with it faithfully is to believe the Christ who reigns victoriously over it.  Notice, the key is not to believe “in” the Christ (that’s the way we normally hear it phrased). The key is to believe Him. He claims to have rendered death powerless.  Believe that He has taken away its power.

In believing that Christ has taken away death’s power, we have reason to trust Him with every death. Every death is now redeemed.  There is a redemptive order to all things (1 Corinthians 15:22-28).  God promises that He works all things together for the good of those who love Him, those called according to His purposes. Surely, such redemptive promises can be trusted because they are secured by the One who has overcome death.

Our response to death, then, is two-fold. First, we believe Christ has actually defeated it and taken away its power. Second, we believe that God is wise in His ordering of life and death events. In Isaiah 28, the prophet warns Judah of the judgment which is to come upon them. He implores the people to trust the wisdom of God.  Just as the farmer knows that “dill is beaten out with a rod, and cumin with a club,” so, too, God knows the best way to bring forth the grain harvest for His people through their suffering. There is a proper order to the events of harvest. We can trust the farmer to know how to bring out the grain. We can trust God to know how to bring forth the grain of victory through suffering and death. Christ is God’s proof.