As I started my morning skimming the AP feed, my heart sank as I was confronted with the headlines of what had transpired in the early-morning hours in Orlando.
My excitement about our planned zoo day was quickly overshadowed by an overwhelming heaviness. Evil had again raised its ugly head, reminding us in a demonstrative manner that it was still at work in its pursuit to destroy us.
My heart felt the anguish of those who, at that very moment, were reeling from the pain that was unfolding.
My mind felt the fear of the reality that evil is constantly in motion; that it is inescapable and no respecter of persons.
My spirit cringed knowing the conversations that would be certain follow throughout the Church in America. Conversations about guns and sexuality. Conversations about politics and legislation. Conversations that will pursue hope and solutions down all of the wrong roads. Conversations that seemingly leave out Jesus.
Then I felt peace.
A peace that overcomes any pain that evil can bring into our hearts.
A peace that settles any fears that evil can bring into your minds.
A peace that re-aligns hope amidst misguided conversations.
I felt peace in the rememberance of where God is in the middle of life’s hurt and brokenness.
For years I’ve wrestled with where God is in the middle of tragedy and pain.
Virginia Tech. September 11th. The Boston Marathon. Charlie Hebdo.
Abductions. Trafficking. Cancer.
[Insert Your Own Pain Here]
The reason I always struggle with this is because I have always looked at it through the wrong lens.
Two questions always remain: Why did God cause this; and/or why did God allow this?
We struggle with these two questions because we have to come to terms with God’s omnipotence and omniscience. With those two terms it is as if we have this picture of God sitting behind His desk; either ordering or approving each and every happening we encounter with a big stamp of ‘approval’ on them. As a response to this imagery, everything we see is associated with God via either approval or design.
When we view God’s power and knowledge through this lens we will inevitably run into countless intellectual problems about God as we try to reconcile the hurt of this old world.
Please don’t misunderstand what I am saying.
God IS all powerful and all knowing. He can do as He wants, when He wants, to whom He wants, how He wants.
Additionally, nothing surprises Him.
He is a God of love, and a God of righteous anger. He is a God of peace and a God of judgment.
In life, we want the security of knowing that everything is ordered and has a purpose. We want the security of knowing that it has passed across God’s desk. We don’t want to think that some things just happen.
At the start of our stories God created a perfect order for us. Free of sin. Free of evil. Free of brokenness…and with free WILL.
Because of that free will, that order was turned into disorder through sin. Brokenness followed.
As a result of sin; bad things happen. Their happening doesn’t mean God is the originator or the approver. They are a reflection of a choice; sin.
The free will God gave us to love Him, the same free will that God does not remove from us, is the very free will that is sending brokenness ripping through our world.
Yet with all of this, I am at peace. I am at peace with the realization of where God is in the middle of brokenness.
Right beside us.
Our son Micah loves to build with LEGO bricks, and he builds some pretty remarkable things. The first thing he does every time he finishes one of his new creations is that he cradles it in his arms and runs with it from his LEGO room to wherever we are.
Sometimes the creation doesn’t make it.
He stumbles and it falls, shattering across the floor.
What follows are his heartbroken sobs, because what once was beautiful to him is now broken all over the floor.
As he looks down at the broken pieces, we are able to come alongside him and gather the pieces up into a pile and assess the damage. An evaluation is made of the broken pieces and the remnants of what ‘once was’, and then something beautiful is built out of the broken pieces on top of what was left.
Something cool is built from something broken.
What we don’t do as parents is hide behind the sofa and jump out to knock the LEGO creation out of his hands in order to teach him a greater truth or to build a better creation than what he assembled.
We do not cause harm just to orchestrate a better good. There are times that we have to punish him in life, but he knows when it is punishment (I would say the same is true when God is disciplining someone, they are aware).
Remember this (it is worth stating again), I am not trying to diminish the omnipotence of God. God can do what He wants, when He wants, how He wants. I will never fully understand that. To be honest, I don’t want to understand that. A God that can be fully understood and defined by man is likely no God at all. The mysteries of God are beautiful.
What I am saying is that we have to stop generalizing God. We have to stop defining God, especially in the midst of tragedy. We do not know that God planned, nor allowed, a particular event or happening for a purpose, because we are not God.
Some things in life happen because God sets it into motion, and some things in life just happen. We are free beings, with free choice and free will. As a result we make poor choices and those poor choices can affect others whether they want it to or not.
Sometimes our lives are shattered into hundreds of pieces across the floor, just because.
Not because God planned it for some greater purpose, but because it ‘just happened’.
This is why Romans 8:18-28 is so beautiful to me. As the comparison of our present suffering to our future hope collide, we read a beautiful statement in Romans 8:28, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”
We acknowledge that even in the brokenness of this world, God can redeem.
In essence, God looks at our broken pieces that are scattered across the ground, He pulls them in close to assess everything, and then says “here, lets build something special out of this brokenness.”
The brokenness that happened being redeemed. Restoration.
We live in a world that is full of hope and desperation at the same time. A world that leaves our lives beautifully broken.
I am thankful that God is sitting right there in the floor with us being a good, good Father.
That He can pick up the pieces of our lives and build something beautiful with them; no only for ourselves, but for others out of our situation.
That is my hope in tragedy and suffering. May it be yours too.
May tomorrow be a day of prayer from those under the weight of this tragedy; and a day of action. A day in which we confront the darkness of this world with the light of Jesus.