If you’re a Christian, you’ve most likely heard this question or sweat through a half-sense, convoluted attempt at an answer. Don’t worry. Everyone wants to know the answer and very few can offer a consoling response. You’re not alone in the slightest. In fact, I would wager that nearly everyone has asked this to themselves, or out loud while screaming, fists raised to the sky, whether you’re a Christian or not.
I’ve been meaning to write this for some time now, and with everything that has happened recently, I felt it right to talk about it.
In light of the (most) recent events in the world.
Mexico City Fireworks explosion- death toll: 30, with over 70 injured.
Terrorist Truck killing spree in Berlin- death toll: 12, and 48 injured.
Russian Ambassador to Turkey assassinated in Art gallery.
Blast in Cairo Cathedral- death toll: ~25.
EgyptAir 804 plane crash- death toll: 66
Aleppo- death toll since mid-November: 463, and 63 children.
Aleppo death toll since 2011: 400,000.
Gatlinburg wildfires- death toll: 14
Chicago Homicides 2016: over 600 (new record)
The list could go on. And on.
Where is God when tragedy hits your life?
Sometimes the easiest thing to do in response to a loved one dying, or witnessing a senseless act, is to get angry. Let’s admit it. Anger feels good. Anger feels great. If it was something they could have prevented, they might get angry at themselves. If it seemed like it happened for no reason at all, people will often blame God, the one with ALL the power, ALL the knowledge, and the one who “did nothing.”
One man who has been there and back, witnessing death, and consoling those with questions, is Bob Ossler. Bob is a retired firefighter, chaplain, and has done 5 tours overseas, taking part in over 300 ceremonies for fallen soldiers. Bob was also on ground zero, days after the attacks on September 11th, 2001, helping people grieve. If that wasn’t enough, Bob also flew to Louisiana after Hurricane Katrina struck. Bob’s book, Triumph over Terror, explains just how we face such unspeakable grief and find God. Some people ask Bob, “Where is God in all of this?” He responds simply by saying, “Let’s talk to him now. Let’s Pray.” If there’s one man who can help you through the difficult questions on this topic, Bob can.
A while back in 2010, I had the absolute pleasure of hearing a testimony from Jill McCloghry of Hillsong, one of the singers on the recording of Brooke Fraiser’s “Desert Song.” The testimony forever changed how I viewed losing a loved one. Before the recording of Desert Song, she went into labor with her son Max…she was only 6 months pregnant. In the end, Max died. In Jill’s testimony, she talks about the brutal and raw emotions of NOT wanting to praise God or worship in that moment of grief. What God ultimately shows her is that He is STILL on the throne, through all the tragedy of the world.
I know that there are some members of my church, TheEdge, who can very much relate to Jill’s testimony. MANY of my friends experienced this tragedy on such an intense level. Being a part of that community during that time was challenging, but also oddly emotional for me. To see so many of my friends at such a low point and yet continue to acknowledge God on the throne, to still lift Him up…was powerful. In some cases, I’m not so sure I would have done the same. I was never so proud of my community than when we surrounded them in that moment.
It’s heartbreaking to know about ALL the tragedy that goes on in the world. The weight of it all can take a massive toll on you and your heart. I believe in being informed, so we are not sitting idly by when something happens. Yet, we really need to learn a philosophy of grief and lament. We need to understand when to give God the burden. He takes the weight of ALL the tragedy. He sees what is going on.
More than ever, we need to know how to answer, not “Where is God in senseless death?” but rather, “Where is God when tragedy hits your life?” Are we walking with Him in the good and the bad? Do we see Him on the throne in ALL things? Grief is okay. Anger is okay. Anger at God is okay. But do we stay in that place of anger…or do we live out the words of David, a man who saw much tragedy in his life: “I will bless the Lord at all times his praise shall continually be in my mouth. My soul makes its boast in the Lord; let the humble hear and be glad. Oh, magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt his name together!”
Some will tell me that I am being overly positive and naive. If anything we shouldn’t trivialize someone’s grief. Don’t give them a half-baked answer telling them to talk to an invisible man in the clouds who wasn’t there for them to begin with. A guy who couldn’t stop children from being executed with their mothers in the streets of Aleppo. Don’t tell me that the thousands who drown in floods, or burn in wildfires couldn’t have been stopped by the one who “created it all?” A man who famously stopped a storm from the bow of a boat. Don’t tell me to pray to a God who “loves us,” and yet doesn’t give a shit, clearly. Just don’t. Thoughts like these are what make us Human. This is the point. This is lament, and this is important.
Short answer to my question: He’s here. Go to Him. With everything.