By Joseph Justice
Last week, two very tragic realities hit home here in the United States: the Boston marathon bombings and the Texas fertilizer plant explosion. Both events left many people dead, hundreds injured, and families and friends of those involved grief stricken and speechless in the wake of such tragedies. Many people immediately asked themselves, “How did this happen?” Most importantly, many asked, “Why did this happen?”
These are appropriate questions to such horrific events, and I believe that as Christians we should be prepared to seriously grapple with the implications such events will have on the minds and hearts of those involved. Such implications may extend to the rest of us who may live far away from either location, yet still feel a deep sadness and loss inside.
For the Christian, two things need to be looked at in light of these recent happenings.
First, as Christians we are hopeful that God is working through such tragedies to heal, comfort and save lives. No matter how bad things get here on earth, we have faith that our Savior empathizes with all of our sufferings, and that He stands ready to make every situation a peaceful one, for those who walk with Him.
Second, for non-believers, the typical response to such events towards God is often, “If God were real and supposedly ‘loving,’ how could he have let this stuff happen?” This is not as juvenile a question as it may often appear to be, especially in the wake the events that happened last week.
God in the Unthinkable
Even as a Christian, I still ask myself from time to time, “God, why are you allowing this?” It is one thing to distrust and blame God for things we don’t understand, and another entirely, to humbly cry out to him in our frustration and ignorance in hard situations.
Events like the two this past week are some of the hardest for Christians to struggle with and this should not surprise us. The Church has a history of grappling with the question of, “If there is a good God, then why is there evil?” And, the events we have witnessed and understood recently are very much evil; in the case of the bombings, they are the direct result of wicked hearts willing to kill innocent people; in the case of the Texas plant explosion, it was an accident that caused much destruction.
So where was God? As Christians, by faith, hope and experience, we can confidently say that He was there, directly watching over, and in control of the two situations. This may lead some to question why then, if He was there, did He not stop it? Some may respond, “You mean to say that God was directly controlling the bombings and the plant explosion? Doesn’t that then make God ultimately responsible for these injustices?”
No, it doesn’t. Though, such questions are not completely illogical or irrelevant, they should never lead us to blame God for tragedies or to disbelieve in God altogether.
An even greater question is this: if there isn’t a God who is all powerful and capable of creating us, loving us, and giving us the hope of eternity with Him, then isn’t the alternative that humans are simply random, genetically modified, evolutionary beings who sometimes go on killing sprees? And, when power plants blow up, isn’t that just the happenstance result of faulty programming or negligent maintenance? Accidents just happen with no apparent reasons sometimes.
But, if these things “just happen,” then where is the ultimate hope that such tragedies will ever be made right? Where is cosmic justice?
Making Sense of the Senseless
Christianity boldly asserts that when disasters like the Boston marathon bombings and the Texas plant explosion happen, there is a sense in which all the grief, loss of loved ones, shattered families, suicidal onsets, depression, and so forth, will not have the last say in people’s lives. God has promised us hope in the future, and it is towards this future restoration of all things that Christians boldly look forward to.
The alternative isn’t better, it is far worse. To have no hope in God making all things right one day, leads logically and emotionally to the hopeless view that events as tragic as what we have witnessed last week are random, unfortunate, and that’s that.
No. I am not willing to live in a world like that. Are you?