When tragedy occurs, our minds spin and questions arise like combatants – resisting the initial news. Who? What? When? Where? With every layer we are relieved or more emotionally embroiled. Who? – “Well it wasn’t my child.” When? – “Couldn’t have been!” Slowly the pixels of information form a picture in our mind which informs a conclusion. More facts fill in the missing pieces, but the original image, the reality of the tragedy, the sting of the shocking truth has its major impact with the first wave of unsavory facts. We may recycle through the questions, but our ship is already, for the moment, on some reef. Life is frozen, like a still picture. We are wounded. We feel the pain. It is as if we had died, a part of us is gone. That is the nature of grief.
And then, after a deep breath, comes another reflexive question – the long unanswerable question: Why?
Why this? Why now? Why this way? Why my wife, my friend, my child? Why, why, why? And then the ultimate why – ‘Why did God allow this to happen? Where was He? Why did He not prevent it? Why did He allow this man to do this? Why, why, why?’ The ‘God’ question is usually lost after the first few days. ‘What if? How do we prevent this again?’ Unresolved anger drives the dialogue.
What we never grasp in such a moment is first, that God is among the victims! His son died too! Didn’t you hear? His son’s death was a brutal and cruel death. His son should never have died – what possible reason could the killer have had? What motive? It was a senseless slaughter, an unthinkable execution-style killing.
You see, God is weeping too. We attempt to rescue God from this position of ‘victim.’ It is uncomfortable for us to see Him here. It is a contradiction to our belief in His Sovereignty. But He must remain here. He needs to weep with us. He wants to be with us. It is in this moment that he is ‘touched with the feelings’ that mark us as humans in world of physical pain and infirmities. This is what makes the Christian God so unique – he is transcendent, and simultaneously incarnate, compassionate and empathetic. He was wounded, bruised. It is here that He feels with us – the sting and the loss of death, the senselessness, the tragedy, along with the disconnect and separation.
The death of Jesus is always in one sense timeless. Historical, yes – it happened 2000 years ago; and yet it belongs to eternity, it is lifted in and out of time. It is a then/now, there/here portal. Because the senseless crucifixion of the innocent happens over and over again, and every time it does, we revisit Calvary; and the God of Calvary comes to sit with us. Here we find a God who knows our pain. He knows what it is like to visit the grave of His son. He is a victim. He is the parent, the father of a child that was senselessly killed.
2 Corinthians 1:3-7
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also abounds through Christ. Now if we are afflicted, it is for your consolation and salvation, which is effective for enduring the same sufferings which we also suffer. Or if we are comforted, it is for your consolation and salvation. And our hope for you is steadfast, because we know that as you are partakers of the sufferings, so also you will partake of the consolation.
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P. Douglas Small is founder and president of Alive Ministries: PROJECT PRAY and he serves in conjunction with a number of other organizations. He is also the creator of the Praying Church Movement and the Prayer Trainer’s Network. However, all views expressed are his own and not the official position of any organization.