I want to be a writer because I sincerely
believe that words have the power to change lives, but as I’ve had time to
reflect over the weekend, I can’t imagine that even the most eloquent of
statements would make me, or anyone else, feel any better.
I was born in Aurora Hospital and raised down
the road. I didn’t know anyone who was shot or terrorized the night of The Dark
Knight Massacre, but it feels like the Columbine shootings all over again. As a
community we mourned for years over the early deaths of those high school
students. Just as we all were then, I’m angry, confused, and heartbroken by
James Holmes’ murderous rampage.
I don’t know about you, but I can’t stop
thinking about how scary it would have been to be trapped in a movie theater;
leaving either wounded, dead, grateful to be alive or wondering why I was
spared and others weren’t.
Would I have tried to run? Would I have tried to hide? Would I have tried to
save someone else? I think these are the kinds of questions we all ask
ourselves when tragedy strikes.
After the initial shock wears off, we start
asking the “why” questions. Why did this happen? Why would someone murder
innocent people, especially children?
Then, as I know I did after the Columbine
tragedy, with a little more time to process the suffering of the victims and
all associated, many of us as “how.” How could anyone do this? Mental illness,
maybe? I’m not sure, though, that there is a good reason or answer to the how
or why questions.
However, there is one question with which we
have to contend when faced with tragedy, perhaps the biggest question of all:
How could God let this happen?
I’m going to say it first, loud and clear,
that I am a follower of Christ and I believe that above all, God is a loving
being as well as an all powerful. I wholeheartedly believe that we are all
fearfully and wonderfully made and that He cherishes each of us. I think He
delights in our happiness and that He created us for a relationship with Him
because He is the source of all joy, peace, and love. But because of the
intense love God feels for us, I think, like any loving parent does, He hurts
when we hurt, He suffers when we suffer.
“But, wait,” I hear you interrupt, “If He
loves us and He is supposedly all powerful, why doesn’t He stop us, and even
Himself, from suffering?”
The answer is this: God isn’t playing a big
game of The Sims, He has given us the power to choose how to live our lives. Because
He created us for a relationship with Him, He knew that because the word
“relationship” itself implies a two way street, He had no choice but to let us
have that option—to love Him or not, to live our lives the way we deem right. For,
love is not love without both parties making the choice and having the ability
to choose that love.
Therefore, God has to allow us not to love
Him, not to live in peace with Him, and as a human race, I believe we’ve been
free to make that choice ever since a young man and woman chose to take a bite
of a forbidden fruit in a beautiful garden many years ago. As much as it pains
God, and us, I think that He HAS to allow suffering and HAS to allow us to make
terrible decisions because if He didn’t, the choice of how to live our lives
wouldn’t be ours. Furthermore, if He prevented us from suffering or sinning, from
a Biblical perspective, He would negate the purpose of our existence.
That said, I also believe that God sovereign
and is fully just; meaning He makes all things right in the big picture. I have
to believe that whatever happens in our lives, in the end, God makes all things
good—whether in this life or the next. While the relationship with Him is of
the upmost importance, in the end those who deserve their just reward will
receive it and those who deserve their just punishment will receive it as well.
I have to believe that regardless of the suffering and evil we experience in
the world, God has a plan to honor our choices, but also to heal our wounds and
bring justice to both those who suffer and cause suffering.
I would argue that God was fully present on
Friday night in Aurora, Colorado. While He may have known it was coming, I can
sense that He ached over the state of James Holmes’ heart and mind, I feel that
He felt the pain of the victims, and I would be willing to bet, however it
would be noncorporeally possible, that He shed tears over the loss of life and
injustice of the whole night.
In a way, to me at least, knowing that the
God who created the sun and the stars is mourning with us and through us makes our
suffering seem significant; knowing that He cares and values the fragility of
our hearts. In my despair, however, I am comforted to know that in the end LOVE