Leader's Insight: Where Is God?
(Editor's note: Chuck Warnock pastors a church within commuting distance of Virginia Tech. The church is profiled in the Spring Issue of Leadership. We asked Chuck to share with us what he's telling his congregation following the tragic shooting deaths of 33 students and faculty on the university campus.)
So, "Where," you ask, "is God in the tragedy at Virginia Tech?"
There are those who will trot out the ancient question, "If God is all-powerful and all-good, then why didn't He prevent the carnage on the campus?" That question tells us more about our immature understanding of both God and this creation than it does about anything else. We must admit that we do not know enough about God to pose that question and we do not know enough about the forces of darkness to form an answer.
Professor D. Z. Phillips, in his book, The Problem of Evil and the Problem of God, cautions us against easy explanations: "Such writing should be done in fear: fear that in our philosophizings we will betray the evils people have suffered, and, in that way, sin against them. Betrayal occurs every time explanations and justifications of evils are offered which are simplistic, insensitive, incredible, or obscene."
So, today we do not cheapen the loss of life with easy answers. But there are some things we can know in the midst of our grief.
God is still with us
Elie Wiesel, Holocaust survivor and Nobel Peace Prize laureate, in his book, Memoirs: All Rivers Run To The Sea, recounts a Jewish Midrash about the exile of God's people. For the nation of Israel, exile from the land God had given to them was a national tragedy. This Midrash says:
When the Holy One, blessed be his name, comes to liberate the children of Israel from their exile, they will say to Him: "Master of the Universe, it is You who dispersed us among the nations, driving us from Your abode, and now it is You who bring us back. Why is that?"
And the Holy One, blessed be his name, will reply with this parable: One day a king drove his wife from his palace, and the next day he had her brought back. The queen, astonished, asked him, "Why did you send me away yesterday only to bring me back today?"
"Know this," replied the king, "that I followed you out of the palace, for I could not live in it alone." So the Holy One, blessed be his name, tells the children of Israel: "Having seen you leave my abode, I left it, too, that I might return with you."
God accompanies his children into exile, even the exile of grief and sorrow. And He stays with us there, until that time that He can return from that exile with us.
God is still for us
We know that this massacre was not God's will. In the Lord's Prayer, Jesus taught us to pray, "Thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven." God's will is not always done on earth, as the tragedy of this week reminds us.
We also know that this tragedy is not a "wake up call," nor did it happen so that we can learn something. These are the kinds of easy answers that sin against those who were killed. Rather, the question we ask today is not why this has happened, but why does it not happen more often than it does? Why do we as human beings not abuse, violate, and kill each other more than we do?