|Running life's race|
In the aftermath of tragedy, people often ask: Where was God?
Though usually posed by non-believers, people of faith also struggle with this question and others like it in the wake of horror.
Why does God allow children to be maimed and killed? Why does God allow evil to destroy or ruin innocent lives?
I’ve blogged about this many times during the past year after mass killings in this country. And each time, I explain the simple answer—we live in a fallen world tainted by sin. When Jesus returns, evil will be destroyed forever.
But we struggle with the complexity of how good and evil plays out in our daily lives. God never intended for us to struggle, but since we’re not puppets, every individual has choices to make. As long as we’re on this earth, we have to live with the consequences of each other’s choices, sometimes on the periphery of our lives, sometimes taking the full brunt of another’s decision.
God doesn’t typically stop a tornado or car accident or terrorists from blowing up people. Yes, we’ve all heard of miraculous escapes from disasters. And God performs miracles through healing and divine intervention. That’s part of the importance of prayer. But it’s not ours to try to decipher why or when He chooses to intervene (Romans 11:34).
God shapes His people through adversity so we may minister to others with our God-given talents, instincts, and life experiences. After all, believers can’t minister effectively if we’re allowed to live in utopia amidst others’ heartbreak. So, as the Bible says, the rain falls on the just and the unjust.
I’m the type person who likes to read between the lines, connect the dots, and look at the big picture. Cliché, I know. J But as a writer, my mind works this way. And this is usually how I find God’s presence in the midst of tragedy. This week has been no different.
As stories from the Boston bombings surfaced from and about witnesses, first responders, and victims, a bigger picture emerged. Though three people died almost instantly at the scene and later a police officer killed, it was the response of ordinary people that kept the death toll low. Despite massive and horrific injuries, 180 people survived. I’m pretty sure the extraordinary response by ordinary people was not something the terrorists factored into their plot when considering how much carnage they could perpetrate on Boston and ultimately the psyche of America.
One of the first stories to emerge was about the “man in the cowboy hat,” Carlos Arredondo, and his rescue of Jeff Bauman whose legs had been blown off. Carlos ran toward the blast and fashioned tourniquets from T-shirts to stop the bleeding. He helped emergency responders get Jeff into a wheelchair then into an ambulance. Surgeons later said this quick response saved Jeff’s life. He would have bled to death otherwise.
Carlos’ own story is one of tragedy. One son killed in Iraq. His subsequent suicide attempt in the Marines van that delivered the news. The suicide of his other son two years later. Somehow Carlos overcame and devotes his time to the memory of his sons. He was at the marathon handing out American flags in honor of his sons and in support of a charity. He remarked later he wasn’t a hero. He’d only helped one person. Others had helped more.
No doubt Jeff Bauman felt Carlos’ efforts were heroic.
The story didn’t stop there. Jeff’s survival was instrumental in identifying the terrorists. He watched one of them set down the backpack carrying the bomb moments before it exploded. When Jeff awoke from surgery, still ventilated and unable to talk, he insisted on a paper and pencil. He wrote a description of the suspect which helped the FBI identify the two terrorists among the many hours of video taken Monday.
Many heroes emerged that day. But back to my original question: Where was God?
Though God didn’t stop the terrorist attack, in the middle of the horror...
Carlos heeded his God-given instinct and rushed into the chaos to save Jeff. The terrorists were identified quickly because Jeff survived, which was instrumental in stopping additional bombings.
Boston residents opened their homes to strangers. Restaurants gave away free food. Trauma surgeon and war veteran, Dr. David King, ran the marathon then went to Massachusetts General Hospital and spent the next forty hours operating on victims. Countless responders, some untrained civilians, rushed toward evil to lessen the effects. They didn’t consciously think it at the time, but they represented good defeating evil.
And that’s basically what life comes down to on this earth.
Christ said, “Whoever is not with me is against me” (Luke 11:23a). That sums up this world’s condition perfectly. Evil prowls around like a lion, but God’s spirit is greater. This will be proven time and again when tragedy strikes, but ultimately when Jesus returns and His kingdom is established, evil will be destroyed forever (Revelation 1:18).
One of my favorite quotes this week was from Mr. Fred Rogers from advice his mother gave him when disaster struck during his childhood: “Look for the helpers.”
God was in Boston last Monday offering comfort in the chaos and leading ordinary people to do extraordinary things. No matter what evil lurks in this world, God always provides helpers. He also provides spiritual comfort to those who seek Him.
God’s in the big picture, and He’s in the tiniest details. Never doubt this.
Our worship song this week is performed by Christian singer-songwriter Laura Story whose husband has battled brain cancer for years.
What does it look like when I spend years praying for healing for my husband that never comes? I feel like we’ve gotten to a place of having to make a choice—are we going to judge God based on our circumstances that we don’t understand? Or are we going to choose to judge our circumstances based on what we hold to be true of God? I’m learning that every morning when I wake up, to choose to trust God. And that’s what “blessings” is about. It’s just considering… MAYBE THE BLESSING IS ACTUALLY FOUND IN THE ABSENCE OF THE THING THAT I’M PRAYING FOR. ~Laura Story
Prayer request this week for Tony, diagnosed with an abdominal aortic aneurysm. Please keep him in your prayers as he seeks to minimize his health risk factors with this diagnosis.
Pray for the town of West, Texas, as they continue to recover after a fertilizer factory explosion. Nine firefighters and emergency responders were among the fifteen dead, which represented one-third of the town’s volunteer force.
If you have a prayer need, please share it in the comments or e-mail me confidential requests. Our prayer list is located at the top of the blog along with info on Sgt. Jesse McCart, an American soldier injured by an IED in Afghanistan. Would you take a few moments to pray for these folks? Thanks!
©Laura Hodges Poole