Monday, December 17, 2012

Asking "Why" Doesn't Help

Last Friday's tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School, in Newtown, CT, left us horrified, confused and grieving.

Poet, John Blase observed, "Of the things that befall us, this one pierces deeper, for the lost are the least of these. The killing of children is the killing of everything."

We try to fill the void with our own feeble explanations. We look for someone or something to blame.

Within the last 24 hours, I've heard several "reasons" (guns, violent movies and video games, bullying, national moral decline, family dysfunction, reduction of religion, etc.) but all these are mere smokescreens. We bluster and hide behind our philosophies, knowing deep down that they are lame attempts to make sense of the incomprehensible. All these efforts take us in circles, and we're no closer to understanding in the end.

Our struggle to figure it out -- to come to grips with this senseless slaughter of innocence -- falls woefully short Reeling in the aftermath, the haunting question remains. . . "Why?"

 Why this?
 Why them?
 Why now?

And the "Why" question is answered by dark silence. I'm reminded of a prisoner of war who was mistreated by a cruel guard. The abused prisoner cried out, "Why?" The guard grinned coldly and responded, "There is no why."

Now, as a minister of the Gospel, my job is to believe there is an ultimate "Why" somewhere, somehow, some way. But frankly, right now I'm not seeing it. I don't understand -- and maybe I never will, this side of heaven. Though I hate to admit it, God doesn't owe me any explanation.

But isn't this the essence of faith: trusting in the darkness, when you can't understand it? As Charles Spurgeon declared, "When you cannot trace his hand, you can always trust his heart."

Over the years, I've dealt with a fair share of tragedy in my ministry, and have had several people look at me, as God's representative, wondering, "Why?" My bungling attempts to produce enlightening answers fell woefully short. When people ask me "why", I've learned to simply say, "I don't know."

It doesn't do any good to give a theological discourse on theodicy (the problem of evil) or the philosophical foundation for suffering. "I don't know" is the most profound answer available. We ask why and there is no answer.

In that oppressive silence, doubt sprouts.
Maybe God wasn't there.
Maybe God doesn't care.
Maybe God isn't almighty.

After all, we may wonder, if God is present, all powerful and full of love, then why did he allow this tragedy to unfold in the first place. Surely, he could have squashed that deranged young villain, Adam Lansa, like a bug, before the rampage even began.

Why God -- Why?
 Silence.

Yet in the silence, God whispers. If we are silent in the silence, and draw near to hear, we will discover something significant.

Believing in the midst of doubts proves our faith. It's easy to believe when we have all the answers but the true test of faith is what happens when all we have are questions. If our question doesn't get an answer, maybe we need to start asking another question. Perhaps, instead of wondering "Why" we should begin asking "How", Who", and "What".

  * How can we get through this? Answer: One day at a time. One moment at a time. One breath at a time.

 * Who will help us get through this? Answer: God, who carries us, and our friends who care about us. We will make it together."

 * What can I do about this? Answer: Collective grief, such as we experienced last week, calls for some sort of action. If this had been a hurricane or fire, the rest of the nation would have rushed to Newtown with supplies. But this is a different type of disaster. We feel the need to help, but we don't know what to do.

 Here's one simple idea. I have a friend who is pastor of a congregation in the region where the shootings occurred. He is collecting sympathy cards for the grieving families. If you would like to bring a small word of support for them, you can fill out 27 sympathy cards, and mail them this week to: CrossPointe Wesleyan Church, 3 Bogardus Ave., Catskill,NY 12414 (or drop them off at the Hayward Wesleyan Church office).

 If we stop wasting our energy protesting and demanding to know where God was, maybe we can stand up and show where he is right now, through our acts of loving kindness.

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