The family of a friend I worked with is in the news. His wife is dead and his son injured. The facts are confused and not certain… But the result is undeniable. A lovely woman in the prime of life was murdered and her husband and other son are trying to pick up the pieces and make sense out of it all.
Hearing the headline the other night we could not conceive that this was happening to a friend. Reading the paper this morning we were stunned by seeing their names, people we know, listed in the paper. Knowing they are good, kind, decent people we reacted internally with this overarching sense that this sort of thing should not happen to them. The question that forces itself into our consciousness is “WHY?”
And how many times over the years have I told people that this question of “why” is a trap. It traps us into thinking that there is a logical answer. And if we got that answer everything might make sense. The deep problem is that we cannot know the complete answer, and even if we did it might not make much of a difference. If we find out that a string of human decisions or a failure to act appropriately, or even a coincidence of factors, precipitated the event would that really satisfy our longing for a logical reason? Aren’t we really saying that bad things should not happen to good people? Isn’t it a protest rather than a question?
I suspect that the question we are really asking is “Where is God in all this?”
The Gospel gives us a description of God as “Emmanuel – God with us.” God is not the author, creator or planner of events. Instead God is the one who walks with us through whatever is happening in our lives. God rejoices with those who rejoice and weeps with those who weep. God is that internal strength that allows us to get through things we did not think possible for us. And God is the still small voice within who helps lead us to find renewed life beyond the horror of this kind of event. God, to use the words of an evening prayer collect is the “Light in our darkness” even as we tread through the valley of death.
We grieve with and for our friends. We do not fully understand the depth of their hurt but we can and do hold them in our hearts, hold them in our prayers, and know that God is with them even in the mist “of things we cannot understand.”