There has been yet another mass murder, and of the many questions we ask, one keeps popping up among people of faith: “Where was God?”
Most of us understand God as a loving God who care for us, and, as The Supreme Being of Existence, should be capable of preventing such horror. So, why did God not prevent this massacre of innocent human life, or any other great tragedy, for that matter? Did God not foresee it? Did God not care? Was it beyond God’s capability to prevent it? Where was God?
I do not know. I do not know why God did not come to the rescue. I no more understand why God did nothing than I understand why someone would murder total strangers. It is beyond me.
I must admit, though, that I also am suspicious of anyone who says he does know why God stood on the sidelines and did nothing. Essentially, they are saying they know the mind of God, and that is quite a claim. It doesn’t pass my gut check. To me, the moment they open their mouth to explain the ways of God to The Rest of Us, fresh blood screams from the ground that they are narcissistic frauds. In the face of such sacred pain, they need to keep silent.
God has failed to rescue me on several occasions, both on things small, like a job loss, to things large, like a death in the family. I was quite angry about them, and vacillated between asking, “Where were You when I needed You?” to saying, “We’re done, You and me…” Then one day while in church, I looked up, saw Jesus hanging from the cross, and it occurred to me that maybe I had it all wrong. Maybe God is not a rescuer as I expect God to be.
Looking at Jesus on the cross, I realized that he had been tortured to death in as grievous a manner as can be imagined. God did not come to his rescue, either. He even cried out, “Why have you forsaken me?” just like the rest of us. He suffered, died, and was buried, also just like the rest of us. He was one of us; a sufferer. And I find great comfort in that.
Jesus knows what we have gone through and what we question, because he went through the very same thing and questioned it all. He lived through that existential angst as fully as any of us. When I think about the question “Where is God in all this?”, I remember the insight by the Rev. Nadia Bolz-Weber, who said “…one of the important things we have to look at is, what kind of world did God choose to enter? What was going on in the world at this point? And how did God choose to enter it? God chose to enter a world as violent and faithless as our own. I feel like that is an important thing to know about God.”*
When he was on the cross, Jesus did not look like a rescuer, but a loser – and no one came to his rescue. When he rose from the dead, he still had scars. Just like us. This is an answer and a comfort to me in times like these, and it is enough: Jesus was one of us, suffered and died like us, but came back to show us that we will one day rise above it all. It may not be the rescue we want in our times of need, but I’ve come to believe that it is the best kind of rescue we can receive.
*Huffington Post interview, 10.4.2015