My hope is that I’m going to suddenly wake up and the traumatic events of the last few weeks and months will have been a bad nightmare. As hard as it is to accept and digest that is not going to happen. The Westminster Bridge attack, Manchester Arena attack, London Bridge and Borough Market attack, the Grenfell Tower fire and now the attack at Finsbury Mosque each resulted in a devastating, needless and tragic loss of life.
There are many big questions that are being asked. When will this ongoing series of tragedies come to an end? How are terrorists being radicalised to believe that taking the lives of children and innocent citizens will solve anything? Where is justice for communities who live in apartment buildings without fire alarms and water sprinklers? And where is God in the midst of all this pain and suffering?
We are clearly living in a world that is not as God intended it to be, or as we would like it to be. We live in a world where there are times of unbearable pain, suffering and loss. Just this last week the wife of dear friend Lloyd Cooke lost her battle against cancer. There is absolutely no rhyme or reason to suffering and to why bad things happen to good people, it is a mystery.
The recently released feature film The Shack directed by Stuart Hazeldine tells the story of a father whose daughter is abducted and murdered. As a father I feel nauseous even thinking this situation. The father wrestles with God saying “You’re the almighty God right? You know everything. You’re everywhere all at once. You have limitless power. Yet somehow you let my little girl die when she needed you most. You abandoned her.”
The shocking events of recent weeks have left people in pain, shock and loss, and for some wondering if God has abandoned us just when we need him the most.
In The Shack the character that represents God responds to the heart felt cry of the father about his daughter with the reassuring words, “I never left her”. The answer to the question of, ‘Where is God?’ is that he is there in the midst of the suffering.
God always chooses to sit with, to struggle with and to side with those people who feel alone and abandoned or facing injustice. Psalm 23 beautifully expresses God’s presence with us in difficult and dark times, ‘The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he refreshes my soul. He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the darkest valley, a I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. (Psalm 23:1-4).
God is no stranger to suffering, his son Jesus Christ was subjected to the most torturous and barbaric death by crucifixion. He was nailed through his hands and feet to a wooden cross which was then dropped in a hole in the ground and where he was left to hang until he died. God knows all there is to know about pain and suffering and even the loss of a child. So God is able to identify with us in any trouble that we might have and offer us the comfort and strength we need to get through.
The good news is that even in times of terrible pain and suffering God is with us and offers us hope for a better future. God promises that, ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain’ (Revelation 21:4).
Originally published on Christian Today 26 June 2017