“Bless all the dear children in Thy tender care, and take us to Heaven to live with Thee there…” – Away In A Manger
I found it very hard to sing this line last Sunday. I did not doubt God, but I wanted to know where He was when the tragedy in Newtown was happening. And I kept thinking of the parents and other family members grieving their dead against the backdrop of Christmas lights and cheer.
Perhaps the emotions raging in me aren’t what a mature Christian should feel. Perhaps tossing and turning last night was an expression of unbelief, because the dawn would bring in the start of the week and my children would have to go to school. Perhaps I wasn’t trusting enough. Perhaps I should just get on with life and get with the holiday spirit.
But evil and suffering have been so real lately. And I have more questions than usual.
And yet, despite the deluge of emotions, there is something in me that hesitates at any public display of emotion, especially over this tragedy. No matter how much sympathy wells up in me at the thought of what happened, the pain isn’t mine to own. I won’t wake up from happy dreams to an empty reality. I won’t be the one with empty arms and broken hearts.
And so I cringe at exaggerated shows of tears from those who have all their children at home with them. I cringe when they claim suffering at another person’s loss. It could just be me, but it feels almost like disrespect, like a drawing of attention to one’s self at another person’s pain.
And I get upset, no, saddened, with all the finger-pointing. I was disappointed when some Christians claimed they knew why the Newtown shootings happened.
Was it really because public prayer is no longer allowed in public schools? So are we saying God is being vindictive? Are we saying this is a “You don’t want me? Well let’s see how you like this!” kind of statement from the Father? Are we actually telling grieving parents that their children died as a result of this?
Or are we simply trying to make a case for what we believe is our right? Are we taking a tragedy of unbelievable pain and using it as evidence for our cause? What insensitivity! Why not look at it from the perspective of someone who has yet to know the Father’s loving touch?
I am a person of faith, but I have no answers for those who lost a child, a sibling, a parent or a friend. I know He is in control, but I don’t know why the children died in their own classrooms. I know He loves us, but I don’t know why mothers and fathers are planning funerals for their young children. I know He is close to the brokenhearted, but I don’t know why we have to be brokenhearted in the first place.
So I don’t think it’s my place to offer explanations, to speak for God as if I understood all His ways. But I do think it’s my place to act, to love and to pray. I know, because I’ve been through it, our words have no place in another’s suffering unless they are accompanied by acts of kindness.
Last Sunday our church collected our World Missions Offering. We used a water pot to collect the offerings. This water pot, of clay and quite ordinary looking, was given to us by an elderly lady we built a house for in Honduras. A water filter system came with the house, and since she didn’t need the pot anymore, she sent it to us. Our missionary friends lugged it all the way to Maryland, and it now sits in a place of honor in our building.
The goal was set at $15,000. We doubled the goal. And maybe a bit more.
The money collected will bring help to those who are in need, those who are victims of injustice. And as they receive the physical comfort, they will know that a congregation in Howard County, Maryland cared enough to be a part of their stories.
And they will know Jesus really does care.
And a tiny bit of humanity’s collective need will be relieved.
Wisdom knows when to be silent, grace knows it’s always time to love on others. I’ve already admitted I cannot explain suffering. But I can help alleviate it. And the more I think about it, the more I am convinced that’s all we’re called to do. More than talk, more than anything.
Sadly, there will be more tragedies, more tears. Earth really is chaos, but Christ really is peace. And people will know this only if we show, and not just tell, them. There are no satisfying answers this side of heaven. But there is hope enough to carry us through. And it gets stronger when we carry others with us.