Today I was going to decide which article to write to start off the Advent season. An article that would prepare our hearts. Instead I am overwhelmed with questions.
As I prepare for His birth my heart is filled with a longing for the peace that only Jesus can give. The peace of the Advent season has been replaced by the sorrow of tragedy.
Today as I went into work I was given the news about a shooting at one of our churches. It is a small country church in the area I refer to God’s country, near the NY border. I do not know most of the details, but from what I was told and read, it happened during the worship service. A few minutes after church started a gunman entered the church, pushed the pastor aside and shot the organist, his ex-wife. He left the building only to come back and shoot her again, as he said, to make sure the job was done. The pastor and a few of the parishioners subdued him and held him until the State Police arrived.
Today the church is trying to find answers and make sense out of what happened. Through our Presbytery, our Synod and PDA (Presbyterian Disaster Assistance), they will get the assistance they need to rebuild their lives and the church and the community is being sheltered in our prayers. But the hurt and pain caused by this violent act has left a permanent scar on the family of the victim and the community.
In this season of joy and peace, I ask why? On the first day of Advent this man took a life in a most horrible way. I am asking, why didn’t God intervene? The same questions I have asked over the years, when my brother was tragically taken from us at the age of 19, when my father and mother died at an early age, with my cancer diagnoses, and other events that brought such pain and suffering. Why, Lord?
I am not a theologian, but I love my Lord. I do not know why God allowed this to happen. I know He did not cause it, but for reasons we may not know until we stand before Him, He allowed this violent act to happen. As much as we hate to admit it, evil is all around us, even during this season of peace, evil rears its ugly head and threatens to destroy us. Lives are destroyed and shattered. And through it all God cries with us.
I am reminded of the story that was circulated after the attacks on Sept 11. It was sent over the internet and asked the question where was God when the planes crashed into the towers, the pentagon and a quiet field in PA. I don’t remember much of that article, but basically as I remember, it answered the question of where was God, by saying God was there, in the planes, in the towers, and in hallways of the pentagon. He calmed their fears as He led them home and comforted those that survived. So I know in my heart that God was in that sanctuary and He calmed the fear of the organist as He reached out to her and took her home, He gave strength to the pastor and the congregation to subdue the ex-husband till help arrived and He is there to comfort those who grieve. God is in each of us as we pray and minister to those who will mourn the loss of a mother, a sister, a friend and mourn the loss of their security.
Today my faith was questioned, as to why our God, our Lord would allow something like that happen. He allowed it because He gave us all free will to choose Him or to choose evil. But with that freedom he also gives His promise to never leave us. God our Father in Heaven will always be with us, in times of joy, sorrow and tragedy. He will bring healing and comfort to those who suffer. So I may not completely understand why, but I choose to believe His promises and that offers me hope in this broken world. And isn’t that the real meaning of the Christmas season, to give us hope in a little child, the baby Jesus.