As we sat in church last night we all knew it was coming. It had to, there is no way to not address it. A gathering of believers who all heard the news of tragedy and are in various states of trying to deal with a reality that seems so unbelievable. And they are all asking at some level: Where is God in all of this horror?
Our pastor got up and looked out at us. He didn’t take away from the grief or pain or horror of it, but he did not leave us stuck there with no comfort either. He began to put it into context.
For those who ask “How can you say there is a loving God when 20 six and seven-year old innocents are murdered? Any God who lets that happen isn’t loving.” there is an answer. Two in fact.
First, life is eternal and so is God. The souls of each of those children continue on, now closer to God than ever before. God has eternity to make it right for those children and their families – to bring about healing for their souls, to love them in the way we expect to be loved. Eternity! Forever! He will comfort and love forever. Beyond what we can imagine. Beyond time as we understand it. He is the God who was and is and is to come, and as such He can be comforting and loving in all times and in all places and under all circumstances.
Second, and perhaps most profoundly, there cannot be love without freewill.
Sure, God could have circumvented freewill and created us with loving behavior programmed in, but would that be anything like real love? Or would it be the equivalent of a robot saying please and thank you – without any true emotion, humility or gratitude in it. Just words, not meaning. Just behavior, not meaning. That wouldn’t be real love.
Think of love as being willing to attach your well-being to the well-being of the one you want to love. God did this when He suffered and died for our well-being (forgiveness of sin). He did this when He was sin-free, but for our well-being he took the consequences of our sinful existence. His well-being was attached to our well-being. That is true love.
True love must come from freewill – it has to be a choice or it isn’t love.
Freewill must be for everyone, even a disturbed young man who would use his freewill to inflict so much pain. Jesus already suffered for that young man’s sin. He suffered knowing of the misuse of freewill that would come on December 14, 2012. Jesus chose to do that because He loved that young man and each of the children and women that would die at his hands.
God made the choice to let us have real love for each other and for Him. When He made that choice He knew it could be painful because as with all true choices, there was the opportunity for rejection and poor choices.
So, you see, God could not be loving if He didn’t allow freewill, and freewill would not be free if it didn’t allow for bad choices. So, only a loving God could be the kind of God who would use eternity to bring comfort to those impacted by bad choices instead of preventing the bad choices.
Twenty little lives seems like such a deep price to pay for choices until we look back at the first point – God has eternity to make it right, to love and comfort those who were impacted.
Eternity and freewill don’t make the pain and horror go away from our current reality. It is going to hurt for a long long time. Which is why we have the choice to offer comfort. We have the choice to love those who hurt.
There is a need for those who can give comfort to do so – a way of showing that love which is our choice to give to others who have the choice to love.
I may not have used all the perfect theological words, but I hope you understand the concept I’m trying to prevent.
There is great sadness. It is a tragedy and a horror what happened last Friday.
I pray for the families of everyone involved to be comforted!
I pray for preventative measures to be effective so that in the future other families don’t have to experience the kind of loss we are witnessing now.
Mostly, I pray that people will understand that this isn’t a sign of the lack of a loving God, but the cost of having true love available to us.