The Newtown Shootings: Asking God Why

Why would God let this happen?

The question had to race through the mind of every theist who heard the news of the shooting yesterday. For some, it was there for a moment or two before being replaced with a more happy thought or sentiment. But for others, for me, the question lingers. Why did a man enter an elementary school and murder twenty children and seven adults?

In the aftermath of a crisis like this, we look for an explanation. Today, investigators search for a motive and politicians politicize the events and blame legislation or the lack of legislation. Psychiatrists point to undiagnosed mental illnesses.

And then there’s the political response. The conservatives will point to the secularism that is trying to take God out of our society that preaches materialism and relativism and leads to desperation and disillusionment. The liberals will point to the gun laws that allow a man to possess the disgustingly lethal weapon that was used. Both have excellent points in my opinion, but I want to step away from focusing this on us and our problems.

What about God? Where was He? Why did He let this happen?

Before we ask these questions, we must acknowledge is that God did not shoot these children. A man did, a broken and fallen man, contaminated by sin like all of us. This man had reached the end. He had done the mental calisthenics about this world and arrived at the conclusion that he should go shoot kids. We don’t know what made him do that. We can’t get inside his head. All we know is that something caused this man to do it and it is appalling.

We also have to acknowledge that although there was a lone gunman, this act was connected to the state of this world. People are incredibly influenced by their environment. The state of our society today seems to produce people who do these kinds of things. There’s a lot of contributing factors people will blame for that. Some are valid, some are ridiculous, but I don’t want to write about them. I don’t want to write about our society, our culture, the things that we must legislate or change or do in light of this. There will be plenty of TV news stories, Facebook statuses, tweets, and newspaper articles that try to answer those questions.

How does a Christian, who believes God is both all-powerful and good, deal with what happened? The first thing we must realize that this is nothing new. Evil is as old as humanity and this is just the latest expression of it that appears in the news headlines. There are all sorts of examples that we look at in history, many in the Bible, that don’t make sense to us. They make us question the omnipotence and goodness of God.

But what right do we have to do that?

My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts.  Isaiah 55:8-9

We think we know what justice is. We want to tell our Creator God to submit to our ideas about justice and goodness and morality, but what right does the created have to tell the creator that it screwed up? How can we see the big picture God sees?

A long time ago, terrible things happened to a man named Job. His family died, he lost everything he had, and he contracted an incredibly painful skin disease. He had every right to question God. And yet when Job begins asking God questions, God turns it around on him. God asks, “Hey Job, where were you when I laid the foundations of the Earth? Have you comprehended the expanse of the earth? Declare if you know all this. I’ll ask you and you tell me. Will you condemn me that you may be in the right? Shall the faultfinder contend with the Almighty?” (paraphrased from Job 38 and 40) The truth is Job had as much right to question God as the piece of pottery has to ask the potter why it’s green and not blue.

Francis Chan writes in Erasing Hell:

“We need to stop trying to domesticate God and confine him to tidy categories and compartments that reflect our human sentiments rather than His inexplicable ways. We serve a God whose ways our ways are incomprehensible, whose thoughts are not like our thoughts…Our God is not a person who is slightly more intelligent: his thoughts are infinitely higher than ours. Knowing that the gap is so large…it is natural-no, it is expected-that there will be times, many times, when you won’t figure Him out.

And that’s a really good thing. Because I don’t want God’s perfect thoughts to be like ours. Two hundred years ago, most people thought slavery was moral. Would you have liked God’s thoughts to be like humans’ thoughts then?

I’m glad His ways and thoughts are higher than ours because I would have never thought of the cross. I would have never thought of sending my son to die for this sinful world, a world where a man enters the Newtown elementary school and shoot children. I wouldn’t have done that, but I know, even more in light of this terrible tragedy, that our world needed it. I know that there’s nothing other than His perfect blood that would do as a sacrifice for this broken world and my broken soul.

I’m not saying we should be indifferent towards these events or simply accept them either. God doesn’t expect us to be indifferent towards painful events. He calls us to mourn; He expects us to wrestle with Him. This world deals heavy blows and it’s natural to weep and cry out and ask questions in times like these. But I hope we arrive at the point Job did after God’s questioning. I hope we arrive at the conclusion that this life in this broken world isn’t about figuring out all of God’s mysteries. It’s about embracing Him and cherishing Him and resting in Him even when we don’t understand why this world is so screwed up or why He created this beautiful but messy world and placed us in the thick of things.

So I’ll curl up in His lap, rest my head in the curve of His shoulder, look up into those eyes of infinite power and knowledge and goodness, and ask “Why God?” And He will probably just say, “Trust me. Rest in me.” And I will.

But after resting and mourning, I better respond. And you better respond too. And we better start asking questions about why this happened and how we can prevent it in the future and how we can start making this world look more like the Kingdom of God.