The bombings at the Boston Marathon were horrific. The first pictures I saw were of the cleared area, and I was struck with just how much blood was everywhere. It was immediately clear that a lot of people were greatly injured. I’ve tried to avoid the more graphic pictures. I zoned in and out of media coverage.
The third week of April seems to be ripe with tragedy for America. First Boston, then ricin scares, then the fertilizer plant explosion in Texas, then the violent stand-off with Boston suspect one and the door-to-door hunt and capture of suspect two. The anniversaries of Waco, Oklahoma City, Columbine, and Virginia Tech are all within the same week. The Revolutionary War began April 19, 1775. There is something about the season that is violent. In times of crisis and uncertainty, I see two questions come up again and again:
1. Why would God let this happen?
Some people say bad things are just part of God’s plan. That makes it sound like God has an evil plan, or at least a plan that doesn’t mind some evil. But God’s plan isn’t for evil or violence; it is for us to be reconciled to him. We have been given the choice. We are free to come to God or to reject him. God does not force us to love him; a love without free will isn’t true love. God allows us that freedom, that choice, even when we majorly mess up. While suffering exists on an individual level, it is also communal. We are in a fallen world. The veil is torn and the gates are open, but the world is still imperfect. We still must experience suffering, either of our own doing (moral evil) or by nature (natural forces, disease, etc). That is the state of the world. All we can do is continue to move toward salvation and reduce evil when we can. We must help one another along the path.
2. Where was God?
I think people ask then as a way of really asking the first question. They have the idea that if he didn’t intervene and stop this, then he wasn’t here at all. But of course he was there. He is always with the suffering, weeping for them and bleeding out for them. He was with the many who have died, the hundreds who have been injured, the thousands whose lives were turned upside down. He was even with the bombers, weeping over their misguided beliefs, their irrational anger, and their rejection of love. He was there in the fear and the hurt and the confusion and the sorrow and the rage. He was where he always is: with us.
I think it is important in dark times to remember that things are not 50/50. Evil is never as powerful as good. Evil is an absence, an emptiness, a nothing. In the end, good will triumph and all suffering will cease. All shall be well.