Tragedy. Again. And again. And again. From the killing of people in a movie theater to the gut-wrenching murders of children and teachers in Newtown. From the complete and utter depravity displayed by Kermit Gosnell to the attacks on a marathon finish line on what was supposed to be a day of celebration for one of America’s most storied cities. What is happening? Why is it happening? Where is God?
The answer is incredibly simple yet so easy to dismiss and analyze away. Sin. Sin is the reason why humanity time and time again destroys itself. Sin is the reason we have mental illness. Sin is the reason why taking innocent life can seem like a viable course of action. Sin is the reason our minds and souls become so dark and so blackened that an image bearer of God would place explosive devices, laden with ball bearing and BBs with the sole purpose of ending lives and maiming bodies, near crowds of unsuspecting people. Sin is the reason why we don’t think twice about a baby being killed in the womb (and in some cases outside the womb). Sin is the reason a “doctor” can become so hardened to the gift and beauty that is life that he would snuff it out even as he held it in his hands and it cried out for love, protection, and care. Sin takes what God intended to be good, human beings created in his image, and twists and distorts and strangles and blinds. It makes the unthinkable both thinkable and doable. It is the reason evil happens and the reason it continues to happen. It is the driving force behind the bombs on a marathon course, the starvation of untold numbers of people in North Korea, and the unspeakable genocide of people in Africa. It seems so pervasive. So unstoppable.
Where is God? When tragedy strikes, whether it be within our own homes and families or on a much larger stage, where is God? Does he care? Is he there? Is he silent? To borrow from Francis Schaeffer, God is here and he is not silent. When tragedy happens, no matter how horrific or unthinkable, we can rest assured that God is not distant and silent. Why? Why shouldn’t we believe in the God of deism where a cold and uncaring being creates a world and then leaves it to implode while he watches from a distance?
Because of a manger and a cross. A manger was the unlikely place where the creator of the universe inserted himself into human history. A manger signaled that change was coming. A new beginning was on the horizon. Spring was in the air the day that Jesus was born. But winter was not done yet. Despite the proclamations of a new beginning and a new kingdom. Despite the healings, the feedings, and raising of the dead the people did not welcome this new kingdom or the God who was inaugurating it. Winter pushed back. God sweat blood in a garden as it seemed that the long and bleak darkness of human sinfulness might indeed have the last laugh. That Satan might win. That winter might be permanent. That there would be no hope.
So where is God? Having his back ripped to shreds. Carrying a cross in front of jeering and mocking crowds; the very people he created. Dying between two criminals. In the greatest tragedy that sinful humanity has ever perpetrated, we executed God. The only truly innocent man and we killed him. Our hearts so blinded and consumed by sin that we could not see that our creator was staring us in the face.
Where is God? In a cold borrowed tomb. Dead. Gone. Lifeless. Winter has won. Death has won. Sin has won. There is no hope. No hope for Boston, Newtown, Aurora, North Korea, Africa, and on and on and on. Life is bleak and meaningless and winter has won the war.
But it hasn’t. The most horrific act in history was planned by God. He allowed himself to be killed. He then walked out of that borrowed tomb. Spring has arrived and it signals new life and a new beginning amidst a bleak winter. Thanks to Jesus, the winter is ending.
Why should a brutal execution bring us comfort when we consider our own depravity? When we think about the horrible things that human beings do to each other? Because God knows and understands these things. Because he has been on the receiving end of an unjust execution. Because in the midst of that most horrific of sins in which we plunged nails into the body of our creator is our only hope. Our God knows what it is like to have a foreign object, created by humanity, pierce his skin. He understands the suffering of the marathon bombing victims who had BBs and ball bearings tear through their bodies. He is not distant in tragedy. He has lived it.
The only hope for humanity is in the God who is here and who is not silent. The God who knows rejection and suffering. The God who put himself in the hands of his own creation that he might rescue them. The God whose heart breaks when tragedy strikes because he has experienced the greatest of tragedies. The God who is not silent in the midst of unspeakable horror because he has given us his heart, his mind, and his words in the text of Scripture. It is only in the one who defeated Satan, sin, and death on a brutal instrument of terror and torture that hope can be found in a broken world.
But we know it will not always be so. The world will not always be broken. The first buds of spring that broke through the bleak winter when Jesus stepped out of a stone tomb are still there and they are spreading and growing. It is inevitable. The snow and ice are melting. Winter does not want to go. It is fighting back with everything it has. It is Attempting to snuff out life and keep human hearts lost in blackness and despair. But spring is here and it is coming and winter stands no chance. Despite the best efforts of sin, the calling of God on a human heart is irresistible and with each heart that turns to Jesus winter is pushed back and the full onset of spring grows nearer.
So we do not grieve as those who have no hope. We do not look at winter as it gasps and writhes in the throes of death and submit to a master who is already dead but just doesn’t know it yet. No, we look at the spring, the spring that has already come and the spring that is yet to come, and we join our voices with the voices of Christians past and cry out to the God who is here and who is not silent, “Come quickly!”