So Where was God in Charleston?
Maybe you believe in God, maybe you don’t. But these thoughts may likely cross your mind after the massacre in Charleston: Where was God while those people were stalked by this young, hateful man and killed? Or, how can people still believe in God when He allowed His followers to suffer such a fate while they were praying to Him?
Of course, the quest for the answers to these questions can seem opaque, mystifying, and futile. However, some sense can be made when we examine two concepts: our freedom and the apparent hiddenness of God.
Without getting into a full-blown discussion of the problem of evil in the world, which, by the way, can last a lifetime, I would like to propose that God was in that church in Charleston, right there watching, weeping, yet working. Whether you believe in God or not, you have to admit that evil is a bad thing, it exists, and it is a problem. (I know there are some who might debate the existence of evil – and for that matter – of anything else, but we are not going to bark up that tree today.) So, if there is a God, or even a guiding intelligence that formed the world, he, she or it must either be uncaring, incapable, or cryptically dealing with the “evil problem.” This could take a book, but in this brief blog, I would like to propose, that there is a good God who is dealing with the problem in mysterious ways.
First of all, I believe there is a God who created humans with the ability to choose. Whether this creation came through an evolutionary process, or in the Garden of Eden, does not matter. Also, I believe that most of us value freedom. (This, in and of itself, is an argument for why both God and evil exist in our world.) Inherent within the definition of freedom assumes our own desire and ability to choose. In the case of God, He formed us with the choice of living with Him or without. If we believe He is completely good, then evil is present without Him. (We will get to why He is good in a minute.) He put us here on earth to allow us to decide how we want to live. He wanted those who truly love Him, to do it out of our own volition – not like robots. In order to do this, He steps back a bit in some ways, sets the world in motion, lets the laws of nature take course and allows us to make our own choices. Yes, I believe God is in ultimate control of the universe – right down to the mysteries of quantum mechanics – yet He limits Himself in order to provide us with our own freedom. He also has limits to how far He will let evil run.
Hiddenness of God.
Wherein do we find a God who is good even though He can allow such evil? The Charleston massacre is an example of how God seemingly sits back and allows people, and even His people, to suffer. We have good friends in many impoverished countries around the world who suffer unlike anything imaginable. Many die horrible deaths because they follow God. Why does God allow this?
As stated earlier, I believe God is watching, weeping and working. We don’t always know this because of His hiddenness. For the sake of the choice, God allows Himself to be hidden. This is the way He mysteriously works out the healing of the world through suffering love. What we are seeing in Charleston right now is this suffering love which came from the message of Jesus Christ. It is obscure. It is in comprehensible, yet we see it every day. People who love even those who have taken everything from them. How can the children of victim, Sharonda Singleton, say they are “filled with love” and have forgiven the killer? How can Marcus Stanley who survived being shot eight times in 2004, show love and share the love of God with the killer?
To many it may seem a mystery why leaving bitterness and anger behind is the best way to heal. Yet, it is the example of Jesus Christ who claimed to embody the spirit of God, gave of himself, and showed that love can conquer. What does God cryptically and mysteriously do about evil? He confronts it, suffers from it, and conquers it. And He asks that we do the same.
Because of Who He Is……..