It seems every town will have its moment of tragedy. We know them by name: Newtown, Columbine, VA Tech and now our town that lives in the shadow of Miami made headlines last week as a lone gunman opened fire in the baggage terminal of our airport.
Ten days before, we’d made several trips to that airport picking up family for the holidays. It’s a relatively small airport for the large area it services. The people were probably returning from holiday visits with family or heading on a cruise. Of the thirteen shot, 5 were killed by a man who appears to be mentally ill.
This has already faded from the national headlines and will soon fade from our local news outlets. The frequency of these tragedies is too many, we know. When I opened Facebook I had a notification saying a friend wanted to know if I was okay and I could click to mark “I’m Safe” to notify all my friends. I’m not sure what to think about this, so I sighed and clicked the button, thankful we were safe from this horror.
I was in Target a few hours later. A clerk came over to the one waiting on me with her phone in hand, “God is good. My brother was suppose to be at the airport today but changed his travel plans two days ago.” She was all smiles and I’m happy for her but was God not good for the five people who died that day?
We’ve all said things like that or thought it. God watched out for us, for our family. He protected us from ______. When hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans I heard people question if God didn’t aim at that city because of its sin. Not stupid people but people of faith that left me wondering if I really knew them. How could this even be a question? God’s wrath would be on us all.
I’m no theologian or even a good bible teacher. But I know this isn’t how God works.
At a distance, God appears as a vengeful god in the Old Testament. He sends a flood to cover the earth killing all its inhabitants except Noah and his family. His wrath is poured out on the towns of Sodom and Gomorrah because God says he can’t find one good person in those towns. Abraham even bargains with God pleading that if God finds 10 good people he will spare the cities. The cities were destroyed. (You can find this account in Genesis 18-19)
Then we see a dramatic change from the law of the Old Testament to grace in the New Testament. Jesus, the Son of God tells us to love our enemy. Jesus isn’t contradicting God. His is the physical embodiment of his Father. Jesus is the mediator between God and us. It’s through him we can love ourselves, our neighbor, our enemies. And Jesus tells us that God the Father, shines on everyone, the good and bad, nice and nasty.
“You’re familiar with the old written law, ‘Love your friend,’ and its unwritten companion, ‘Hate your enemy.’ I’m challenging that. I’m telling you to love your enemies. Let them bring out the best in you, not the worst….This is what God does. He gives his best—the sun to warm and the rain to nourish—to everyone, regardless: the good and bad, the nice and nasty.” Matt. 5:44-47 MSG
But does God protect some from harm and not others?
If God is good when your family is spared what is he when they are not?
I know in these difficult times in my life, God feels silent. He feels absent. When mama’s dementia took her from us and us from her I questioned God. There would never be an answer to satisfy my why’s. Perhaps it’s my anger and frustration that drowns out God’s voice. Or maybe He’s waiting for me, like a patient father.
“We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed. We are perplexed, but not driven to despair. We are hunted down, but never abandoned by God.” 2 Corinthians 4:8-9 NLT
The are no answers that will satisfy us for the why’s of tragedy or disease. Life has hard times for those who believe and those who don’t. Good will come to the good and the wicked.
I want to hold to the belief that God is good all the time. We say that with our men. Henry says, “God is good” and they reply “All the time”. Then he says “All the time” and they respond “God is good.”
I’ve cringed at that because not all times are good. If they were, these men would be living a better life, not in a Salvation Army rehab program. While times and circumstances and life is not always good, God is.
All the time.