Where Is Your God Now?

Roughly six hours after a young man killed six people, injured over a dozen others, and ended his own life either by his own gun or from the gunfire of police, she was awakened.

There was banging close by.  Pounding, like someone striking the pavement in front of her house with something over and over again.  And there was the yelling.  Gutteral.  Primal.  Almost inhuman.  A conflagration of agony and rage and despair.  
Wake up!  Wake up!  Wake up!  Where is your God now?!
She attends our congregation and Bible studies frequently.  She has lived in the community of Isla Vista for years, on a street that fronts access to the beach and is often at the heart of large-scale events in the area, whether parties or riots or shootings.  She has a large banner hanging on the front of her house proclaiming to the neighborhood the Easter good news that Christ is Risen!

It is likely this banner that caught the man’s attention at 3:30 am.  Or had caught his attention at some time in the past, and was brought to mind in the midst of his anguish over atrocity so vivid in the community’s collective consciousness.  
She was awake now, debating whether to go outside to talk to the man.  She’s a remarkable woman, and engages the surfers and other passers-by as opportunities present themselves.  She isn’t afraid to talk about her faith.  But at a traumatic 3:30am, I think she made the right choice to stay in bed and wait until the person went away.  It wasn’t that she didn’t have an answer for him.  But could he hear the answer at that moment?  And if he heard it, how might he react?
The question is a common one thrown at Christians (and presumably other theists of one stripe or another) in the wake of disaster or atrocity.  How could God allow this?  Why didn’t God stop this?
There are a lot of ways to approach this.  The best answer requires an engagement with the Bible and what God has revealed to us about himself and our relationship to him and to one another.  The best answer is one that many Christians may not have even heard articulated in one setting.  But it takes time to go through, and most people who want to lob theological or philosophical hand grenades – particularly at 3:30am – aren’t interested in actually hearing a lengthy response.
So this shorter response has been bouncing around my brain as I contemplate her visitor’s anguished demand.  
The short answer is that I can tell you where my God is in all of this.  But that more importantly, I can tell you that I have a God, not a jinii/djinii/genie.  
I have a God.  A Lord.  A Creator of the Universe, not an Instant Wish Granter, or in the case of the shooter, some sort of Instant Gratification Organism.  I have a God and therefore that God’s reasons and means of doing things is what matters, not what I personally would prefer to have happen in my life.  The shooter at UCSB felt entitled to the adoration and sexual indulgence of beautiful women.  It was his right, and if he had some notion of a God, I’m sure the shooter was convinced that God was not doing his job very well.  
The man banging in the street at 3:30am had some conception of God, and it must have at least consisted of the expectation that God would prevent narcissistic human beings from killing one another.  Or that He would ensure that such killings didn’t happen in the banging man’s neighborhood.  
What else does this man expect from God?  What does this man know of God?  I don’t intend that in a demeaning or self-righteous way.  The man deserves an answer, and there is an answer, if he will receive it.  That answer is short-handed in the banner hanging from her house – Christ is Risen!  If the banging man is honestly seeking an answer it is hanging in plain view, though of course it needs considerable explanation and application.  
God is here.  God has already answered the shooting in Isla Vista.  And the shooting at Sandyhook.  And the shooting at Columbine.  And the Holocaust.  And every other atrocity we have known or could care to invent.  The answer has already been given in the empty tomb of a man who claimed to be the Son of God and claimed that proof of this would be his resurrection from the dead.  
It is not the answer the banging man likely wants.  Hopefully it is an answer that invites banging man to learn more, though, because it is a far more thorough and complete answer.  But we are a species that likes our demands serviced immediately.  We prefer djinnis/jinnis/genies to gods.  We prefer to be the ones dictating the terms and pulling the strings.  We prefer our otherworldly powers to be bottled up safely until we decide we want to hear from them.  This holds true whether you’re the self-centered young man who destroys what he can’t have but feels entitled to, or whether you’re broken by pain in the middle of the night.
At the end of all things, banging man and you and I and the shooter will discover that we have a God, not a djinni/jinni/genie.  A Lord.  A Creator.   Sin and evil will be dealt with once and for all.  Justice and more importantly mercy will have it’s day.  But it won’t start at 3:30 am, in the dark of night.  
It will come at Sonrise.  
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2 Responses to “Where Is Your God Now?”

  1. JP Says:

    This reminds me of a Dutch movie I recently saw called Broken Circle Breakdown. I think you’d find it interesting. It deals with the issue of suffering, and particularly an angry reaction like the one of the student who knocked on the door. The movie perceptively asks tough questions about both faith and bioethics.

    One man in the movie is so angry (I won’t tell you why; it would ruin the movie) that he tries to convince himself that there is no hope, there is no god. But the movie includes hints along the way that deep down he years for hope, he wants something to believe in.

    I found myself wanting to reach through the screen and, like you suggested with the angry student, open up the Bible and teach him who the real God is. Because the real God would have a lot to say about this character’s pain and sadness. And the real God would have true comfort to offer.

  2. Paul Nelson Says:

    Thanks for the recommendation – Netflix doesn’t stream it but I’ll keep an eye out for an alternate way of viewing it!

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