Just hours after the recent mass shooting in Las Vegas, the inevitable question appeared. I saw it first on Twitter—”So, where was your god when this was happening?”
The perplexity is as old as humanity itself, how a good God can allow suffering.
We could fast-forward to the end, noting that a world without suffering is Heaven and we’re not there quite yet.
Rather, we’re still living out this earthly drama, which, if we pay heed, will lead us to an eternal, suffering-free life.
So, what’s the point of all this pain?
What I know is that God is pure love. This love, overflowing, brought the beloved — us — into existence. But God didn’t want to force our love in return. Free will exists so we can accept his invitation.
Or not. And that’s where evil enters in, as it did that tragic night in Las Vegas.
But God, silent as he sometimes seems, doesn’t abandon us when we are most troubled. He’s nearer than ever.
Shortly after hearing about the massacre, I wrote on Facebook: “It will be in the aftermath of this tragedy that God’s presence will be made abundantly plain. Watch closely for the signs of his love for us.”
So where was “my” God during the Las Vegas massacre?
God was on the scene, comforting the dying, consoling the wounded, moving in the hearts of those who’d opened themselves to becoming his hands and feet. Google “Matthew Cobos” to learn about the young Army soldier who, in civilian attire, rushed to protect a woman, a stranger, from gunfire even as the bullets ricocheted all around, then shielded her eyes from the surrounding carnage.
Cobos sprang to heroic action in part because of his military training, yes, but also, God’s presence within him.
The stories abound of concert-goers taking a bullet for others, accompanying strangers to the hospital, and creating stretchers out of fence posts, tourniquets out of belts, and plugs out of their own fingers to stop blood flow.
Where was my God? In those who acted in his name, whether they’d name it as such, for every good movement we make comes directly from the heart of God, and thus, is intimately tied to him.
A few years ago, I read some words of Saint John Paul II that helped me make sense of suffering: “Suffering unleashes love.”
That doesn’t mean suffering is good, for suffering was not God’s intention for us. But it does mean that God can, and does, bring good from evil.
As Paul Claudel wrote in “Le Heutoir,” “The Door Knocker:” “God did not come to do away with suffering; he did not even come to explain it. He came to fill it with his presence.”
[For the sake of having a repository for my newspaper columns and articles, I reprint them here, with permission, a week after their run date. The preceding ran in The Forum newspaper on Oct. 21, 2017.]