"Where was God?" Clearly many struggle to reconcile their belief in a loving God with recent tragedies. I respond simply, "God did not cause this." Then I ask the key question underlying every question concerning God's relationship to suffering, "What is our image of God?"
The answer in the New Testament is simple: God is love. And the most dramatic sign of God's love for us is Jesus. With Jesus, God has demonstrated the greatest possible love and given us the greatest possible gift, a gift that can sustain us in every circumstance, yes, even in suffering.
When believers turn to God to deal with suffering the first question we usually ask is why: Why did this happen? Often implied in the question: Why, God, did you do this to us?
But God doesn't answer this question. I believe it is the wrong question.
We have walked through the Christmas season and into a new year. John the Baptist exhorted us to "Prepare the way of the Lord and make straight his paths." We wanted to "make straight" our hearts so the Lord would enter without resistance - so we would really experience him.
If, like John the Baptist, we can let go and simply open our hearts to Jesus as our friend and Saviour something happens: we know God’s presence in a new year.
The prophet Isaiah gives us hope that the light can continue to shine in our lives even in darkness, the darkness we may experience in the start of a new year. "The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; upon those who dwelt in the land of gloom a light has shone. You have brought them abundant joy and great rejoicing" (Isaiah. 9:1-2).
So the best I can offer to us for handling tragedies is to humbly seek the sign of God’s love – Jesus - and ask for his help. Jesus always is present to us when we call upon him in faith - indeed even more present when we call upon him in need, "Come to me all you who labour and are burdened and I will give rest."
God of love, Father of all, the darkness that covered the earth has given way to the bright dawn of your Word made flesh. Make us a people of this light. Make us faithful to your Word, that we may bring your life to the waiting world.
"And the light shines on in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it" (John. 1:5)