As a mother, pediatrician, and citizen, I have had a heavy heart for the parents of the children of Sandy Hook. We all have grieved with them since the brutal attacks of the innocent little children who were killed a few weeks ago.
Now that a bit of time has passed, some of us who have a faith in God are pressed to ask some painful questions, such as, where was he? This is one of the toughest questions a believer can grapple with because there seems to be no answer which lets him off the hook. But we must ask it anyway.
Anyone who has suffered pain has asked this question, but in a situation as horrific as this, we who believe demand more from God. There really are only two answers to this question.
First, we can assume that God wasn’t there. We reason that he was busy, perhaps, attending to the masses starving in Africa or enduring oppression by a brutal regime. In other words, we give God a pass. The difficulty with this theory is that it posits God as an uncaring, aloof being who is neither omnipresent nor caring. These don’t flesh with the God we read about in the Bible.
Second, we can say that yes, God was there, but he didn’t do anything. He watched, choosing not to intervene in the free will of a lunatic. This is more plausible if you believe what the Bible teaches about the character of God, but to those of us who believe in his kindness, it is tough to swallow.
I have a third theory about what may have happened. This theory stems from a similar story in the Scriptures. I am not a trained theologian, so you can do what you will with it, but I feel that it is a theory worthy of consideration.
I wonder, since God is omnipresent, faithful and full of more compassion and love than the human mind can conceive, if God was there and did act. My theory comes straight from the story in Acts where Stephen is being stoned to death (Acts 7:54-59).
Just like the beautiful children at Sandy Hook, Stephen was encountering a brutal death as an innocent man. Like the shooter of the children, those stoning Stephen salivated at hurting him, but see what happens.
“When the members of the Sanhedrin heard this, they were furious and gnashed their teeth at him. But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. ‘Look,’ he said, ‘I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God’” (Acts 7:54-56).
A few verses later, while his murderers were dragging him and stoning him, he cried out to God and then fell asleep.
Here’s the point. In the midst of a horror, God reached down from heaven and grabbed Stephen. He didn’t stop his murder; rather he blocked the horror and brought Stephen to himself.
Could it be that God did the exact same thing for the little children at Sandy Hook? If he did for them what he did for Stephen, then it may be that in the midst of the horror, God reached down to them and opened heaven. It may be that while their tender hearts were filled with fear, he graciously halted the fear and showed them heaven. This theory seems to be more in line with the character of God than the first two, and it is the theory that I choose to believe.
As one who has witnessed a lot of people dying, I can tell you that mysterious, spiritual things happen during the process. Dying men have opened their eyes and gasped. Steve Jobs did. Others have had dreams about magnificent fields. Read Eben Alexander’s Proof of Heaven and you will learn about a new spiritual reality. God’s interference in the dying process is the first ultimate hope that we as believers have.
Life on earth will continue to be broken and dark. Since the beginning of time, men have inflicted unspeakable cruelties against one another. This will not stop. But, if God is real and he is good, we must believe that even in the midst of these tragedies, he does not sit silently by.
No, he is never silent; he does act. And we know that he acts for the good of those who suffer and extends a private grace to each of them. But it is a grace that we who remain on earth can’t see.