My family and I recently experienced a tragic event when my stepdaughter’s highschool was the target of an active shooter last week. A 16 year old boy, on his birthday, decided to open fire on the school’s campus, shooting 5 students before turning the gun on himself. I wrote about it here on my Inner Happy website if you’d like to read about it, and my grieving process.
But today, I want to talk about a question I keep hearing over and over, from my friends, clients, students, readers and in social media.
Where was God during that tragedy?
Where was He when the kids were screaming bloody murder and running for their lives?
Where was He in the moment the shooter sprayed bullets into the flesh of innocent children?
Where was He when the 14 year old girl died on the operating table?
Where was He?
One of my friends said to me, “The shooter’s gun malfunctioned after he fired the first shot. He had to stop to fix it, and that gave several more kids time to get away. God was there, helping out.”
Nice try, but not good enough.
Tell that to the parents of the children who DIDN’T get away.
Tell that to my stepdaughter, who everytime she closes her eyes, hears gunshots and kids screaming, and relives the event over and over in the quiet corners of her mind.
Maybe He was there in that one moment, but what about the OTHER moments?
I’d be grateful if a brave citizen was responsible for those precious few seconds, but not an almighty God who has the power and authority to have prevented the entire situation altogether.
If you’re a parent and find someone beating your daughter, do you grab your son and run out of the room, expecting to be praised because you helped your son? What about your daughter? What about the help SHE needed?
I’m not thrilled with my friend’s silver lining method of thinking. Not when it comes to the innocent lives – and ending of lives – of children.
Too often, when we don’t understand God and more specifically, when we don’t want to explore the pain of not understanding because we’re afraid of the answer, we gloss it over with a semblance of an answer. We hone in on one positive thing, like the moment the shooter’s gun malfunctioned, and we ignore the rest of the tragedy. And yes, while some kids were spared in those few moments because they were able to find cover, what about the kids who weren’t spared?
Are they any less blessed or loved by God?
We can’t look at things with a singular, bright-side, one dimensional perspective merely because we’re trying to justify our half-witted faith. To be a true student of God, to show real faith, we must go deeper and explore the dark and painful parts of life as well as the light and joyful parts. Not just the parts with miracles, beauty and grace, but also the parts with blood, guts and bullets.
To do so otherwise would be an insult and dishonor to God, the families involved and the victims.
So… let me ask again:
Where was God during that tragedy?
I’ll start with the answer (which you won’t like) and then I’ll explain (before you hang me).
God was there. He is everywhere. He was as much in the moment when the gun malfunctioned as He was in the other moments when it didn’t. He was as much in the shooter as He was in the children being shot. He was as much in the sun shining down on the school’s outdoor Quad as He was in the bullets that flew through it.
And He’s still as much in the victims as He is in the shooter after their physical deaths.
They live on, in God, as He lives in them.
Not a very satisfying answer, is it?
But it’s the truth.
We want to idealize God as an all-powerful Being with a capital B living up there in the clouds of Heaven watching down over His children, loving, nurturing and protecting them from harm. And then, harm comes and we’re left feeling abandoned, deceived, confused and alone. But we only feel that way because we have the wrong idea about God.
If we think that way about God, we don’t know God at all.
God is all-powerful, yes. God loves us, yes.
But He doesn’t live high and mighty on a throne “up there” while we weak, defenseless little humans live “down here” needing His protection.
God lives in us, through us and around us.
In fact, you’re breathing God right now.
Take a deep breath…
God pulses through your veins as surely as your blood. He’s nearer than hands and feet because He IS your hands and feet.
To understand this beyond neat concepts and beautiful ideas… to make this a real, living, breathing part of your everyday ordinary reality, you must TRANSCEND your everyday ordinary reality. It seems contradictory that to bring God into your conscious life, you must first transcend your life, but it’s the only way to understand the un-understandable. God lives in your everyday, physical and material life but you can’t access this knowing with your brain or your mind. You must rise above the physical and material in order to truly see and know and understand.
Unfortunately, I can’t convince you of the truth that God is, was and will always be HERE and NOW, no matter what’s happening in our lives, tragedy or not.
But very fortunately, you can know this for yourself. You don’t need me.
All you need is God.
And you already have Him.
Take a moment of silence, close your eyes, breathe deeply, and FEEL this for yourself.
When you FEEL this, you will know that no tragedy occurred. What occurred was the divine order of things within a temporary veil of illusion. We live in this world but we’re not of it. We are flesh, yes. But beyond flesh, we are of the transcendent, the Divine. We are of God. This makes up a much bigger part of us than what we see, hear and feel with our physical bodies.
Trying to understand a multi-dimensional event with a one-dimensional mind only causes confusion, frustration and pain. Rather than ask, “Where is God in a tragedy,” if we could instead turn our awareness to our breathing and realize “closer is He than breathing…” we can begin to transcend the human condition and get to know God on a deeper, more intimate and pure way.
“Lift up your eyes and see” doesn’t mean to physically look up toward a place high in the clouds called Heaven, it means to lift your vision higher than the earth plane, this temporary material dimension, and see the Transcendental Plane right here, right now, where God is.
Here, right in the midst of this material flesh reality, where tragedy befalls us…. God is. He has not abandoned us and left us on the cross to die, He’s right here, ON the cross with us. He IS the cross. He doesn’t stop it because He exists on a much higher plane of truth than what our physical eyes perceive as the only reality. In God’s eyes, there is no tragedy, only love. Jesus didn’t die on the cross nearly 2,000 years ago nor did those children at Saugus High School die last week.
They live on in God, with God, through God… in His complete unconditionally loving embrace.
And because of this, they live on in us too.
All of them, including the shooter.