As I left church this afternoon I noticed a cloud of smoke rising over the tree line. It’s not an uncommon site especially given the fact that we recently had an ice storm that caused a lot of debris to litter people’s properties and therefore many burn the limbs and brush that have accumulated. While driving away I didn’t give it a second thought as I reflected on the morning services and the upcoming Super Bowl. It wasn’t until I sat down tonight and read the news that I found the cause of the smoke. On my screen came a horrendous story that made me sick to my stomach. Josh Powell, a man who was under investigation for the disappearance of his wife, had set fire to his own home with his two young boys inside. All three perished in the fire.
Josh Powell is not my concern at the moment and to be honest I’m praying that God will give me a gracious spirit when my thoughts drift to thinking of him; my concern and the weight on my heart is for the boys. Two innocent young children lost their lives today. They were subjected to the actions of someone who was supposed to be their shepherd, safety, and protector. When children die it is difficult to understand. That’s an understatement, it’s probably the most difficult thing to understand. Why did they have to die? Why didn’t someone prevent it? Why didn’t God intervene? If God is so loving why would he allow these two small children to suffer in the way that they did? Regardless of your commitment to Jesus these questions will come into mind. I’m struggling. Theodicy (the study of God and suffering) was one of my focuses in Grad School yet even with all of my study and understanding of theodicy no academic concept, philosophical insight, or theological reflection can ease the burden that comes when children die.
As I have been praying about this I have found solace in a few thoughts that I believe God has reminded me of. In His graciousness God often gives us glimpses of hope that help us to cope, help us to heal and to grow. Those thoughts that have given me comfort are what I wanted to share with you.
God did not decide for them to die.
I am comforted by the fact that God did not have anything to do with the death of these children, or any children for that matter. It was not God who took those children’s lives, it was the decision of a sinful and fallen man. God is not to blame. In our own choices we can decide the outcome of someone’s life. This is the responsibility that we bare with free will. Free will is a blessed gift that can be turned into a horrendous weapon. God did not send these children to die, that is not what God wanted for them.
God is weeping.
I truly believe that God is weeping over these children and if I push myself, I believe He is weeping over Josh as well. God loves unconditionally and He is impacted when our decisions cause pain and suffering. God is in all and through all and therefore is impacted when people are hurting. God is grieving over the loss of these children.
God works for the good through all things.
While it is difficult to see now, I know that God is working to redeem this story. He is working to bring good out of it. People will come to know Jesus because of this story; I strongly believe that. I don’t know what God is going to do but I do trust that He is working for the good even in this tragedy.
My hope and prayer is that for those who have been impacted by this tragedy, especially those who are closely connected to it, will find some solace in these thoughts. This story is right in my backyard and it will impact our whole community. We must pursue God through this and trust in who God is rather than trying to understand why these things happen.
For those hurting during these times I strongly recommend the book “Torn” by Jud Wilhite. It may provide more comfort and hope than these simple words do.