Tragedy sans God

Prior to last week I had never been to a funeral for a friend.

I’ve been to funerals of course;  when the parents of one of my friends died and they needed my support, or when an inlaw died in support of my wife.  This was the first time since I was probably 8 years old that someone that I called a friend, or someone I cared about directly died.

It feels different, emptier, and it makes me think about the brevity of my own life.

I’ve been mulling this over a great deal since it happened.

Then, today – December 14, 2012 – something like 20 elementary school kids get killed in a school shooting in Connecticut.

and I see explanations like this pop up on Facebook from my Christian friends:

David Holt's explanation

David is a pastor at Watkinsville Baptist Church in Watkinsville, GA.

Despite how angry this makes me, how silly and offensive I find these notions, suddenly I find myself envious of people with some form of a god to comfort them and answer their questions, even if those answers are shallow and ignorant, because I am simply without any answers that can even begin to make sense of this. Answers like this seem almost blissful.

Suddenly I’m envious of those with an easy scapegoat to blame all this on, because I can’t say it was sin that caused these events but instead I know that there have to be very difficult answers to increasingly painful questions.

I’m envious of the simplicity, the black and white of it all.

“Jesus is coming back soon!”, I’ve heard.

But no, this is our mess to clean up. It’s our tragedy.

Things are easier with someone or something to point at and say, “There, that’s the whole cause of all that is bad in the world.”

Sometimes I long for something to fault.

Things are easier when you can pray and immediately feel better about things.

Sometimes I long for prayer.

God is an incredibly good distraction sometimes.

Sometimes I long for God.

Only recently have I realized how bad I am at this. 

I can’t force myself to say to my friends who just lost their parents, “don’t worry, they are in a better place now.”  I can’t be that disingenuous to people I love, but I can’t really imagine any other words that seem to make anything any better either. So, usually, I just ask if there is anything I can do – anything at all – to help….and no one ever says they need anything so I just back off and wait to see if a need does arise that I can fulfill.

I never feel like I’ve helped, or like I’ve said the right words.  I’m not sure the right words even exist. I wish I was better at providing comfort when my friends hurt.

I feel that way with my friends when they’ve lost loved ones, I feel that way with myself now that I’ve lost a good friend, and I feel that way now that our nation is hurting from the loss of these young lives.

God seems to make this easier for people, it gives them some way to excuse or explain it and to comfort them.

I’ve got nothing that can really handle this sort of thing. No magic words, no scriptures that make it all better, and no promise of a meeting place in heaven like I used to. Other than empathy,  concern for people, and a willingness to help if someone asks I’m just as lost in the mire as everyone else.

Maybe that’s enough, I hope so. Right now it’s all I’ve got.