Like many others, I was shocked to see the tragedy that befell students, faculty members and families this week at Virginia Tech. Some people ask the question we all have: "Why?"
This is the unanswerable question. Even Franklin Graham says that no one can answer why. We can only grieve with those who grieve and listen to their pain.
When tragedy befalls us, why is often the first question we ask. It happened when another young man - also a former student from Centreville, Virginia, opened fire on a local police station, killing two officers and wounding several others before being killed himself.
It happened when Timothy McVeigh and his co conspirators blew up a Federal building in Oklahoma City in 1995. We asked why again when terrorists flew planes into buildings and thousands died. It happened right after Christmas in 2004 when a massive tsunami killed hundreds of thousands in the Indian ocean.
And then there was Katrina.
Families in the American military ask why their son or daughter had to die. We look to the skies and ask "where was God?"
I know He is there, but could He not have stopped this? Could He not have made the pistols misfire or the police find the gunman before the murders, or reduce the number of deaths?
Yes, He could have, but for whatever reason, He did not and what happened did happen. But that does not mean - as the atheists would reason - that God is not there; it does not mean that He does not care. It does not mean that He cannot act or that we live in a universe where God started the clock and then left us to our own devices.
For me, it reaffirms that life is precious and we cannot presume. It calls forth deep sadness, especially when I see the faces of the victims. It makes me realize that nothing is guaranteed except God.
A friend of mine lost his wife to brain cancer several years back. She died quickly, going from a vibrant woman in her early 50s to a corpse in less than six months. And she was a fervent believer in Christ and in Divine healing.
But she died.
And her husband grieved for her. But he said what he had learned through it all was that God is God and that John 3:16 - "for God so loved the world that He gave His only Begotten Son, that whosoever believes in him should not perish but should have everlasting life" - is true. He has since remarried and moved on, but the memory remains.
I agree with Franklin Graham - We don't know all the whys. We probably will not know them. We look around for someone to blame, but even our railing against the skies or against God or against gun laws or against the killer doesn't satisfy.
But this has made all the petty things that seem to trouble us seem so small - traffic, blackberry's server failing, the stock market's ups and downs. They all pale into vapor compared with the real life suffering and shock we feel. And even as we grieve, more than 120 people were blown to shreds in Baghdad - again - today.
So hold your loved ones closer. And live. Don't just survive. Live!
O merciful Father, who hast taught us in thy holy Word that thou dost not willingly afflict or grieve the children of men: Look with pity upon the sorrows of thy servants for whom our prayers are offered. Remember them, O Lord, in mercy, nourish their souls with patience, comfort them with a sense of thy goodness, lift up thy countenance upon them, and give them peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.