The images from Nepal are horrifying and haunting. So much destruction. So many lives lost. So many people hurt, physically and mentally. It is hard to know how to see, process, and respond to devastation on such a scale. For those of us who are Christians one of the natural questions is “where was God when the earthquake hit?” How could God, who created and loves all, do this or allow this to happen? These are inevitable questions that have no easy answers. Bewilderment and anger towards God in the wake of such tragedy is quite normal. If you want to see evidence of this, of humans wrestling with God in anger and heartbreak, pick up and read the psalms.
The question of where is God when the earthquake/tsunami/plane crash/epidemic happens is as old as humanity. Theologians have wrestled with it and have all sorts of theories. The truth, of course, is that none of us really knows why such things happen, but they do. Tragedy and disaster are woven into the very fabric of life. I don’t know why this is and I wish it was not so, but I do not believe it is the will of God. I believe that when violent death happens, as William Sloane Coffin said at his own son’s funeral, “God’s heart was the first to break”. And I believe that God comes alongside us in our pain, our anger, our grief. In Jesus Christ, we know that God has experienced and endured human pain and grief, that God understands it. And in Jesus Christ we know that pain, suffering, and tragedy, while very real, do not have the last word–that God and love have the very last word.
In the meantime, we are called to seek and serve Christ in each other. In this situation, for most of us that means supporting relief agencies as we are able. For some of us it may mean being part of a disaster relief team. For all of us it means holding the people of Nepal and those who are working for relief agencies in prayer.
Compassionate God… Draw near to us in this time of sorrow and anguish, comfort those who mourn, strengthen those who are weary, encourage those in despair, and lead us all to fullness of life; through the same Jesus Christ, our Savior and Redeemer, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God for ever and ever. Amen
— Holy Women, Holy Men: Celebrating the Saints (Church Publishing: New York), page 733
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