Like many parents, I’ve sent my kindergartener to school recently with a pit in my stomach. Horror of the recent school shooting has ripped across the nation in the last week. My mind is preoccupied with terror.
My kindergartener attends a small, Christian private school attached to our local PCA church, a setup not unlike the Covenant School in Nashville. Tragically, on a recent Monday morning three small elementary school children and three adults were the innocent victims of a senseless massacre carried out by a troubled individual.
Tragedy brings us to our knees, asking questions that seem to have no real answers. Who is God in the face of evil? Where is God, when pain crushes us? Does God see innocents suffer, yet decide not to act? If so, does this threaten God’s goodness?
When our third child, a son, was born with a set of fatal birth defects, I found myself asking these questions. To see a child suffer is an extremely painful experience. While our son is miraculously still living, his medical chart reads death. There have been nights that I expect to wake up and find that our son had died in the night. David struggles to eat, and struggles to breathe. I witness his pain, helpless to act.
A child’s suffering bears unique witness to the pain of a fallen world. Here are two truths to illuminate our darkest nights.
God answers the question of pain in the person of Jesus.
Christ incarnate–his life, death and resurrection–fixes the puzzle of pain.
Christ, our Passover Lamb, turns death to life. He turns our mourning into dancing. He turns our tears into laughter. He turns our pain into the joy of his presence. Pain has an answer, and an end, in the person of Jesus.
The presence of Christ is not a feeling we chase but a person who’s chased us. Christ walked through death’s door, and he came back. He ripped the veil that separated heaven and earth. He has made a way through his body, broken on Calvary. Whoever knocks, it shall be opened to him. We “re-member” ourselves with Christ when we take the Eucharist.
Jesus is present with the suffering, because he suffered. Jesus is present with the dying, because he died. We can trust God that we will be raised to new life, because Christ went before us on that Easter morning, two thousand years ago.
My children are safe in the arms of their shepherd, even unto their deaths. I can trust that my children will not be alone when they take their last breath, because Christ has promised never to leave nor forsake the lambs in his care.
Death cannot hold those that are in Christ. Death’s door leads home.
God says, “Justice is Mine.”
Where is justice when a child dies alone, victim of a horrible crime, or dies quietly in a hospital bed, victim of a dark disease? Why do the bad get what’s good, and the good get what’s bad?
Our ancient rebellion against God in the garden cursed us with death. We groan under the weight of sin. God’s holiness demands a penalty. The wages of sin is death. Christ, the one truly innocent person ever to live–our true Adam–did what the first Adam could not do. In keeping God’s perfect law, yet giving himself up for his sheep, Christ reversed sin’s curse. Christ made a way for the suffering and oppressed to receive true justice. Christ put back to right an ancient wrong.
There will be a day when justice rolls down like water, righteousness in an ever-flowing stream. On that last day, that terrible day of judgment, God will sit on his throne and deliver the oppressed from their bondage. The captor, that prince of darkness and his demons, will be thrown forever into the pit. Christians from across time will praise God with one voice.
Those under Christ’s banner have been purchased with his holy blood. Things will be put to rights. Those who transgress the laws of God will pay. We can rest and rejoice in God’s justice as Christians, because of the finished work of Christ. We have been delivered.
I think of those little bodies lying still now, their sides bearing the wounds of death. Two thousand years ago, Christ lay cold in a stone tomb, wounds in his side. On that blessed Easter Sunday, the world turned upside down. Jesus began to breathe, and the earth sang.
Someday, on that last, final and terrible day, those little hearts in now still bodies will begin to beat. Raised to new life, with one voice, we will proclaim the battle cry of the saints. Worthy is the lamb!