Have you ever been at a child’s funeral where the clergy attempted to be consoling by saying something like, “Everything happens for a reason? We don’t know now why God needed another angel in heaven, but we trust God’s will and ways.” Would you find this comforting to think that God would predetermine the time, means and place of a child’s death? Would you want to love that kind of God?
When I was a twenty-three-year-old associate minister serving a 2,000 member church in the South, a young girl in my confirmation class went to a neighborhood shopping mall with a friend. Her name, let’s say, was Lindy. She got picked up by a man in his twenties, who lured her to his mobile home and gave her grain alcohol in coca cola. She drank it like a soda and died of alcohol poisoning. It was a terrific shock to everyone who knew her and her mother, who was very active in the church. How could something so heartbreaking happen to such a young girl and a great mother? I remember looking at Lindy, a beautiful little blond with short pink painted fingernails, lying so still in an open casket at the vigil in the funeral parlor on the evening before her funeral.
My colleague and senior minister did not believe in predestination. He also did not believe that God was an Absentee Landlord, having once created the universe and then left it on its own. The truth is somewhere in between. People have free will, after all, and are free to do evil things to one another. So, he did not say that Lindy was plucked by God from earth to be another rose in God’s celestial garden. Everything does not happen for a reason.
However, here is where faith comes into the picture. God can bring good out of awful situations and suffering. Many have been taken aback by the violence in France over the past few days. Where is God? “God is in the helpers,” Fred Rogers said. His mother said to him as a child, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.” Where is the good? It is in the solidarity in response to the terrorists. Witness the massive protests. Every world leader and their mother, except the United States leaders, rallied for solidarity in Paris. Je Suis Charlie. Nous Sommes Tous Charlie. We Are All Charlie.