Monday, December 17, 2012

Peace at the Center of Chaos

I've waited to write a "Pause in Advent" post this week. It is hard to find peace in Advent, while our minds slog through the grief of Sandy Hook School.
"Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you," Jesus said.  "Not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful."
We live in a broken world. We are part of a system that is intrinsically flawed, a machine that rattles and clunks along because it does not work, a body riddled with disease in every part. This is our norm; we know nothing else.

Yet still, when the brokenness flares up at its worst, and evil rises as it did in Connecticut, we cry out to God, "No!" and "Why?" Our very souls know that death and separation are wrong.

Many people think events like this are not God's will -- that they fall outside His control and purview. This view says God could not intervene to prevent this violence, even if He wanted to. This view has the comforting effect of allowing people to think that God did not cause, allow, or will their suffering. It has the uncomfortable effect of meaning He also did not, and cannot in the future, do anything to prevent any suffering. Why pray? If God is not stronger than one lunatic with a gun, I'm not sure what He is, but He's not much of a god. A God too weak to save a handful of kids from one madman could certainly not be trusted to save my soul from Satan.

The other view is difficult too -- that God is able to prevent suffering, even the murder of children. The agonizing parents cannot embrace this, that God could have stopped this horror, and He chose not to. They find this option so appalling that they turn to the first view instead. Thus, there is no comfort for those who suffer in this world.

Is it that hopeless? Did Jesus lie to us when He said, "My peace I give to you"? How is His peace not like the world's peace? Jesus's peace is calm in the middle of chaos, peace in the face of death.  His inner peace was able to forgive those who were murdering Him. He knew what they did not -- what even Satan did not know -- that the violence was a planned, necessary part of God's will for the world. This gave Him peace.

We accept this truth blandly enough when it applies to a man being crucified 2000 years ago. We struggle against it when it affects us. Can we whisper to our tortured souls: "This violence is a planned, necessary part of God's will for those children, for their families, for our world"?

Of course not.  Those words are too hard for the grieving families to swallow.  But that does not make them any less true.  We may well ask, "God! Hey You! What kind of messed up plan do you have, that would include such an atrocity?" And He may well reply, "If I did not choose to tell anyone in the universe about my plan of salvation requiring the gruesome murder of My own Son at your hands, I may also choose not to tell you how these other deaths are in my plan."

We need a radically different perspective on our existence, and the existence of all humans, including those children. We are here, not for our own satisfaction, but as part of God's will and plan for eternity. That's all I can say. For all of us, our lives on this planet are the tiniest prelude in that plan, and our lives in eternity are the vastly larger part. These little children began their eternal portions of life earlier than expected.

The grief, the separation, is an agony. It should not be this way. And it will not be this way, in eternity, on God's New Earth. The separation is temporary -- part of the brief prelude. Is that any comfort? I hope so.


  1. Thank you for such gentle, well-reasoned and faithful words. I need to think about them - I am sure that I agree with most of them but I wonder if I have a question or two... as I said, I need to think more. I have just posted my own thoughts about watching my children grow up, which isn't always easy, but of course at the back of my mind is the knowledge that it is a wonderful blessing to see them growing up at all.

  2. I believe that God's heart breaks for all the pain and evil that has been let loose. To stand back and wait for the end of this time. Agonising. To trust His people on earth. Frustrating? To know that he has dispatched his own child to agonising death alone...


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