It is in times of tragedy that we find that the “God” we have created in our own image simply will not work.
As news continues to break about the killings at Sandy Hook elementary school, I have attempted to follow Romans 12:15, “Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn” and Hebrews 13:3, “Continue to remember those in prison as if you were together with them in prison, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering.”
But I can’t do it.
I’m too fickle.
Right now, after the U.S.’s latest mass killing, I know there are 26 families whose hearts have been crushed. Because of our country’s advanced media, I can know the names and see the pictures.
But I am unable to keep them in my heart.
I pray for them, and I remind myself of them, but then I go about my daily activities. I fix meals and do laundry, I write articles, I carpool and help with homework.
All good, all necessary.
But I also slip into ingratitude. I find myself frustrated with the amount of laundry my family produces and the daily question of “What’s for dinner?” Four kids try to talk over each other at the dinner table, and I think, “I don’t want to deal with this.”
But even as I think that, I know there are 20 families that would love to be dealing with this right now. They long to be making lunches for all their kids, to be doing mundane tasks like writing a grocery list and thinking about Christmas gifts for teachers.
Yet I lose my gratitude over the tiniest, silliest little things.
And I will do this again and again.
For the last several days and for the next week or so we have been and will be faced with these 26 families, but then we will forget.
We are good at forgetting. It’s a survival tactic, a way to pretend that things are okay.
We know they aren’t. Even when we are in the lulls between tragedies—when this summer’s killing in the movie theater faded from front and center and the mass killing in Sandy Hook hadn’t yet happened—things were not right, not here in the U.S. and not all across the world. Injustice is rampant.
I cannot hold all that sorrow.
In the book (and movie) The Secret Life of Bees, there is a character named May who feels others’ sorrows as if they are her own. May’s sisters shield her from the radio and television because a 15-second report of an abuse or death or injustice will make her wail with heartfelt pain.
At the end of the movie May gives up. “I can’t do this anymore,” she writes to her sisters. “I can’t carry any more pain.”
I can’t either. None of us can. So most of us choose not to even try. We don’t continue to pray. We don’t mourn. We distract ourselves with fun or with frustration.
But not God.
Tragedies like this remind me that I really, really don’t want a God who is like me.
And this time of year, with nativities all around my home, reminds me that He is not.
The all-powerful, completely just, sovereign God of this universe chose to remember us. He chose to put on flesh. He chose to touch lepers and wander homeless and attend funerals and befriend women and children. He chose to be “a Man of sorrows, acquainted with grief” to show us that God the righteous is also Savior, Redeemer, and Friend.
And He chose to die so that we might actually know this God who never forgets, never forsakes, never loses interest in us.
I will forget.
God will not.