The Day After

Yesterday we all watched in sadness and horror as the news poured in from Las Vegas:  59 people killed and over 500 wounded in the worst mass shooting in U.S. History.

As I listened to the interviews of the eye-witnesses to this unspeakable tragedy,  I heard more than one survivor say, "We are lucky to be alive..." Many survivors spoke of seeing people shot all around them, and yet they were untouched.

And then one woman said, "God was watching over us."

I wondered at that moment what the families of those who were killed would think about her statement.  Was God not watching over the people who were killed?  All those many who were injured?

It's questions like these that quickly lead to other questions like: If God was watching at all, then why didn't God do something to stop this shooting before it happened?

This is one of the many moments in my life when my faith is going to have to live in tension with my doubt.  Faith and doubt are constant companions, as it turns out.

More than a few faithful people have lived in this tension.  

The Russian novelist Dostoyevsky, who was a Christian, once wrote, "The death of a single infant calls into question the existence of God."  

Once when Billy Graham was asked if he believes after he dies he will hear God say to him, "Well done, good and faithful servant," he paused and said, "I hope so."

Martin Luther, the great reformer, was approached by a woman who was plagued with doubt.  He asked her, "When you recite the creeds--do you believe them?"  She said, "Yes, most certainly."  "Then go in peace," Luther told her, "You believe more and better than I do."

Elie Wiesel, the great Jewish author and Holocaust survivor described his faith as "wounded."  He wrote, "My tradition teaches that no heart is as whole as a broken heart, and I would say that no faith is as solid as a wounded faith."

So, I believe and I doubt.  I find moments where I feel God all around me so heavily that it feels like I am clothed in Him.  And then there are moments where I wonder if God is there at all.

We've all had our doubts in the past and tried to reconcile them.   Maybe not very well.  Some of us have had tragedy strike us.  We've lost a spouse, a child, a loved one.  And we have tried in vain to find some reason, some purpose in the suffering---but we're failing.

Some of us have begged God for answers, for some sign that God is there--and all we have received in turn is silence, and we are beginning to wonder if there is anyone out there who is even listening.

In the book of James, we have this good word of encouragement
5 If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. 6 But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind.
Here's a way to translate this passage into language that will help us understand it a bit better:
"If you are struggling with doubt and you can't seem to understand what God is up to, or if God is there, or if God loves you--then pray.  God doesn't look down on you if you are doubting--even if you don't completely believe in God.  But here's the thing:  When you pray, you can do it wholeheartedly with the expectation that God will be there, will answer and will come through in the end. Because the alternative is a life where every single bad thing that happens to you makes you feel like you are bobbing up and down on the ocean waves during a huge storm."  
Sisters and brothers---may the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with us all today and always.  Amen.


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