As I write this article, I am on a plane flying back from Brazil after training up young missionaries serving in urban slums. Experiencing third world poverty can do a real number on you and your faith. It can make you ask; “Where is God in all of this? Why doesn’t our Father God do something to help these poor hungry children?”
I had the same experience while walking the slums in Mexico and the Dominican Republic, and while visiting survivor camps in Haiti after the horrible earthquake that took place in 2010. Now, as I sit here on Flight AA 992, my mind has slowed down only to envision what took place on Highways 35 and 335 in rural Saskatchewan, as a bus carrying the Humboldt Jr A hockey team was crushed by a truck, killing 16 people on board. Like most families in our beloved country, I feel a special bond to these precious young men and team staff who are now gone, and I feel for their families and friends dealing with such a devastating loss. It was only last year that my son travelled frequently in a Coach Bus with his college hockey team on the very same Saskatchewan roads as these young men did.
I will never comprehend or understand what Sean Brandow, the team chaplain of the Humboldt Broncos, is going through right now. He arrived on the scene of the accident shortly after the crash took place. At the team vigil he shared his pain, saying:
“Where was God? All I saw was darkness. All I saw was hurt and anguish and fear and confusion. And I had nothing. Nothing.”
I appreciate Mr. Brandow’s honesty, and he echoes what many of us also feel. Where is God at these times?
This is the world we live in—where wonderful kingdom of God things are present, but at the same time dark, senseless tragedies take place.
Truth be told, terrible accidents and the reality of hungry children living in Brazilian slums are a real problem for those of us who espouse that God is controlling every detail of our universe. If this is the case, then what kind of God would orchestrate such tragedies and injustice? “Ah”, some reply, “God didn’t do it. He only allows accidents and world hunger to take place for his glory.” If that is the case, then the question is still relevant—what kind of God would allow these things to happen and how do they glorify him? Either way, God is implicit in senseless tragedies and horrible inequalities!
As someone who deals with horrible injustice and evil, I cannot accept the idea of a micromanager God. What I do know is this — God is a loving God, and love never overpowers people’s ability of freedom of choice. Adam freely chose evil, and through his choice sin entered the world with all of its accompanying chaos and darkness, allowing satanic and demonic powers to be unleashed. This is on Adam and us, not God. Ever since this happened, we, and even creation, groan for the fullness of the reign of God through Christ that is not fully here… yet (See Romans 8: 22, 23).
This is the world we live in—where wonderful kingdom of God things are present, but at the same time dark, senseless tragedies take place. God is all-powerful, his reign is expanding, but until Christ returns, the presence of sin means that God is not fully in control. So we cannot blame God for tragedies and injustice, but we can lean on God to get us through tough times as Jesus promised: “In this life you will face trials of all sorts. Take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33).
I am comforted to know that everyone who suffers injustice, physical and emotional pain, and undeserved death, is a child of God. God is their father too, and I believe he, like the mothers and fathers of the young men killed in this accident, weeps and continues to grieve with all those affected by such tragedies. God is the hidden Father who was with those boys in Saskatchewan before, during and after the accident. He was there comforting them all along. He does the same with us.
God is love. One day things will be perfect, and we, like the creation affected by sin, long for that day, but for now we work with God in the extension of his kingdom reign until Jesus returns. Tonight, I will join hundreds of thousands of Canadians and put my hockey stick out on our porch in honour of these young, hockey-loving boys, and in anticipation for the day when death and darkness, weeping and grieving will be no more. Come, Lord Jesus, come!