RELIGION: Bringing to God our pain and grief

As a nation we react with deep pain and sorrow at the horror of the mass murders that took place in Orlando, Florida.

I am a pastor, not a politician, so I will not attempt to offer political opinions about what happened or why it happened or what legal actions should be taken in response.  What I can offer is pastoral care in response to such evil and such tragedy.

The most important thing I can tell you is that God cares deeply about you and about the grief and fear and anger you may feel in the face of this tragedy and injustice.

In an article in “Theology, News & Notes,” Laurie Ruth Wheeler writes about the importance of bringing to God our pain and grief.  She recounts the advice of the Jewish author Chaim Potok: “At some synagogues around the world, it is still a custom that during a Saturday Sabbath worship, if a person has a complaint against God, he can interrupt the service to walk to the front and scream it into the ark, until the rabbi gently leads him away and worship continues.  For Jews, faithful worship includes protest.

“Chaim Potok was telling this to a group of Norwegian pastors, and they were very uneasy with the idea that one would scream at God.  They discussed it for quite some time.  Finally, one after another, these pastors approached Potok and said that they wished they’d known this a year ago.  A year before, there was a terrible ferry disaster.  A number of people had been killed.  ‘When our parishioners came to us with their anger and their questions, we didn’t know what to do.  We wish we would have known.  We wish we could have told them to remain before God and protest.”

God doesn’t want to leave you alone in your sorrow, pain, or anger, but wants to come alongside of you in it.  He lovingly will receive your outpouring of anger and questions.  So go ahead and pour out your heart honestly to God.

The second thing I would tell you is that God is good even in the midst of this world’s evil, and God is committed to working for good even in the worst of situations.

I did not keep a record of who shared this story, but I’ve kept a copy of this story because it means so much to me:

“I know one minister who returned to his pulpit ten days after his son committed suicide.  Under duress he read his text: ‘And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28).’  Visibly struggling, he said, ‘I cannot make my son’s suicide fit into this passage.  It’s impossible for me to see how anything good can come out of it.  Yet I realize that I only see in part.  I only know in part.

“‘It’s like the miracle of the shipyard.  Almost every part of our great oceangoing vessels are made of steel.  If you take any single part—be it a steel plate out of the hull or the huge rudder—and throw it into the ocean, it will sink.  Steel doesn’t float!  But when the shipbuilders are finished, when the last plate has been riveted in place, then that massive steel ship is virtually unsinkable.

“‘Taken by itself, my son’s suicide is senseless.  Throw it into the sea of Romans 8:28, and it sinks.  Still, I believe that when the Eternal Shipbuilder has finally finished, when God has worked out His perfect design, even this senseless tragedy will somehow work to our eternal good.’”

What took place in Orlando was horrifying, but God has not left the planet.  God is not overcome by that act of evil or any other acts of evil.  Instead, God will overcome the evil with His good.  Even in the midst of our sorrow and anger, hold onto the God of good and to the good of God.

Tom Tripp is the Pastor at the First Presbyterian Church of Colusa. Pastor Tripp can be reached by e-mail at: tomtripp@frontiernet.net

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Tom Tripp is the Pastor at the First Presbyterian Church of Colusa. Pastor Tripp can be reached by e-mail at: tomtripp@frontiernet.net