(Romans 8:31-32, 35, 38-39)
I started to write these words the day after 19 children and 2 teachers were murdered in Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas. Once again beautiful precious lives of young children and their teachers have been taken away in a place where they should always be safe.
When I first heard this news, I sobbed uncontrollably for a while and then tried to pray. But no words would come. I’m still struggling as to how to pray. Yet these thoughts are helping me to live with this awful reality right now.
First, the words from Paul’s letter to the Romans (above) came to mind. I’ve read them at perhaps 100 funerals and memorial services over more than 50 years of ministry. To me they speak of God’s love and care for us in the direst of circumstances in which we find ourselves. They can be words of assurance for people of faith and others looking for hope at the times of the deaths of dear loved ones and other great sorrows we may have to bear. I trust they might give you comfort in this time too.
Second, I urge you to return to Sarah Henthorn’s devotion here just a week ago where she addressed her anguish in the aftermath of the killings of Black Americans in the supermarket in Buffalo. Of course, they are words that very much continue to address us today after Uvalde is added to this horrible list of mass murders. For me, Sarah’s words are a powerful testimony as to why lament is a faithful response in times like these. I urge you to linger there long enough to follow Sarah’s invitation to write your own commitments and renunciations in the Comments section.
Third, in agonizing times like this, for many of us, our bodies, minds, and souls cry out for some way to understand why this keeps happening in our country.
For us as people of faith, we ask why God could let this happen. I’m asking that question again myself.
Recently I finished reading Richard Rohr’s book The Universal Christ: How a Forgotten Reality Can Change Everything We See, Hope For, and Believe for the first time. In this book, Father Rohr explains how God in Jesus “transforms all human suffering by identifying completely with the human predicament and standing in full solidarity with it from beginning to end.” This, he says, is the “real meaning of the crucifixion. The cross is not just a singular event. It’s a statement from God that reality has a cruciform pattern.” (p.147, paperback)
As I understand Rohr here, he is saying that in Jesus, God joins us completely in all the sufferings we have in this life. And that would include such terrible suffering as has happened personally in the lives of those who have lost loved ones in these mass murders, as well as the suffering that many of us feel for the horrors we are witnessing.
Jesus’ resurrection leads us to our resurrections as we seek to live faithfully as we are “freed from the endless cycle of projecting our pain elsewhere or remaining trapped in it.” Rohr continues, “This is the fully resurrected life, the only way to be happy, free, loving and therefore ‘saved.’” (p.147, paperback)
I’m still pondering Richard Rohr’s full explanation of how God meets us in our suffering, but right now if feels like the best answer I’ve received to this point in my life. It brings me comfort and assurance in this time. I hope it might be a consolation for you too. (Rohr’s fuller explanation of what I have said above comes from Chapter 12, “Why Did Jesus Die?” pp. 139-158, paperback)
For now, my prayer is short and anguished.
Come, Lord Jesus Christ, and stay with us all our life long. Amen.