Church was beginning, the band hit their first beat, and the congregation stood up to sing an upbeat song about God. It was two days ago, Sunday, a typical weekend service. I was feeling anything but upbeat.
Earlier that morning, I’d read the first news reports about the victims of last week’s shooting in Aurora, just an hour north of here. While every life counts, I was particularly affected by the mom in critical condition in the ICU who kept asking if her six-year-old daughter was all right. Of course, if you’ve seen the news at all, you know she wasn’t all right. She was dead. And no one could bring themselves to tell the mom.
I could relate too well. I have two daughters and now a granddaughter. Having something horrible happen to them is my worst nightmare.
Then there was the man who was celebrating his 27th birthday by going to the movies. He and his wife were planning to celebrate their first wedding anniversary that Sunday. And now she’s a widow. They weren’t even given one year together.
Our worship team was singing about God being stronger, greater than anything the world throws at us. I know, deep inside, that God is good, that God is kind. That He’s more powerful than any evil out there. But at that moment, I did not see the goodness or kindness of God.
Finally, I had to sit down and pray. God, where were you when this young woman was losing her new husband? How is a six-year-old dying a sign of your love and care? How can such pain coexist with a loving God?
I prayed for the families and friends. I prayed for the injured still in the hospital, hanging to life by a thread. And I asked God to show me, once again, that He really is good and kind.
The music ended on a quieter note, and our pastor got up to introduce communion. In the quiet I heard God whisper:
I was despised and rejected by mankind,
a man of suffering, and familiar with pain.
As the pastor spoke about the bread symbolizing Jesus’ body broken for us, I heard:
Surely I took up your pain
and bore your suffering.
He lifted the cup, Jesus blood shed for our sins, loving us so much that he took God’s condemnation in our place.
I was pierced for your transgressions,
I was crushed for your iniquities;
We filed through the aisles, picking up our little wafer and tiny cup of juice, returning to our seats and holding it all until everyone had been served.
The Lord has laid on Me
the iniquity of you all.
We took communion together, the bread and the cup.
And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.
And I began to see anew the limitless love that God has for each of us.
Yes, there remains evil in the world. The kingdom of God has only begun. Someday Jesus will return to usher in the kingdom in all its fullness. Then there will be no more tears.
For now, He cries with us.