I have been struck, however, on several of the stories at the difference between the reaction of the news reporters covering the story and of the actual people hurt the most by the horrific acts.
From the outside, looking in, we don’t have the same vantage point as those encircled by the fires of heartache.
Again and again, as has been the habit for millennia, the question is asked “Why?”
“Why did he shoot those people, people he had never met?”
“Why did she kill all of her babies and hide them in the garage?”
“Why did the fire start and get out of control so quickly, before they could get out?”
“Why did they leave a bomb to hurt so many strangers?”
“Why did the tornado come so quickly and destroy so much?”
And in the pain and grief that turns to anger so it doesn’t consume the sufferer, the question invariably turns to one final query:
“Why would God allow this to happen? Why would he let this happen to me?”
For many years I have had the thought process that it isn’t very productive or helpful to ask why in these circumstances. It just happened. It was horrible. Now, what do we need to do to move forward? How do we help each other to heal?
But, not surprisingly, I think I may have been a little shortsighted.
I always associated asking why with the need to find someone to blame. Somehow, if we knew who was really responsible then we could express righteous anger. Somehow it allowed the asker to make sure that he/she was in the right and in no way responsible for the tragedy.
There may be something to that. Certainly there are cases when those hurt by these situations were partly or fully responsible; just as there are cases when those hurt had nothing to do with it and are completely innocent.
Either way, I struggled to see how that helped people to move on and do what needed to be done.
I guess it matters why we are asking why and what we do with the answer we receive.
I go back to the news reports seen earlier this week and the differences noted between the interviewers and the interviewees.
The reporters were shocked and sickened at what they were reporting. They should be. We all should be.
But one report has stuck with me. It didn’t end with everyone feeling helpless and hopeless and angry and frustrated.
It actually left me feeling hopeful, like there was something I could do.
When closing up the interview, the reporter said “Please know that our hearts and prayers go out to you during this very difficult time.”
And the woman who had lost both her father and her son responded “Thank you for your prayers. We feel them and they are what are getting us through. Please keep praying.”
Instead of being angry with the God who had allowed this random act of insanity and evil to completely change her life forever, never to be the same again, she was clinging to the support she felt was coming in her greatest time of need. She asked the rest of us to soften our hearts as well and quietly kneel and petition for help, for healing, for love to fill the pain ravaged hearts.
And in this case I found myself asking “why.”
“Why does this woman demonstrate such composure?”
“Why is she not filled with anger and venom at the man who took the lives of her family?”
“Why does she know that God is with her, and not against her?”
It’s the answers to these questions that ring true to me and bring peace to my soul in the middle of what could only be described as hell. I certainly understand the frustration of the crowd looking in, not understanding the senselessness.
But when I close my eyes and ask for help for them, for healing, for love, something within me changes. For a moment, I am invited inside the circle of fire and I get to see a close and personal view of her suffering. I expect her to be looking back out, desperate for help. But she is not. I change my view to match hers.
I look not outwardly at those looking in, but up.
I now see what she sees.
And I understand why.
When we ask “why” in the spirit of desperation, frustration, and anger, we generally keep asking until we find the answer we are looking for. But it can be a fruitless search because often there really is no “why.” Well, not a “why” that would satisfy our need to understand. No explanation would be enough.
When we ask “why” in the spirit of compassion, humility, and with a quietly broken heart, we inevitably look up. We may not understand any more than we did before we asked, but we remember that we are not alone.
And it is enough.
Years later, when we can look back without all the pain, more often than not we see the person we used to be.
It surprises us a little how different that person is from the one we have become.
And while we would never wish our experience or experiences on our worst enemy, we find that we need to swallow once or twice and may brush at the tear in the corner of our eye as we recognize what has happened to us since.
Why can we be made into better, stronger, happier people after going through unimaginable difficulty?
Because He can take senseless, random, hurtful acts and create a path out, a path that saves us from getting stuck there. Our faith is stronger than our fear. Our love is stronger than our anger. From the ashes we emerge as fine steel.
And we are a little more ready the next time the storms come.