Days like today are hard. The bombings that ripped through a busy airport and metro station in Brussels this morning keep taking me back to memories I would rather not visit, but it can’t be helped. These events are happening more frequently these days and with them comes a foreboding sense that it’s only a matter of time before it hits close to home again, though thankfully it has been years since my mind has been daily imagining the worst.
But still it creeps in, usually unexpectedly… A news report, a photo in my newsfeed, a passing conversation. This morning it came on my commute… music giving way to somber voices retelling the horrific details of the attacks an ocean away. And so today my heart breaks for the people of Brussels- their chaos, their fear, and their uncertainty.
But this I can say for certain…
In the midst of the carnage, God was there.
He was in the airport.
He was in the metro.
He was there.
If He was there, why didn’t He stop it? Why would He let this happen? Is He so cruel and aloof and detached that He just did not care? He could have stopped it, so why didn’t He?
I ask these questions now on behalf of those people in Brussels, because 15 years ago it was me asking them- standing under a blackened sky, smelling the acrid smell that haunted me for months, and hearing ambulances and firetrucks in the distance.
If He was there, why didn’t He stop it?
I pleaded for weeks as I dodged ash that drifted in the air, as I avoided the countless posters of missing people in subway stations, and as I stared at the twisted metal that feebly reached for the sky.
Why would He let this happen?
I asked as I laid in bed at night, feeling the room gently shaking in response to the digging being done mere blocks away or while watching the two beams of light shooting into the sky at the onset of dusk.
Is He so cruel and aloof and detached that He just did not care?
I pondered as I sat behind a woman on a bus a year later… a woman I recognized from tv the night before when I saw her recounting her story. That same woman sitting in the seat in front of me, whose arm was wrapped up, yet the scars creeped from beneath the cloth to betray her story.
He could have stopped it, so why didn’t He?
And after fifteen years of asking… this is what I can tell you.
I don’t know.
I don’t know the mind of God. I don’t know the details of His plan and I don’t know why some are saved and some are chosen to die. But this I know… He has a plan. It was set in motion at the foundation of the world and it climaxed on the cross (The very event we celebrate this week), but the story isn’t over and bad things still happen.
So today, was He detached? No. Was He surprised? No. Did it hurt Him? Yes. Was it pointless? No. Somewhere in Brussels there are people crying out to God, running to His comfort, and seeking His peace. Yes, some hearts will be hardened, but even more will be touched. He will provide. He will carry burdens. He will comfort. I know because I have 15 years of experience to prove it. And if 15 years has taught me anything it is that time moves on… sometimes drudgingly and sometimes swiftly, but move on it does, the tempo of a drum we can’t hear, but know deep in ourselves that it beats us ever forward. And while much like that woman’s arm, the scars remain, they are made easier by our Father in Heaven. His grace, His provision, His faithfulness has been ever present since that day, even when I have been too distracted to take note.
So tonight my prayers are for Brussels. They are for the parents’ that fear for their children. They are for the husbands and wives that grieve their spouses. They are for the sons and daughters that did not get to say goodbye. May the God of Heaven and Earth be their comfort. May He dry their eyes. May He carry their load. May He heal their hearts. And may He draw them ever closer to Himself.
For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. Isaiah 55:8-9 (ESV)