Saffie Rose was only eight. Its easy to imagine the overflowing exuberance as she and her mum exited with the thronging crowd at 10:30pm Manchester time. You’ve probably seen her photo and noted her smiling innocence – a selfie taken just before the Ariana Grande concert – Saffie’s first and last concert.
They didn’t hear the explosion – just its devastating effects. As Saffie lay dying, cradled in the arms of a first-aider, she called out for her mum.
She was the youngest of the twenty two victims of a terrorist’s bomb.
Bolts. Nuts. Nails. Embedded into the bodies of the injured.
Where was God at Manchester?
The town of Newtown, Connecticut was reeling from the senseless slaughter of twenty first-graders and six of their teachers and staff members at Sandy Hook Elementary School. First. Graders. Twenty.
The weekend after Christmas 2012, Philip Yancey was invited to address the community.
Yancy is the author of Disappointment With God – a book chronicling the trauma of unexpected tragedy and chronic suffering. He’s become a go-to guy for answers to life’s horrendous suffering.
A final question came from the audience on his last night in Newtown, and it was the one he most did not want to hear: “Will God protect my child?”
A Loving God
Yancey stayed silent for what seemed like minutes. More than anything he wanted to answer with authority, “Yes! Of course God will protect you. Let me read you some promises from the Bible.” He knew, though, that behind him on the same platform, twenty six candles were flickering in memory of victims, proof that we have no immunity from the effects of a broken planet.
At last he said, “No, I’m sorry, I can’t promise that.”
God provides support and solidarity, yes, but not protection – at least not the kind of protection we desperately long for.
A loving God evidently prefers not to prevent every instance of evil or natural disaster, no matter how grievous.
When I think of Saffie – and think of her I must or face the imminent danger of becoming numbed and apathetic towards evil – I recall the story of a young mom and the death of her infant.
She went to her church, seeking solace through the eucharist. The officiating priest, recognizing her and being aware of her loss, whispered to her before offering her communion, “God had nothing to do with the death of your baby.”
She hissed back at him, “Then I want nothing to do with God.”
With such heartbreaking loss, God’s involvement was all that she could cling to. Indifference or impotence were unacceptable in deity.
We have only the stubborn hope – so different from naive optimism – that the story of Jesus, which includes both death and resurrection, gives a bright clue to what God will do for the entire planet.
What did God have to do with Manchester?
Everything. The evil and the good.
The symbol of the cross of Jesus – the instrument of torturous death – adorns churches and is worn around the necks of millions of believers as young or younger than Saffie.
Jesus holds outs the love of God in a broken world. “Dying He saved me, buried He carried my sins far away, rising He justified, freely forever.”
APPLICATION: Trust God. Hold your loved ones tight. Restore broken relationships. Overcome evil with good. Thanks for reading. Please leave a comment below.
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