April 17, 2013

The Boston Bombings: Madness and Meaning


On tax deadline day, someone hid bombs near the finish line of the Boston Marathon. The bombs exploded, killing three people and severely wounding many, many more. The investigation continues at all levels of law enforcement.

Those are some of the facts, but it’s maddening that these clear words have been used over and over in news reports to summarize a truth that is founded in someone’s madness, in someone’s evil thinking and evil deeds.

The madness of the bomber or bombers makes clear (as if we needed more clarity!) that no corner of our Earth is free from the deadly madness that some call insanity, others call terrorism, and some call sin.

What is the meaning in all of this?

Christians should resist the temptation to try to explain these horrific events in a context of “why God allows things like this to happen.” Honestly, not one of us really knows why God allows things like this to happen. We should stop saying, suggesting, or implying we know. We don’t know. We should not feel under any obligation to explain what happened in Boston in Monday. We can’t explain it, and we need to be honest enough to say so.

Not knowing does not invalidate our faith. Those who love God have numerous accounts of how God’s love has been and expressed in their lives. Those accounts remain true, even after the bombings.

We can take some meaning from these types of events.

It’s not enough to say: “Well, these types of events happen often in other countries. Why should we be exempt from attacks happening here?” No matter where bombs are exploding and killing innocent civilians, the pain totals in the world have risen. That’s a bad thing and should never become a benchmark of anything worth knowing.


Image is from madisonvpf.org

We can pray for those who live and for those who have died. We can pray for the physicians, nurses, responders, and others who are working or have worked with the injured and fallen. We can lift those who remain in loving prayer and ask God to comfort their hearts and give them direction to grieve, mourn, and rebuild their lives.

We can remember this world offers no place of total safety. The battle against evil is real and lasts as long as we walk the Earth. The joys we find in life must be treasured fully.

We can accept the times we live in as less stable and more unpredictable than many of us ever dreamed. We can’t go back to the pre 9/11 world in which the oceans protected North America from military attacks. That world is gone forever, because just as we have become wiser and stronger, so have our enemies.

We must accept that many who live in the United States are unnaturally angry against the government, against those unlike themselves, against any effort or movement that brings different types of people together. All foes are not overseas speaking languages most of us don’t know.

We can remember what it’s so easy to forget: we get a little time in this life, and then we move beyond. We did not choose the time of our coming into the world, and most of us will not choose the time of our departure. We can only choose how we will spend the years in between. We can commit ourselves to wise choices, to wisely using the time, energy, and resources given to us by God.

We can know and experience God with us. God is with us in the actions and words of those who love us, who encourage us, who care for us. In a way we cannot always define, God is with us, present in a mysteriously real way that cannot be imitated or explained away.

In all of life’s experiences, God holds out open arms, ready to love us and ready to receive us—now and always.

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