A group of Canadian boys were en route to the game we love in the way thousands of hockey teams travel every year in Canada when the unthinkable occurred. A team bus filled with 29 Junior hockey players (ages 16 - 21), coaches, personal and a bus driver collided with a semi-truck at around 5:00 p.m. on Friday, April 6th, 2018. To date 16 people are dead and one player is paralyzed from the waist down. This tragedy has captured the hearts and minds of Canadians. As a nation we are grieving in solidarity. But what about the "God" question?
God is good... A statement that is intrinsically true. However. It. Feels. Removed. From. Reality. It feels hollow in moments like these.
But is it?
When the claim that God is Good is hinged to the view that "God is in control" we are beholden to an irreconcilable theological dance. In this dance we are left only to condemn God or ignore the depths of evil's grip on the everyday world. When we live in privilege it means we can turn the channel, walk away or remove ourselves from the tension. Events like the Humboldt tragedy take this privilege from us. They force us to look tragedy straight in the eyes and face how out of control tragedy makes us feel. They force us to ask ourselves how an all-powerful God can be good when such horrific, unintended and meaningless loss strike and spin so many innocent lives out of their orbit. Some forever lost. Some. Forever. Spun. Out. Of. Control.
Until tragedy hits this hard or this close we are not faced with the depth of struggle necessary to challenge our thinking. We can declare "God is in control" not aware of the depth of impact of evil on another and by doing so potentially diminish the goodness of God in the world. How can God that is good give permission for evil to run wild and still be good if he is in control? Does this not diminish his goodness and love of all that is beautiful, lovely and good? Does God not tarnish his own character if he is in control?
Is there another perspective on goodness and control?
It is true that love cannot coexist with control. To love is to let go of control. Choice is ours because God loves and we often choose poorly or selfishly. We choose that which is not good. Yet, God is good. This idea of true love giving choice is scalable... whether it is your choices or mine, the choices of people, hockey teams or nations. It can be choices for good or evil that have direct impact on individuals or groups not involved in the choice. Pain and loss can still strike people who make good choices too... because of other's poor choices directly or indirectly over time and space. If we allow truth to embrace us we eventually discover that we cannot make enough good choices to outrun evil during our life.
That. Moment. Is. A. Sobering. Moment.
Hostile forces to God and all that God loves, and all that is beautiful and lovely exist on earth. God is all powerful but he is also true to himself. His power is restrained by his love; he does not use power to usurp his own integrity. To consider a world where God is not in control is unnerving for most and to open that door of thought can destabilize one's foundation of hope...so most avoid considering it. Until moments like Humboldt. But hope is not lost if God is not in control. What we really see, if we open ourselves to the possibility, is that God's goodness is transformed into being a masterful redeemer.
The biblical stories come at us one after another earmarking the way of redemption. His goodness is core therefore he can make beauty from ashes, joy from sorrow and hope from hopelessness. God is able to take our brokenness, poor choices, poor choices of others that hurt us, our tragedies and losses and turn them into good. Romans 8:28 "He works all things together for good for those who love him..."
But. That. Is. On. The. Other. Side. Of. Grief.
God took the cross that was willed by wicked men and turned it into the center piece for human redemption. His goodness is not left in the trite camp of "God is in control" but rather in the spacious field that acknowledges that life is difficult, painful, full of loss and that tragedy can strike anyone of us and is real. However, when we surrender to God's goodness, after we acknowledge the reality of evil, His goodness can and will emerge through the cracks in evil and its crusty influence on us.
God's redemption has marched through history unwavering, creating a path through the dense forest of evil and it won't stop! We are once again humbled by the tragedy of Humboldt. We are reminded in these moments how frail we are and that we are not in control. We think we need a God who is in control but we need a God who is broken-hearted with us. And. That. He. Is.