By SUSAN K. SMITH
Crazy Faith Ministries
The latest mass shooting, this one resulting in the deaths of at least two people on Monday at a Walmart in Oklahoma, left me fumbling with my faith as I tried to figure out the answer to the question I was asked, “Why doesn’t God do something?”
The question had actually come over the weekend from a young person who was watching incredulously as the report of the shooting committed by a teen at his school on his 16th birthday in Santa Clarita, California, followed by yet another one at a party being held in Fresno, California.
The young person was angry – at God. “Why doesn’t God do something,” she demanded, tears filling her eyes. “I am watching these mass shootings, I am watching police officers abuse black people just because they can, I am watching the president of the United States lying almost every day about … everything, and I am watching rich people in government doing practically nothing to stop all this craziness. Isn’t God supposed to stop evil from happening? Why doesn’t God do something?
I had no answer. By “doing something” this young woman clarified that she meant that if the government wouldn’t do anything to stop the shootings, then God should. “I don’t know,” she said. “God could make the guns jam, or God could change somebody’s heart, couldn’t He? So that people who think gun laws are the wrong way to go would think a different way. God could do that, couldn’t he?”
It turns out that this young woman was not only mortified over what was happening in the country. She was also grieving; she had recently lost her mother to cancer. Her mom had fought a good fight but had lost, dying a horrific and painful death.
“My mother went to church every Sunday. She helped everybody. She never bothered anybody … and now she’s dead. When she was sick, the church ladies told me to pray and I did. So did my mother. But she died anyway. I’m not understanding God.”
I knew better than to offer her platitudes and lame clichés. She needed answers that I frankly did not have.
It is true that many, in history, have wondered about the whereabouts of God, and about the way God works. It has seemed that God, as author William R. Jones wrote in his book Is God a White Racist? has been too often on the side of those who oppress people. God was searched for and yearned for by enslaved Africans; God was searched and yearned for by Jews during the Holocaust. It is safe to assume that people in war-torn countries search for God, that people living in extreme poverty are looking for God, that people who are critically ill with no health insurance are also…looking for God. Not a God of mere presence but a God of action, a God who makes all things work for the good of those who say they love God. They are looking and have looked throughout history for the mighty hand of God in the midst of abject evil, making the most evil stop in their tracks and easing the suffering of so many.
But that God seems absent to a lot of people.
A woman expressed to me that she is tired of people talking about “God sitting on the throne.” “We need God, if God is in fact sitting in some chair somewhere, to get up and come to us,” she said, muttering that only God could stop some of the evil that is affecting so many people. “I grew up in church,” she said, “went to church every Sunday with my grandmama. I know all the good church stuff to say about God, but sometimes, we need God to do something in real time. It seems like people doing evil things are given free reign, and we who are affected have to bear it, relying on a testimony down the road where we express how we got over.”
“Sometimes, we want to “get over” in real time,” she said.
The holiday season is always difficult for people who are suffering. It is portrayed as a time of happiness, warmth, and freedom from want for all people. But the fact is, there are people who are dreading the holiday season and who are fed up with a God that they think has been too lenient with those who wreck other peoples’ lives. They want answers to their nagging questions; they want rest in a weary land, but they don’t see it coming.
After the young girl expressed to me her frustrations over what she perceives as the absence of God, I asked her what she in totality wants God to do.
And she said, “Just be God … and make all this suffering stop. If my Sunday school lessons are to be believed, then God can do that. Just like God made the plagues come against Pharaoh. I just need God … to be God … and do something.
Rev. Dr. Susan K. Smith is the founder and director of Crazy Faith Ministries. Her latest book, Rest for the Justice-Seeking Soul, is now available through Barnes and Noble and Amazon. She is available for speaking. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.