March 21, 2014

The Rev. Rodney B. Weaver: Where is God

— How will this play out?

A northern female (a native of Detroit, Mich.) comes to a small Southern town called Dalton. This female has now been arrested for the death of a convenience store worker. Known for being the Carpet Capital of the World, Dalton now has the distinction of being the location of a horrific murder.  

The suspected culprit is now in custody at a local jail. The case will play out in the criminal justice system. But its ramifications have caused Daltonians to pause and think about street safety and personal protection. During the 48-hour ordeal (from the time of the reported murder to the apprehension of the suspected culprit), law enforcement officials worked diligently, investigating and seeking to find the suspected culprit. Gratitude is extended to them for their hard work.

During the time before the suspected culprit was apprehended, our concerns focused on our loved ones and their safety within their homes, on their jobs and in their everyday activities. Deaths of this graphic nature and magnitude are not commonplace in Dalton. It is in other places, cities, municipalities that we hear of such. But we had to pause and recognize that in our town, bad things, sometimes very bad things, do happen here.

How does this challenge us from a spiritual perspective? We pray for our nation, our city, our schools, our churches and our loved ones. We ask God to be the protector that we know he is. We request that he be with us in our daily activities. But just what if God does not answer our prayers in the exact way that we desire?  What if he decides against what we think is best? What if his plans are not consistent with our plans? We recognize God’s infinite power, but often we don’t like how he uses it.

It is not our desire to see anyone die for a violent cause (whether by accident or by a malicious murder). It is not our desire, but more often than not we have to admit these things do happen. How can we see God in tragedies such as this, especially when it is so close to home? Our thinking is that those tragedies are supposed to happen in other places. But in reality, these things do happen in our neighborhoods.

Where is God when these things happen? What is he trying to tell us? Are we living right? Are we doing our best? Are we trying hard enough to be good stewards of his world? Just what is he saying?

Elderly persons often say, “We will understand it better bye and bye.” Well, why can’t we get the understanding now? What is wrong with us being able to comprehend the meaning of life right now?

This age-old question has been the debate of many theologians, philosophers, preachers, teachers and common everyday men for ages. From Socrates to the social media, this question still reigns. The answer baffles us. But in spite of not knowing the answer, we still keep busy living. We still keep busy on our jobs, raising our kids, paying our taxes, loving each other, with the hope that crime will be no more. We pray that the art of negotiation and reconciliation will overrule war. We pray that our love for each other will overrule our dislike for others. We pray that we will be able to coexist on this planet so that in the afterlife we will be able to coexist eternally.

So how will this play out? How will we be able to see the lesson that God has in store for us through this event? We stand awaiting his judgment and to see how this will play out.

Rodney Weaver is the pastor of Alexander Chapel United Methodist Church. His column appears the fourth Saturday of the month.