The God who cries when children die

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“The history of our world is the history of our suffering together. Every act of evil extracts a tear from God, every plunge into anguish extracts a sob from God. But the history of our world is the history of our deliverance together. God’s work to release himself from his suffering is his work to deliver the world from its agony; our struggle for joy and justice is our struggle to relieve God’s sorrow. When God’s cup of suffering is full, our world’s redemption is fulfilled. Until justice and peace embrace, God’s dance of joy is delayed (91).”

Our God cries when children die.

The above quote captures this brilliantly on a day when unthinkable tragedy has taken place. It may be the most profound statement on suffering that I have ever read.

For those of us who recognize YHWH as fully revealed in Jesus Christ as one who meets humanity in their suffering, who experiences the full wrath of the powers of evil with us; his anguish reminds us of our coming deliverance. Rather than claiming,this was God’s will or God knows best or God has a plan for everything; Nicholas Wolterstorff, the author of Lament for a Son, rightly reminds us of a God who is trulywith us and is opposed to evil.

The world of Wolterstorff is a world that we are all well acquainted with on this painful day of violence in Connecticut. This is a world of loss. A world of instability. Today we grieve in light of such a world where a troubled young man can get to the point where he willfully murders children and educators.

Yet, we followers of Jesus believe that this is also a world filled with the hope that all things in creation will be set right at the return of Christ. “When the writer of Revelation spoke of the coming of the day of shalom, he did not say that on that day we would live at peace with death. He said that on that day ‘there will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away” (63). This tension gives us hope, but if we are not careful, can give us a way to gloss over legitimate grief.

Until the day when “all things will be made new,” Wolterstorff reminds us that death is not beautiful or a reality to be hyper-spiritualized to ignore the reality of its sting; “death is awful, demonic” (34). Scripture makes clear that the “…last enemy to be destroyed is death” (1 Cor. 15.26). It is a power that brings grief, which makes the reality of today less fulfilled. To give easy answers to those who grieve would be to water down biblical theology and to offer “…ways of not looking death and pain in the face, ways of turning away from death out there to one’s own inner ‘grief process’ and then, on that, laying on the heavy hand of rationality” (54).

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When we, as the body of Christ, care for our grieving sisters and brothers, we must not turn to simple fixes offered in self-help books or answers emerging from such philosophies; rather, we have the opportunity to help others find joy amidst the demonic pain of death. We can guide others to not ignore the evil of death, but to also honor the memory of those who have been lost by living in light of their life – which was stolen from them.

As we lament the loss of these precious 20 children and several adults, may we refuse to offer easy answers. As we pray, console, question, and cry, we are invited to throw our whole selves into the loving arms of a Father who feels our pain in solidarity with us. Remember these simple but truthful words: “Every act of evil extracts a tear from God.”


Kurt Willems (M.Div., Fresno Pacific) is an Anabaptist writer preparing for a church planting project with the Brethren in Christ. He writes at: the Pangea Blog and is also on Twitter and Facebook.

Photo Credit: AP Photo/Newtown Bee, Shannon Hicks

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About the Author

Kurt Willems

Kurt WillemsKurt Willems (M.Div., Fresno Pacific) is the founding pastor of Pangea Communities - a movement of peace, justice, & hope. The church plant, in partnership with the Brethren in Christ and Urban Expression, is based in Seattle, Wa. Kurt writes at The Pangea Blog and is also on TwitterFacebook, and Google+.View all posts by Kurt Willems →

  • http://www.facebook.com/otro.tierra Otro Tierra

    Thank you Kurt Willems. Jesus and the Greatest Commandment are greater than Mike Huckabee’s pagan justifications of child sacrifice.

    • 22044

      When you keep making false slams on servants of Christ on these boards, just because you disagree with their politics, that behavior is disgusting and incompatible with a living walk with Jesus, and your words are empty. Take the logs out of your own eyes buddy.

      • http://www.facebook.com/otro.tierra Otro Tierra

        The left/right dichotomy you insist upon is still absent in my post, as is your “false slam” brouhaha. As for your self-professed sickness, disgust, and steady streams of condemnation—maybe you could find other ways to invest your energy?

        • 22044

          I never reply to others like I did to you. I do regret that I did, though (because you don’t appear interested). Oh well. Live and learn.

    • http://snommelp.tumblr.com/ Snommelp

      Huckabee’s comments were brought up nowhere in this post, so I see no reason to bring them up in the comments. If you want to complain about Huckabee, there are plenty of sites doing that already. I will not defend Huckabee, and I will not condemn him. This post is not about him. Stop trying to stir up trouble. We have enough of it already.

      • 22044

        Thank you. It makes me sad that this could be a page for Christians to pray, grieve, & banter together, but Otro would like to ruin it with (you say it well)…her troublemaking.

        • http://snommelp.tumblr.com/ Snommelp

          22044, please don’t take this the wrong way, but looking at these comments, it looks like you’re encouraging Otro. Defending Huckabee, calling Otro a liar and sick… all that’s going to do is prompt Otro to defend her/himself, dragging us further into a discussion about what Huckabee said. Not that I can blame you for responding as you did, because it’s natural to jump to the defense of the people and politicians you agree with, but please, let it go. Let’s not let Otro make this about something other than how we as faithful Christians can respond to this tragedy with love and hope.

          • 22044

            Fair enough. I stand by those points but I will say no more.

          • http://snommelp.tumblr.com/ Snommelp

            Many thanks. And for what it’s worth, you don’t have to go far into my comment history to see me biting at flamebait. We are none of us perfect.

          • http://snommelp.tumblr.com/ Snommelp

            Just saw your edit. In the interest of bringing everyone up to speed, here’s what Huckabee said: “It’s an interesting thing. We ask why there’s violence in our schools
            but we’ve systematically removed God from our schools. Should we be so surprised that schools would become a place of carnage? Because we’ve made it a place where we do not want to talk about eternity, life, what responsibility means, accountability. That we’re not just going to have to be accountable to the police, if they catch us, but we stand one day before a holy God in judgment… Maybe we ought to let [God] in on the front end and we would not have to call him to show up when it’s all said and done at the back end.” Huckabee has since gone on to clarify his statement.

          • 22044

            Thanks. Me neither. In fairness, I did make that edit after you replied.

          • http://www.facebook.com/otro.tierra Otro Tierra

            Huckabee is now changing the target of his vitriol. First, the children had to die because Huckabee imagined God was absent in public schools and that scared him. Now, children had to die because of imaginary government-funded abortion pills. This is from Huckabee, and this is the deceptive gospel he is spreading.

          • http://snommelp.tumblr.com/ Snommelp

            Otro, did you read what I wrote? Go complain about Huckabee somewhere else. I’m not interested.

          • http://www.facebook.com/otro.tierra Otro Tierra

            You sure seem interested for someone claiming not to be.

          • http://snommelp.tumblr.com/ Snommelp

            Then you definitely haven’t read what I wrote.

          • http://www.facebook.com/otro.tierra Otro Tierra

            Yet your posts continue…

          • http://snommelp.tumblr.com/ Snommelp

            Yes. My posts continued because you didn’t seem to grasp that I don’t want to talk about Huckabee, and so I felt the need to make it abundantly clear. You still haven’t gotten it, but it seems you aren’t going to get it, so you’ll get your wish: I’ll start ignoring you now.

          • http://www.facebook.com/otro.tierra Otro Tierra

            This is your fifth time to mention Huckabee on this thread. Curious, isn’t it?

  • MLK

    Thank-you Otro Tierra for making this a left/right issue. Disgusting.

    • 22044

      Amen.

    • http://www.facebook.com/otro.tierra Otro Tierra

      The left/right dichotomy you seek is nowhere in my post. Perhaps you need to process and project your disgust elsewhere.

      • 22044

        Yes it is, when you proudly & falsely accuse Mike Huckabee. Do you know that God hates liars? You’re sick.

        • http://www.facebook.com/otro.tierra Otro Tierra

          The left/right dichotomy you are obsessing over is nowhere in my post. I’m sorry this is causing you difficulty and sickness.

          • 22044

            No obsession, just noticing your troublemaking. If you want to apologize, it needs to be for that. But I have no hope that you will repent. Too bad.

  • http://snommelp.tumblr.com/ Snommelp

    Thank you, Kurt, for reminding us (or showing us for the first time) what Wolterstorff brought to the table. It’s so tempting to jump to the easy answer – we all want to have the “right” answer, don’t we?

    • 22044

      I hope you do stick around.

  • http://www.facebook.com/cfogarty1964 Chris Fogarty

    I came to this site because my brother linked this article on face book. I then went to the wiki to see what this red letter stuff was all about. This is what I found.

    “Red-Letter Christians constitute a non-denominational movement within Christianity. Proponents of the movement believe that Christianity, and especially evangelicalism, has been exploited by both right-wing and left-wing political movements and become too partisan and politicized. As a response they endeavor to create an evangelical movement that focuses on the teachings of Jesus Christ, particularly in regard to social issues. The two most prominent figures associated with the movement are Jim Wallis and Tony Campolo.[1]”

    After reading a number of posts. I believe it is safe to say that this site’s owners need to correct the wiki, or they have horribly failed in their mission to transcend political partisanship. From what I gather, this site constitutes simply another denomination replete with sanctimonious partisan rants or holier than thou posturing.

    A recuring theme seems also to be a collection of diatribes in which the authors seem self excluded from the epistle or artificially above the fray. Religion and Christianity appear as irrelevant today as they were 2000 years ago.The end result here is the manifestation of a self-righteous sect that lacks any semblance to humility, compassion, and a genuine sense of service to humanity.

    A remain a committed non believer.

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