A particularly horrifying event occurred on Sunday morning at the Pittsburgh Zoo (full story here). A 2 year old boy fell into the African Painted Dog pen and was attacked by the pack of dogs; he died. It is reported that the mother of the child had put him up on the railing to see the pack of dogs. He lost his balance and fell. There is no mother (or father) out there that won’t immediately imagine and feel the pain and horror and suffering the mother is experiencing now. In fact, as the report goes, the mother is currently heavily sedated; I would want to be sedated, too.
Such a tragedy is too much for us to handle. If the comments on Facebook and Twitter are any indication, rather than grieving with this poor mother, the instinct is to levy blame and hurl accusations. We have to convince ourselves that we could have avoided such a thing, that we would never have allowed our child to drop. We are so scared of something like this happening to us that we will believe the boldest of lies: I am too smart/capable/responsible to ever let something like that happen to me.
Of course, none of us can be so certain, and that’s the shaky ground we stand on. Events like this remind us, painfully and shockingly, that we are not in control. This life can produce unimaginable suffering, suffering so intense that the only temporal relief is prescribed medication. As hard as it can be to believe at times such as this, events like this also remind us that there is One who is in control, one who bore the full, tragic weight of the brokenness of the whole world, and delivered a final verdict to pain and suffering, blame and accusation. Our hope, even/especially in times of excruciating pain and grief, is Jesus Christ.
When truly horrible events happen, we do not have to run from or build intellectual straw-men out of blame and accusation to protect ourselves. Rather, because of what Christ has done for us, we can weep with this woman, this mother, and we can deeply empathize with her sorrow and grief and pain; for this is the epitome of Christian love resembling Christ’s love for us. As Tullian Tchividjian writes in the introduction to Glorious Ruin: How Suffering Sets You Free:
We may not ever fully understand why God allows the suffering that devastates our lives. We may not ever find the right answers to how we’ll dig ourselves out. There may not be any silver lining, especially not in the ways we would like. But we don’t need answers as much as we need God’s presence in and through the suffering itself. For the life of the believer, one thing is beautifully and abundantly true: God’s chief concern in your suffering is to be with you and be Himself for you.