A God Worth Worshiping: Reflections on Newtown
By: Brad Masters //
I realize this is a much more serious article than maybe our audience expects. But I feel that the events of today demand some respectful reflection.
I fell asleep on the couch last night as I’m wont to do, still wearing my (now-wrinkled) slacks, dress shirt, and tie from the Mormon Tabernacle Choir Christmas Concert. Within minutes of waking, I had learned the devastating news that 20 innocent children had been executed in a Kindergarten class in Newtown, Connecticut. Pure, unadulterated, inexplicable evil. I spent most of the morning gaping, reeling, and praying. My private pain turned to a quiet query, which I believe I share with many across the Nation: Where is God? And why didn’t he prevent this?
I believe God exists and is acutely aware of our struggles. But days like today are really tough to swallow. The recurrent “problem of evil” can feel so heavy that the all-too-common response that “God allows evil to test and try us” paints a picture of a dishonorable deity. Paul promised us God would never tempt anyone beyond their ability to withstand, so unless these pitiable parents in Newtown are spiritual supermen or superwomen, how can this be okay?
As I sat, reflecting, I took comfort in what my Mormon faith has taught me about God’s nature. We believe that every person on this earth is a spiritual son or daughter of God. God is quite literally our Father in Heaven and earnestly yearns for our well-being, just as any parent, indeed more than any other parent. He has given us life so we can grow, recognizing that any child learning to walk will sometimes stumble, any heart learning to love will sometimes grieve. His joys are ours, and so, too, are His pains.
Nowhere is this more clear than in one of our books of scripture known as the Pearl of Great Price. Enoch, a prophet, is given a vision of Satan laughing at the evil he provokes, rejoicing in the darkness he causes through sin and hatred. Amidst this, Enoch beholds God: “And it came to pass that the God of heaven looked upon the residue of the people, and he wept.” Curious, Enoch asked how someone as holy and eternal as God has the capacity to weep. God’s response is perfect and transformative:
“The Lord said unto Enoch: Behold these thy brethren; they are the workmanship of mine own hands, and I gave unto them their knowledge, in the day I created them; and in the Garden of Eden, gave I unto man his agency; And unto thy brethren have I said, and also given commandment, that they should love one another, and that they should choose me, their Father; but behold, they are without affection, and they hate their own blood . . . wherefore should not the heavens weep, seeing these shall suffer?”
As Terryl and Fiona Givens, two LDS writers, wrote in their new book The God Who Weeps: “God’s pain is as infinite as His love. He weeps because he feels compassion . . . He will share in all our sorrows. But He also shares in all our triumphs and joys. For He has set His heart upon us.” Often, the vengeful, destructive Jehovah of the Old Testament pushes out of our minds our weeping, vulnerable Heavenly Father. But it is this attribute of God to which my thoughts are most directed on days like this, when I think to myself: “This is a tough day for God.”
If we’re here to grow, then maybe God can’t prevent every tragedy from happening. A child prevented from learning to walk for fear of a stumble would never run. A heart kept from love for fear of grief would forever remain empty. God allows us to make our own decisions because that is how we progress. But as we witnessed today, that freedom has high costs. Understanding God’s extreme capacity for empathy, I almost feel that he, too, would benefit from our prayers.
So where is God, today? Weeping alongside twenty sets of devastated parents in Newtown, Connecticut. And that makes Him a God worth worshiping.