When tragedy strikes, when school children are mowed down by a gun-toting maniac, when runners and bystanders are killed or injured by home-made bombs, when a fertilizer plant explodes, wreaking death and destruction, the question is often asked, "Where is God in this horror? Where was God when my children, my wife, my friend, was the victim of intentional or accidental violence?".
In her book, "Here If You Need Me,’ Kate Braestrup, who serves as the chaplain for search-and-rescue missions with the Maine Forest Warden Service, talks about facing that question from the parents of a child who drowns after breaking through the ice on a woodland pond; from the man whose elderly mother is missing for the fifth day in a forest near her home; from the friend of a young man killed while trying to cross a river above a waterfall.
In answer, Ms. Braestrup points to the forest wardens and dog handlers who are into their fifth day of searching the woods in a freezing rain; to the riders from a nearby stable who patrol the bridle paths looking for the missing woman; to the volunteers who work around the clock cooking chili and spaghetti and pancakes to feed the searchers; to the high school soccer team whose members left their weekend practice to join in the search. "God is not a slippery rock or an icy pond," she writes. "God is not injury or suffering or death. God is justice and kindness, mercy and always -- always -- love. So if you want to know where God is, in this or any situation, look for love."
So where was God in the mayhem that turned the Boston Marathon into a tragedy? God was in the dozens of police and emergency workers and bystanders who rushed to help the injured. God was in the people who showed up at the hospitals wanting to donate blood. God was in the tears and prayers of strangers, in the people who gave stranded runners the taxi fare to get home, the use of a cell phone, a free meal, a place to stay. God was in all the loving, caring heroic actions performed that day and in the days to follow.
God is not bombs or guns or explosions or violence. If you want to know where God is, in any situation, look for love.