In tragic events around the world, children routinely find themselves to be helpless victims – whether through natural disasters, wars, human trafficking, or rampages by killers. In recent months, I think of three horrifying events involving children (but there are so many, many more):

#1 – On May 26th, the shelling attack on Houla, a group of villages northwest of the central city of Homs, killed more than 90 people, including at least 32 children under the age of 10. Reports said many had stab wounds or shots to the head. “Some of the victims were hit by heavy artillery while others, entire families, were massacred,” said a member of the Syrian National Council.

(In a June 2012 United Nations report on Syria, it said children as young as 9 years old have been victims of killing and maiming, arbitrary arrest, detention, torture, and sexual violence, and have been used as human shields. Most child victims of torture described being beaten, blindfolded, subjected to stress positions, whipped with heavy electrical cables, scarred by cigarette burns and in one case subjected to electrical shock to the genitals, the report said.)

#2 – On May 28th, a fire in the Villagio Mall in Doha, Qatar claimed the lives of 19 people, including 13 children.

I have been in this beautiful mall many times. I love Doha, the Qatari people, and the large ex-patriate population that works there. This was very sad to me, particularly the loss of children – including a set of triplets.

#3 – Just 2 nights ago on July 20th, the world was again horrified when a lone gunman went into a movie theatre in Aurora, Colorado and went on an evil rampage killing 12 and wounding 58. It was among the worst mass shootings in American history. Some of these victims were children.

Our family has been to this theatre many times. (One of our relatives was supposed to be there that night but there was a change in his work schedule!)

When these tragedies occur – especially when children suffer and die – what are we to think?

To my Muslim readers and friends, when you hear of events like this, how do you react? I know you believe God rules the universe but how do you respond in your heart and mind? How does “inshallah” and “mashallah” – thoughts about the will of God – affect your thinking? Is it “harram” (“forbidden” for my Christian readers) to question God in times like this? Even to raise questions while still maintaining deep respect for Him?

To my Christian readers and friends, when tragedies occur, what do you think and feel? Do you say, “The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised” (from Job 1:21)? Or do you blame everything like this on Satan and his demons? Do you believe God “permitted” it? Is it “sinful” to question God in such tragedies?

So the subject of this blog post are the questions people often ask during tragedies:

Where was God?

How could He let this happen?

Is God good but not ultimately in control?

Is God in control but not ultimately good?

Even with all the wisdom in my Bible, I still don’t pretend to understand these deep issues of life and death on this planet. Honestly. . .I struggle.

But a few years ago I came across a book by Joni Earickson Tada and Steve Estes entitled When God Weeps that has helped me understand just a little bit about suffering and tragedy from a Biblical perspective. About the one, true God who is completely loving and completely powerful (totally in control).

Here is an Amazon book review of When God Weeps:

“If God is loving, why is there suffering? What’s the difference between permitting something and ordaining it? When bad things happen, who’s behind them–God or the devil? When suffering touches our lives, questions like these suddenly demand an answer. From our perspective, suffering doesn’t make sense, especially when we believe in a loving and just God. After more than thirty years in a wheelchair, Joni Eareckson Tada’s intimate experience with suffering gives her a special understanding of God’s intentions for us in our pain. In When God Weeps, she and lifelong friend Steven Estes probe beyond glib answers that fail us in our time of deepest need. Instead, with firmness and compassion, they reveal a God big enough to understand our suffering, wise enough to allow it, and powerful enough to use it for a greater good than we can ever imagine.”

What do you think?

Syria, Doha, & Aurora Colorado.

When people – especially children – suffer and die, where is God?