Searching for answers during bad times

Worship services are held in the March Air Reserve Base Chapel each unit training assembly weekend. (U.S. Air Force photo/ Megan Just)

Worship services are held in the March Air Reserve Base Chapel each unit training assembly weekend. (U.S. Air Force photo/ Megan Just)

MARCH AIR RESERVE BASE, CALIF. -- In the aftermath of the Aurora, Colorado, shooting, people across the nation began trying to make sense of this truly senseless act. Of course, some people immediately needed answers about friends and loved ones living nearby:

Were they at the movie theater that night? If so, are they ok?

Police agencies, too, were quickly looking for answers:

Who was this kid? What motivated him to commit such a horrible crime?

By Sunday morning, talk show hosts were asking expert guests, politicians and panelists even larger questions:

Are our gun laws too loose? How could our legal system have allowed this in the first place?

There is no doubt that questions will continue to asked and explanations demanded.

When innocent lives are impacted, whether by natural disasters, or even worse, random acts of horrendous violence, people naturally ask the main questions:

Why do bad things happen to good people? Why did God allow this to happen?

Unfortunately, explanations to these kinds of questions elude us. In the Bible, we read the very sad story of Job, described as the most righteous person living during his time, but who experiences terrible tragedies, and for no fathomable reason. The story becomes more uncomfortable when Job's consoling companions, who rightly first sit silent for a time, begin offering up explanations for his plight. Job was grossly disrespected by his clueless friends who constantly preached to him about his misfortune.

When assuming the role of comforter, I find that less talking and more listening is often the best approach when counseling. While it can be incredibly tempting to offer a 'word of wisdom' to someone who has experienced senseless tragedy (perhaps losing a child, or dealing with loved-one's suicide, or suffering the effects of an accident or natural disaster), silence is almost always golden. Furthermore, when it is finally time for me to speak, I stick with what I know. I talk about the importance of friends and family as a means of strength and reassurance.

In my current position, I regularly come in contact with those who have suffered similar losses, so I maintain an updated source-list comprised of organizations that specialize in these situations. Of course I reinforce this with talk about the incredible love God has for us -- how he absolutely hates evil and does not wish it on anyone.

For me, dangerous territory starts when I venture off into areas clear beyond my realm, that only God understands, by attempting to give meaning to the meaningless with answers that cannot be found. Keep your faith. God bless!