“We live in a crazy world,” I told my class near the beginning of a class period.
“One of you asked if I had heard of the truck bombing and I thought I had, but I wasn’t sure if it was from last week or this week. Then I looked it up. Two hundred and seventy people died and it just sounded an awful lot like several other events. We live in a world where it is possible to be uncertain if a tragedy like this is news or something from a couple of weeks ago.”
This particular class period, we were reflecting on the Ignatian theme of finding God in all things. It is easy to find God in bits of beauty–in the sunset, the splendor of fall foliage, or the smile of a newborn. The difficulty is found in seeing the face of God in tragedy–the shooting in Las Vegas, the 9/11 attacks, or the truck bombing in Somalia.
Practice makes perfect, though, right? Or, at least, better?
So our class time was spent in small groups brainstorming a few tragedies and then considering how we can see God in the midst of these situations. I challenged them to go beyond the cliché lines they hear or the standard Theology class answers. Instead, I wanted them to delve into these painful situations and to truly seek the face of God.
This class period had the most somber tone of all my classes and I found myself telling them that I viewed this exercise in a hopeful way. Yes, we were talking about a loved one being diagnosed with cancer, terrorist attacks, natural disasters, and struggles in relationships, but we were doing so because we believe God can be found even there. Perhaps, especially there.
After a group presented how they found God in a particular situation, I opened it up to the entire class. Time after time, I asked, “Anything else? Any other ways you can see God in that situation?” There wasn’t a particular answer I wanted from them, I just wanted them to deeply reflect on all the possible ways God could be found in difficulty. My hope was that if they did this while a bit removed from some situations, they will be able to try to do it in the midst of suffering. I want them to remember that God can be found in all suffering. And I want them to know it in a visceral, heart-wrenching way and not simply a pat answer on a Theology exam. Continue reading “Seeking the Face of God, Even in Tragedy”