Providence Church Blog A gospel-centered church in Austin, Tx


God on Boylston Street

At 2:43 PM last Monday, I took out my iPhone and made a 13 second video of the finish line. I was standing on the northeast corner of Exeter and Boylston in Boston. My wife had completed the marathon a few minutes before, so I was taking in the atmosphere around the finish line before I went to meet up with her. I was proud of her, amazed that anyone could run 26 miles. There was no hurry, because she would be tied up for the next hour … rehydrating, getting a massage, basking in the glory of finishing the world’s most prestigious marathon. So, I sauntered slowly eastward on Boylston Street. I paused at the finish line and watched more runners cross. They were exhausted, but jubilant … and I was happy for them. Somewhere on Boylston Street, I unknowingly walked past a backpack that contained a pressure cooker filled with explosives, nails, and ball-bearings. I may have also passed Tamerlan Tsarnaev on the sidewalk, but I’ll never know that for sure. After watching a few more runners receive their medals, I decided to move on. At the next corner, a barricade forced me to take a left onto Dartmouth Street, so I headed north on Dartmouth. Probably 20 seconds after I had turned the corner, I heard a loud boom that shook the ground. I froze, not knowing what had just happened. A few seconds later, another boom, and I saw white smoke rising over the buildings. Distraught people came running around the corner. It was 2:49 PM.

In the hours that followed, I kept thinking, “God protected me. His hand was on me. I missed the explosion by a matter of minutes, so he must have led me away from the bomb site just in time.” But even as I thought these things, I wrestled with another thought; a thought that disturbed me: “Was God’s hand not also on those people who were injured or killed by the explosions? Had he deserted them?” This is one of the most difficult theological questions that can be asked. Where is God in the midst of evil and suffering? Is he only present and active in our lives when we are kept safe from harm … when we experience goodness and blessing in life? Was my safety and deliverance from harm evidence that God had guided me on Boylston Street in a way that he had not guided others? It was a haunting question. A question I couldn’t seem to answer. And then it came to me on Wednesday morning. At the risk of sounding cliché, the answer to my question is found in … Jesus. Let me explain.

Jesus, more than anyone in human history, suffered as an innocent. He, who had only demonstrated love and goodness in his life, experienced the full brunt of evil and injustice. And catch this: God’s hand was on him through it all. Jesus was perfectly at the center of the Father’s will, even when he was suffering. What does this mean for us? It means that suffering does not indicate the absence of God. It means that God is with us in the midst of suffering. Jesus is the fulfillment of Psalm 23:4, “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me.” The only reason we can know for sure that God is with us through evil and suffering is that the Son of God waded into a broken world, experienced suffering himself, and overcame it. The death and resurrection of Jesus Christ does not eliminate all suffering now, but it does guarantee that suffering will one day be eliminated ultimately when he comes again. The death and resurrection of Jesus tells us that God has not ignored evil and suffering, but that he has done something decisively about it. God has dealt a final blow to death by raising Jesus from the dead, and one day there will be no more death and suffering.

So, if I had died or been badly injured on Monday, God would no less have been with me. My safety and security are gifts from God, for which I am most certainly thankful. But my safety and security are not the litmus test of his presence and goodness. His presence and goodness are evidenced by the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, who “took up our pain and bore our suffering (Isaiah 53:4).” Make no mistake: What happened in Boston is evil and we should weep over it. I am grieving with those who suffered on Boylston Street. And I am also praying for them. Part of my prayer for them is that they would know that God is with them. That, in the midst of their suffering, they would experience his presence in a way that maybe they never have before. That they would be joined to Jesus by faith, and along with Jesus they would experience this promised reality: “After he has suffered, he will see the light of life and be satisfied (Isaiah 53:11).”


15 Comments Post a comment

  1. April 19, 2013 at 7:40 pm

    Wow what a great post Todd. Somewhat ironic or God led that as I was just sending a message my church’s Pastor posted about the events in Boston to my 15 year old daughter trying to comfort her and explain God’s part in all this (she is out of town on a school trip) I ran across your Post. I have thought about your parent’s and what great leaders and Christian role models they were for our Youth Group at John Knox in Middle School and now I will use your words as well to reassure my daughter of God’s love for us and just to give her some peace during all of this. Hope all is well with you and your family. Stephanie Nichols Husmann

    · Reply
    • April 20, 2013 at 9:14 am

      Stephanie, great to hear from you! The John Knox days were good ones, although I can’t believe how many years have passed. I also have a teenage daughter (14), and I think it is especially challenging helping kids process all this awfulness. Blessings to you and your family.

      · Reply
  2. April 19, 2013 at 8:00 pm

    Thank you, Todd. I enjoyed reading this very much! Especially because the author is a friend!

    · Reply
  3. April 19, 2013 at 9:06 pm

    Reblogging, we are so thankful for you Todd!

    · Reply
  4. April 20, 2013 at 12:37 am

    Thanks for writing this. Even though you wrote it based on the events from Boston I wanted you to know it ministered to me and I shared it with my husband. You see, our 13 year old daughter was diagnosed less than 3 months ago with a fast growing, rare, advanced stage ovarian cancer. We are in the middle of chemo treatments right now. I know God is with us and sustaining us through this but there is always that lingering question. Why our baby girl? God did not cause this. Satan is at work and evil exists in the world and our baby girl has been touched by this horrible disease. But God will see us through to the end and He is there to comfort and provide peace and strength through this season. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

    · Reply
    • April 20, 2013 at 9:19 am

      ST, I’m so sorry to hear about your daughter. Having 3 daughters of my own, I can’t imagine what you are feeling and going through. I will pray for you and your husband and your daughter as you deal with what must be a whirlwind of emotion and complex issues. May the Lord meet you in peace and strength.

      · Reply
  5. April 20, 2013 at 3:16 pm

    Todd,

    Thank you for telling your story!!

    I work with college students and am constantly asked how they can see God and Jesus actively working in their lives. This is simply beautiful!!!

    Jeremiah 29:11-13

    · Reply
  6. April 20, 2013 at 7:22 pm

    Hey Todd, thanks for the post!

    I’d like to push you on something, if you don’t mind. You say that “God’s hand was on him [Jesus] through it all.”
    It seems to me that this statement runs counter to “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?”

    How do you reconcile the two?

    Thanks!

    · Reply
    • April 20, 2013 at 8:02 pm

      It’s a good point, Karl, and thanks for raising it. When I re-read the post again last night, I was actually thinking about that and I was bothered by it. Wish I’d been a little more theologically precise on that point. I think I was simply trying to say that Jesus suffered within the will of God and God was still his Father, just as we may suffer within the will of God and still have God as our Father. 1 Peter 2:23 says, “When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly.” So Jesus trusted the Father through the midst of his suffering. I guess it’s more precise to say that, on the cross, God’s hand was on Jesus wrathfully…God was judging the sin of the world. However, the cross is unique. Because of it, we never have to see suffering the same again. Because of Christ’s death on the cross and his resurrection, we now know that God’s hand is on his people, lovingly leading them through a broken world. Because of Christ’s suffering, nothing can separate us from the love of God. He will never leave us nor forsake us.

      · Reply
      • April 20, 2013 at 8:27 pm

        Ahhh. I see!

        Thanks much!

        · Reply
  7. April 20, 2013 at 11:44 pm

    So good, Todd! Thanks for this!

    · Reply
  8. April 21, 2013 at 7:50 pm

    Great perspective, Todd! Hugs, from the Avery’s

    · Reply
  9. April 23, 2013 at 10:32 pm

    Glad you guys are alright.

    · Reply
  10. April 29, 2013 at 10:55 pm

    Well put. Praising God that you were unharmed and praying for His will in the lives of those who were tragically affected.

    · Reply
  11. Pingback: Thoughts on the Boston Bombings | The Sovereign

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *