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Clinging to a God who Carries Tragedy Around

I went to a concert in Toronto last night. Donovan Woods played the Danforth Music Hall. He walked on stage, hat in hand, and said (paraphrased): “I live in Toronto too. And I’m thinking about that van that hit those pedestrians on Monday. And I’m going to keep thinking about it, all night. And I’m going to sing some songs. And I’ll probably tell some jokes. But the whole time I’ll be thinking about it. And so will you. And that’s okay.”

I can’t shake it.

He went on to say some other nice things, things about how strong our city is, and how proud of our multiculturalism he is, that it is not a buzz word here, but something that strengthens and defines us. But that line, about always thinking about that van and those people walking on Yonge Street on Monday at 1:30pm, resonated with me. Because that’s the thing, isn’t it? We just keep thinking about it. I can’t shake it. Not in any way. I’m going to carry this one around with me always, in some way. I’ll tell people in years to come where I was and how I reacted when this happened. What a senseless act of violence.

We carry tragedy with us. All of us do. Our own tragedies. The tragedies of a city. The tragedy of a bus crash in Saskatchewan that took too many lives. The tragedy of Indigenous youth suicides. The tragedies of others. Tragedies of other places. We carry tragedy around.

We are called, like God, to carry tragedy and love, together.

And we hope in a God that carries tragedy around too. And that is a good thing, isn’t it? A God that isn’t distant. Doesn’t send down punishments on us. But a God who carries tragedy. And holds ours too.

And somehow, in the face of all that tragedy, God is still a God of love. And he calls us to love, despite the hurt we feel, despite our fear. We are called, like God, to carry tragedy and love, together. We hope it makes us better. More loving. More kind. We hope tragedy doesn’t pull us down, but calls us out. We pray that it doesn’t lead to more hate, more violence.

I see that today. I see people walking boldly on the streets of Toronto. I see #Torontostrong, and so many random acts of kindness, on corners up and down Yonge Street. I see flowers and vigils and reaching out. I see love in the face of tragedy.

That’s all I can manage today. I can’t manage a detailed theology of suffering.

That’s all I can manage today. I can’t manage a detailed theology of suffering. I am too stunned to make things make sense. Because they don’t. I can’t face the hate or the despair that would provoke someone to do what that man in that van did. But I hope in a God who holds my suffering, and the suffering of every affected family, of every survivor in the hospital, every bystander who witnessed the scene. Every person, around the world, who is grieving the 10 people who died.

I am hanging on to a God who is working to put things back together in Christ. A God whose love is bigger than any tragedy.

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