The Waukesha tragedy – how could God allow this to happen?

Waukesha parade witness describes feeling of ‘pure fear’

Kaylee Staral, who witnessed an SUV drive through crowds at the Waukesha Christmas parade, recalls what she was thinking when she heard screams from other witnesses.

Our nation witnessed a horrific tragedy in the Wisconsin suburb of Waukesha on Sunday. An SUV sped through a small-town Christmas parade, hitting dozens of people and killing at least five. 

I cannot speculate on the motives of the driver. But the pain we feel at seeing such an innocent celebration turn into such a violent scene is almost more than we can bear. We have spent almost two years weathering a pandemic. 

Happy local traditions like the Waukesha Christmas Parade mark the return of normalcy, of communal life, and of good old-fashioned fun. And now this. 

Age-old questions take on a new urgency when we’re faced with such a terrible event. Where was God? Why would He allow this to happen? 

After 40 years of counseling people through tragedies, here is what I would want you to remember. 

A makeshift memorial for the victims of the Christmas parade assault at Veterans Park in downtown Waukesha

First, remember that suffering and evil were not part of God’s original design for this world. When we see things like what happened in Waukesha, we all feel viscerally that this is not how things are supposed to be. That’s true. That response and that impulse in us comes from God. 

God designed a “very good” world free from suffering and evil. The temptations of Satan and the sin of our first parents, Adam and Eve, brought God’s curse upon the world and the futility and brokenness we all experience.

Second, remember that suffering is real but not permanent. The evils of mankind and the schemes of Satan, along with the natural evils and disasters—all of these have an expiration date. The return of Christ will bring an end to evil. Jesus Christ will renew the created order. 

As broken as this world is, it won’t be broken forever. 

Third, remember that in the meantime, while we await Christ’s return, God has established government to fight evil and promote human flourishing. The scenes of horror in Waukesha were also scenes of heroism, as police officers shot at the rogue vehicle in an attempt to preserve the lives of innocent bystanders. 

First-responders were on the scene quickly, tending to the wounds of those affected. These institutions of justice and mercy lessen human suffering, and they are part of God’s design too. 

Fourth and finally, remember that no evil in this world is able to separate you from God’s love. One of the best ways we can honor the victims of the Waukesha Christmas Parade is by remembering what they were celebrating when they died. 

God did not leave us alone in our suffering—He stepped into our suffering. That’s what we celebrate at Christmas. Christ took on human flesh, and then He suffered and died innocently on the cross. If we trust in Him, nothing can happen to us that could separate us from His love, poured out for us on the cross.

It is painfully ironic that this tragedy took place at the beginning of Thanksgiving week. The Apostle Paul’s command to “give thanks in everything” (1 Thessalonians 5:18) seems impossible to obey and even cruel to mention in light of the horrific event in Wisconsin. 

What do the residents of Waukesha have to be thankful for this week? The same thing for which Jesus “gave thanks” during the Last Supper shortly before he was executed. As cruel and painful this life can be, there is something better that awaits all believers. 

As broken as this world is, it won’t be broken forever. The Bible promises that when the Prince of Peace returns, He will rule over a new world order in which “God shall wipe away every tear” from our eyes (Revelation 21:4).

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