During a discussion about the recent tragedy, someone asked me that familiar question. Where was God when that happened? The idea is that a loving God should always stop tragedies from happening. And since bad things continue to happen, God must not exist. The truth is that many people have rejected the true God of the Bible and have substituted one of their own making. In their perfect dream world, this new god only loves people and keeps bad things from ever happening. Like a jolly grandfather, he overlooks their failings and accepts people as they are.
The problem with this idea is that it isn't a good description of the one, true God of the Bible. God is love but he is also holy. He is merciful but also just. At times He protects and at other times allows us to experience the consequences of our choices. He created Heaven and Hell. He hates sin enough to send people to Hell but loved the sinful world enough to provide an escape from that through Jesus. This is a much different God than what most people think about.
The other thing that is often overlooked is why God would want to help any of us? Not many people care a thing about God until they need him. They curse his name, break his commandments, mock the Bible, and want nothing to do with him until something terrible happens. Then, it's his fault. But is that really fair to him? Why should he care about you and your problems when you want nothing to do with him during 99% of your life?
I know the God of the Bible and he deserves much more credit than he has been given recently. I know from experience that he has loved me despite my many failings. He gave his Son to die a cruel death nailed to a wooden cross for my sins. And despite the fact that I was walking away from him and enjoying my sin, he still reached out to me and turned my heart to himself. I don't expect him to shield me from every terrible event that happens. Look at the experiences of Job, David, Stephen, and Paul. They each went through very difficult life experiences and yet they still loved and trusted God.
I haven't gone through the types of sorrow that others have. And neither do I want to go through them. But I am convinced that if and when I have to experience something horrible, that he will keep his promise to "never leave me or forsake me." He will walk me through it and give the needed grace and peace to make it through. And some day when my life is over, he will graciously wipe away the tears from my eyes. And then I will thank him for being with me all the while.