Yesterday's email alert advising of a "breaking development" had me watching the Hamilton Police Service news conference regarding the Tim Bosma case live online. The chief's opening words caused my stomach to wrench: "It is with heavy heart . . . " The details remained unclear but were also unnecessary. A young man who was a husband, father, son, neighbour, church member, employee, and so much more had been taken from this life as a result of a crime, the motive of which seems entirely incomprehensible. I had to wipe some involuntary tears as I absorbed what I had just heard. The prayers that we and so many others had raised, that Tim would be found alive and returned to his family, would not be answered in the way we hoped.
Tragedies of this sort are theological and practical challenges for me, as I seek to live out of my faith in the midst of a society that does not share it. Why does God allow evil of this magnitude to take place? Although there are "right" theological answers to that, owning those answers is difficult—and is even more difficult for those far closer emotionally to the situation.
At times like these, we may be well advised to follow the example of Jesus, who when he came to the graveside of Lazarus, observed the mourning that was taking place, "was deeply moved in his spirit and greatly troubled," and publicly wept alongside the other mourners (John 11:33-35). Away from the graveside, there was a place to explain to Martha the gospel of the resurrection, which in Lazarus' case would be demonstrated in an immediate and miraculous manner, but at most times of tragedy is represented only in consolation.
The Bosma family is not alone in dealing with tragedy, although theirs is a case that is presently of public profile. Tragedy of this magnitude happens every day somewhere in the world, and it is impossible to become emotionally involved in every case. For me, although I live 3,000 kilometres away from Ancaster, Ontario, the proximity of overlapping social media networks and a shared ethnic and religious community provided a connection to this case. But that too speaks to the importance of community and institutions to which we belong. As a fellow citizen I feel the pain when I become aware of difficult circumstances being faced by any of my neighbours but when I share closer connections, usually through shared sense of belonging to the other institutions of society, I am more affected but also bear a greater responsibility.
2,000 years of Christian social thought can sometimes bear only technical and theoretical fruit, but in weeks like this, we are reminded that this tradition provides us so much more. In the darkest moments of life, there is Christian hope and comfort that can be held on to and shared, even when that faith seems to contradict the evidence immediately before us. It is especially at these times that the various institutions and communities that comprise society serve their most important role. The strong family, church, and neighbourhood communities that the Bosmas are supported by cannot take away the pain, but can support them through their agony. Even as I write, their church is the site of a press conference for Tim's widow Sharlene, and for information on a trust account for her and her daughter.
Though many of us are far away or distant, we can still pray and weep alongside them. It's a day to carry out our calling "with heavy hearts."