My wife is from Wausau WI and we have spent some time there. Her mother is still there and as we get older we realize it is getting harder to visit especially in the winter. There are many people that I have met from Wausau over the years, but I have discovered another Wausauite. I attended a funeral for a 15 year old boy and as I sat through the ceremony a hymn kept running through my mind. It is called “When Aimless Violence Takes Those We Love”. It is in our Hymn book LSB#764. The first half verse is a stunner – “When aimless violence takes those we love, when random death strikes childhoods promise down.” is powerful in it presentation of the incomprehensible nature of life in a fallen world, The second half verse brings an added weigh of misery and a promised dénouement – “when wrenching loss becomes our daily bread, we know O God you leave us not alone.” Joy F. Patterson from Wausau WI wrote those words and four more stanzas that are quite remarkable. The story is that she was dealing with the death of her Father who had been ravaged by Alzheimer’s disease; she was loosing her own eyesight; and correspondence with some other hymn writers left them all struggling with violence and shootings, murder and chaos and the Christian’s struggle to deal with the stuff of life with faith and hope intact.
A version of the hymn was adapted for an Oklahoma City memorial service following the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in 1995.
The hymn is used for the Sunday after Christmas and the death of the holy innocence where “aimless violence,” “random death,” and “wrenching loss” affecting all the area around Bethlehem when Herod murdered the little boys. The tragedy of the loss of those we love and especially young people, is a particular class of pain that Christ alone can heal in His time and way. Christians are cold eyed realists when it comes to massively painful circumstances. The Cross shows our ultimate victory but also the way to that victory which is suffering. Jesus has been there and Jesus leads us on.