Dealing with questions and fears
We as a nation have and will experience tragedy. With the upcoming anniversary of 9-11 as a reminder or the memory of those killed on the campus of Virginia Tech, it is not hard to remember. But a few years ago we were horrified by the heinous killing of the young Amish school girls. The 10th anniversary of the massacre at Columbine High School has just passed. These and others are tragedies to the nation or community because of the large number of people affected in a location where killing is never expected. Death in a war such as Iraq and Afghanistan is not unexpected though it is still tragic. The mass killing at Virginia Tech came as a shock and left us with many questions and fears.
My wife and I recently experienced profound sadness in the drowning of a little 1 1/2 year old boy very dear to us. This is a tragedy in our lives and family as much as Virginia Tech’s massacre is to the nation and the families of those who were murdered. We normally use this word “tragedy to refer to the sudden, unexpected loss of a family member, a loved one, or someone very close. It may speak of the death by accident or crime of a number of persons in our life or community. We label any variety of painful events in life “tragedies, even when the loss is less than human life; whether health, possessions, freedom, or livelihood.
Tragedy and God are not foreign to one another. Most Christians understand that God is good, and tragedy is bad. So what do they have to do with each other? When tragedy happens, some may be quick to blame Satan, the purveyor of evil. Seldom is God left out of the picture, because we expect that if He is all powerful, He could have prevented this. Tragedy can turn some to anger toward God, an anger that lasts in some cases a lifetime. Some even cease to believe He exists. Ironically enough, they retain anger toward Him even while claiming His nonexistence. Job was angry with God, but he never doubted His existence. In the tragedy of his life, he came from knowing about God to the place where he truly saw Him. Tragedy can evoke blame toward God:“God, if you are good, if your promises about our care and protection are true, if you can prevent evil from overtaking us, why did you allow this to happen? Why 9-11, why Hurricane Katrina, why Virginia Tech, why Columbine, why my child?!
Why, indeed! “Why is always THE question with which we struggle after tragedy; it is usually addressed to God when we can find nowhere else to place blame.This is a part of our human nature, to assign blame, but tragedies often leave us with no one to blame, and so we wrestle with God.
In tragedy and its aftermath remember that it is not a bad thing to wrestle with God. For it is always and ultimately Him with whom we have to ask the question! He, not Satan, is the anchor of all life; the only One who can and will answer all our questions.
I believe the book of Job is the primary text God has provided for the problem of evil and for dealing with tragedy in life. Not that there are not many other texts in the Bible helpful to us at such a time. But it is the story and lesson of Job thatGod in His wisdomuses so that we might wrestle, and come by faith to an understanding of tragedy, pain, and the “evil of suffering. On purpose I have placed “evil in quotation marks in describing suffering. This is because both the Bible and our spiritual experience teach us that suffering in life has a beneficial purpose. If not immediately, eventually we come to understand its nature in increasing our faith and deepening spiritual maturity. This is the message of such texts as Romans 8:18-39 and Hebrews 12.
However, we certainly do not pray for tragedy in our lives. We pray for protection from it. We ask God to keep it from us and those we love. Even Jesus prayed for God to remove the “cup of suffering that He would undergo for our salvation, because in His manhood He was not sure He could endure it. Nevertheless, He went willingly to the cross in the strength of His utter faith and trust in His Father. No one desires tragedy, but then no one should believe that it will never come. Rather we should prepare our hearts and minds for it, and teach our children what to do if and when it comes. This should be done and can be done in a manner that does not instill a paralyzing fear of life and the future. The tragedies that have come upon us as a nation, and the personal tragedies that we have suffered closer to our own homes, or even in them, can become useful tools to teach our children about the reality of tragedy and how God uses it to bring needed spiritual growth in our lives.
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