The world is filled with tragedy. We encounter mass shootings, natural disasters, accidents, and just plain evil. We see it every day. So much so, that we often check traffic to see if we are going to get to work on time, not really noticing or truly understanding the fact that that possible delay is due to a tragedy. Until it hits “close to home.” Until, we are stopped in our tracks due to something that either affects us personally, emotionally, or mentally.
Take 9/11; there wasn’t a soul in the US that wasn’t affected somehow that day. Not only did I mourn the loss of thousands and spend months trying to figure out the mental motives of such an action, but I lost my boss that day. Like so many, we mourned friends, family, futures, feeling of safety. Generally, that feeling of safety hasn’t really been re-instilled. Nowadays, we don’t even feel like we can go to a mall or market without being cautious of our surroundings or listening for gunshots. We fear for our children to go to school, play outside, or even play a game with friends online.
Recently, the cookie world (yes there is a world of people out there who make cookies and they are some of the most wonderful people I’ve ever met) was shocked by a tragedy of one of their own. This moved us all to rethink how we do our business. We can’t even trust people to pick up cookies without worrying about being harmed. Trying to make a living to support your family making cookies is now a dangerous game.
Or what about illness? Everyday 43 children are diagnosed with cancer; 12% of whom do not survive. There are roughly 164/100,000 deaths per year from cancer. My mom, my sister, my grandmothers, my uncle, my grandfather, and many many friends have all struggled with cancer.
My son was diagnosed with Crohn’s last year. Without his medication, his small bowel would abscess and would have to be cut out. There isn’t much you can do to survive without a small bowel. Small bowel transplants just aren’t successful. So he takes medication to counteract the Crohn’s. However, this medication poses a risk that he could develop cancer. We have no choice but to take that risk.
Are you depressed yet? It’s easy to think of life and all that it entails and want to crawl in a fetal position and never leave your house or let anyone inside. From evil acts, deceitful people, selfishness, pride, manipulation, the list goes on and on.
So what do we do with all of this? What do we do when life altering hurt or tragedy strike? This question has been asked from the dawn of time, and the answer has not changed: Trust God!
Ok, so some of you are rolling your eyes at me right now. Some of you are thinking how can we trust a God that allows this in His world. He could stop it right now right? He could not allow these things to happen! He could stop evil and disease. He could not allow the typhoon, the hurricane, the earthquake. And you’re right – He could!
These are questions I asked myself – many times. I have known severe tragedy. From sexual assault, abuse, watching a loved one die, having a friend shot and killed, deceitful actions/motives of others. I have felt the grief of this sinful world and I have asked, “Why Lord?”; Sometimes I would get an answer: to bring you to Me, to bring you your children, to bring others to Me through you, to strengthen you, to encourage you, to show you who I am…
Of course, other times there was no immediate answer…
So here are the things I need to remember:
- He is Creator God…who am I to question? Job 38-42: God answers Job and restores Job. Such tragedy was never begot anyone than that of Job. He lost everything! I mean everything! It was evil spurned out by Satan, allowed by God. Why you ask? because as James 1:3 tells us,“for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. 4 And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” Satan wanted to test Job’s loyalty, God wanted to strengthen his trust. When Job questioned God, asking him “WHY,” God’s response was a mere description of who He is! Creator GOD! We are HIS creation, not the other way around. As much as we want to question God (which He compassionately allows and grieves for and with us – look at the book of Psalms!! Ex: Ps. 34:18), we have to remember that He who brought something ex nihilo, knows what is best.
- It is For Good – Romans 8:28. WHOA what? I know! How can this possibly be for our good, but if we trust God and know that His promises are real and always kept, we can rest that the hurt we are feeling will not be in vain. The events taking place Will ultimately be for good! That doesn’t mean it will be for joy or happiness, but it will be for both temporal and eternal benefit. I have seen this happen time and time again. Where I was struck down by tragedy, yet without that tragedy, the remarkable things that came out of it would never have been. For example: back in June of 1999, a good friend of mine took off for Africa to join her Aunt and Uncle who were missionaries there. She was hoping to help teach English to the kids in the village where her Aunt and Uncle resided. Yet, she was killed on the bus ride from the airport to the village. Most of us were shocked, as why would God bring Natalie home to Him when she was on her way to do His work. Yet as time went on, there were reports that 100’s of villagers came to know Him due to her death. There was such an outpouring of love for her and her sacrifice there, that they opened their ears to the truth. God used Natalie’s death to bring about people to Himself. I can 100% guarantee Natalie wouldn’t have wanted it any other way! That was her heart’s desire.
- Get Over Yourself: Luke 9:23-26: When we accept the free gift of eternal life, we are giving up of ourselves and taking up God’s mission. We are His creation for His good purposes. Ok…you might be thinking – how selfish of Him…hahaha I have thought this so many times, but then I am struck by the fact that it’s MY own selfishness that’s making me feel this way. I want what I want, my way, end of story. I can tell you right now, I am SO glad the Lord doesn’t give me my way! I am not the creator…I don’t know, or see, the whole puzzle. Far be if from me to get in His way. We need to be able to lay down what we THINK is right and let God do what IS necessary. You know what we get in return: a place where there will be no more death, pain, grief, disease, hurt. We get what we keep asking God for, “Why don’t you give us paradise? Why aren’t you doing anything about this evil and sin?” – answer: HE IS. It is coming! Isaiah 65:17; 66:22; 2pe 3:13; and Revelation 21:1. We must go through this time of testing of our faith. He is offering us free-will to choose Him and the free gift He offers. We must go through this sinful world, to get rid of sin for good. That means choosing Him, trusting Him, finding joy in the the gifts He grants us here, and joy in the hope of things to come.
Ecclesiastes has been one of those books of the Bible that I cling to. When I was teaching Bible at a local Christian school, I had my students memorize Eccl. 3. I recommend this to everyone! It is a reminder that there is a time for everything and that God makes everything beautiful in its time (3:11). God loves us, He wants what is best for us, He is preparing a place for us. He is a loving and all knowing God (although when grief strikes you may think He isn’t), who has set before you the free gift of eternal life, where the life you so desire here now, will come to pass. There will be times in our life of severe grief, doubt, anger, frustration, depression. God knows this, sees this, grieves with us. It’s like those times as a mom, where I need to reprimand or make a decision for my children that they hate, yet I know it is for their good. I am grieved with them and hurt for them, but ultimately know it is what is best! I walk through it with them in love, hoping one day they will understand.
I also remember that retribution is the Lord’s, as well as His good and perfect ways that will garner for us the life for eternity that will bring us such peace and joy! In the meantime, we are His hands and feet. We love; we bear with one another as we all go through the trials of this sinful life; we enjoy the simple moments of waves crashing, birds chirping, the hug of a child, the taste of a delicious cookie (haha), the stomach cramping from endless laughter, the pink hues of a perfect sunset, our toes feeling the crisp sting of a rolling stream, looking into the eyes of loved one, the list goes on and on. God grants us so many amazing blessings in each moment of every day. He will always be standing next to us, strengthening us, loving us, carrying us, directing us. So we don’t lose hope, knowing who God is and what is to come.
I will leave you with this amazing story and hymn *It is Well with My Soul from Horatio Spafford:
“This hymn was written after traumatic events in Spafford’s life. The first was the death of his son at the age of two and the Great Chicago Fire of 1871, which ruined him financially (he had been a successful lawyer and had invested significantly in property in the area of Chicago that was extensively damaged by the great fire). His business interests were further hit by the economic downturn of 1873, at which time he had planned to travel to Europe with his family on the SS Ville du Havre. In a late change of plan, he sent the family ahead while he was delayed on business concerning zoning problems following the Great Chicago Fire. While crossing the Atlantic Ocean, the ship sank rapidly after a collision with a sea vessel, the Loch Earn, and all four of Spafford’s daughters died. His wife Anna survived and sent him the now famous telegram, “Saved alone …”. Shortly afterwards, as Spafford traveled to meet his grieving wife, he was inspired to write these words as his ship passed near where his daughters had died. Bliss called his tune Ville du Havre, from the name of the stricken vessel.
The sinking of the steamship Ville du Havre
When peace like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to knowa
It is well, it is well, with my soul.
It is well, (it is well),
With my soul, (with my soul)
It is well, it is well, with my soul.
Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,
Let this blest assurance control,
That Christ has regarded my helpless estate,
And hath shed His own blood for my soul.
My sin, oh, the bliss of this glorious thought!
My sin, not in part but the whole,
Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more,
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!
For me, be it Christ, be it Christ hence to live:
If Jordan above me shall roll,
No pang shall be mine, for in death as in life,
Thou wilt whisper Thy peace to my soul.
But Lord, ’tis for Thee, for Thy coming we wait,
The sky, not the grave, is our goal;
Oh, trump of the angel! Oh, voice of the Lord!
Blessed hope, blessed rest of my soul.
And Lord, haste the day when the faith shall be sight,
The clouds be rolled back as a scroll;
The trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend,
A song in the night, oh my soul!b”
(*Wikipedia It Is Well with My Soul)