Understanding Tragedy?

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Every day we hear of the tragedies.

The teen who is killed in a car wreck.

The small child who suffers from some mysterious illness.

The fire that wipes out a family home and all of the family’s possessions.


Why does it happen?

As a Christian we don’t understand and yet we see it every day. Our human nature wants an explanation and God won’t furnish one. All He gives us is silence…and we are left to guess what is going on.

Some Christians respond by losing their faith. They can’t believe in a God who would allow such suffering. When it is your teen, your child or your home, the grief can be so all-consuming that the personal loss is too much to bear. The bottom line for them is this: how can a loving God allow this to happen?

The silence of God shatters faith.

Other Christians take another tack.   They say things like “God can take horrible situations and make good happen from those situations.”   On one level that sounds excellent. Maybe support for this explanation is based on Romans 8:28 “in all things God works for the good of those who love Him.” But on another level, the horrors that can happen in our world should not be attributed to a God who allows suffering just so He can do good. W. Bingham Hunter* states “no parent would choose to let his child be cruelly murdered so that these ‘good things’ would result. Friends who have faced tragic losses are not usually comforted by well-meaning friends who tell them ‘someday you will understand God’s reasons.’”

I have written on this before. There was a time when there was no evil in this world, no tragedy. That time was in the Garden of Eden when God created man in His own image but He gave man the ability to make decisions about good and evil. Instead of creating humans as automatons, God wanted to give men and women choices and they chose evil on their own.   Man introduced evil into this world, so we had better think long and hard before we imply that God is a part of that.

With the advent of man, came the ability to love but also the ability to hurt others.   Man has the ability to glorify God but also the ability to sin.   Man’s freedom makes possible agony, tyranny and oppression [Hunter, 86].

“God does not make evil into good. Evil remains evil no matter how much God may eventually be pleased to reveal” [Hunter, 87].

We just can’t stand not knowing what God is up to.   What happens to us is that we try to play God with our explanations.   We can’t stand not being able to explain tragedy, pain and suffering.   When evil people in the world seem to thrive, we are dumbfounded. It seems too unbelievable but some evil people do seem to thrive. Job is totally confused in 27: 7-8, 11-15 when he says “Why do the wicked live on, growing old and increasing in power?”

Jesus was divine and He knew why He had to go to the cross.   That did not make His impending suffering in the Garden of Gethsemane any easier. In Luke, He was in anguish and sweating profusely. In Hebrews, it is reported that He cried. He asked for the help of friends who failed Him in His time of agony [Mark, 14:32]. In Luke, He needed help from an angel to continue [Luke, 22:43].

If Jesus was not accepting of the evil that man was about to do to Him, why do we as Christians feel we have to accept evil with a happy face and say things like “God can use horrible things and do good.”

I have learned that it is ok to just say “I don’t know.”   I have learned that it is better to accept the pain of suffering and just suffer.

It is ok to be human.

It is ok to realize the limitations in our knowledge.

It is not our job to be God and know why everything happens.

Instead of our questioning God’s motives and pondering His role in suffering, it may be much better to think about our holiness and justice, our choices that we have made in life.

We should question ourselves, not God.

When we do that, we will get a sense of why suffering may be occurring. We introduced evil into the world; maybe we need to own it.


*Author of The God Who Hears

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