The role that God plays in tragedy is discussed so often because we have so much tragedy to deal with in our lives. Every day the Christian and non-Christian alike have tragic circumstances to deal with but since the book we are working through is about prayer, the bottom line is how do we pray when tragedy strikes?
First of all, let’s stop trying to be God and come up with some reason for tragedy. Too often Christians put on stoic faces and say that horrible events require us to be strong, have faith and all we have to do is wait until God takes bad events and turns them into good.
I like what W. Bingham Hunter says: “What we must stop doing is trying…to figure things out, and admit that we are creatures who cry. There is no victory in putting on the façade that we can smile when it hurts. This is deception and non-Christians can see through this behavior and label our behavior hypocrisy.”
David, in Psalms 31: 7-10, is a role model of a Godly man who is suffering and praying to God: “I will be glad and rejoice in Your love, for You saw my affliction and knew the anguish of my soul. You have not given me into the hands of the enemy but have set my feet in a spacious place. Be merciful to me, Lord, for I am in distress; my eyes grow weak with sorrow, my soul and body with grief. My life is consumed by anguish and my years by groaning; my strength fails because of my affliction, and my bones grow weak.”
Recently I was asked about the accident I had with the ladder and the resultant surgery I have had on my broken pelvis. A man asked why it happened and shared the idea with me that either God pushed me off the ladder for a reason or the devil pushed me off the ladder for a reason.
I see no value in this speculation.
As a Christian, there have been many times when my faith was tested in this life episode. A long night in the trauma ward, awaiting surgery alone in a room with a large wall clock [not able to sleep], coming out of surgery unable to get out of bed and do anything. Was I fearful? Was I praying? Why did the fear not go away? I wanted it to but God did not take it away. I had fear. I am human.
Recently I traveled to see my surgeon and I was praying he would say my bones were knit back together. Was I scared he would say there is a problem? You bet I was. My faith was just not strong enough even though I had people praying for me and I was sending up fervent prayer from the doctor’s office. I am human. Hunter cites this prayer by Joseph Bayly and it is so real: “ I cry tears to you Lord, tears because I cannot speak. Words are lost among my fears, pains, sorrows, losses, hurts but tears you understand. My wordless prayer you hear. Lord wipe away my tears, all tears not in distant day but now here.”
I believe God understands the truth we speak when we say in prayer that we are shaken. I also believe God can identify with hurting people. Hunter cites the popular book by Philip Yancey who poses the question in his title “Where is God When it Hurts?” Hunter has the answer: “on the cross, taking to Himself, in Christ the pain, agony and terror of all the suffering in the whole universe.” Second Corinthians 5:19 “God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself.” He is not sitting above the earth, arranging things for His creatures, shoving us around a chess board like pawns. He is with us, by our side as we cry our tears of fear and suffering.
Instead of worrying about praying to a God who lets people hurt, we need to pray to a God who died for people who hurt.
I have been involved with a study of Revelation, a book of the Bible that is pretty challenging to understand. I am trying to understand it but it is doubtful that a layperson such as myself will be able to have a solid grasp of the book’s meaning. But one thing I am understanding is that God will eventually wipe all our tears away. God wins in the end. There will be no more death, or mourning or crying or pain. When Jesus returns He will make everything new.
He cares for you and he cares for me.
He cares so much that He will help us through our time of tragedy. He is there with us. He understands.
That’s why we call Him Savior.