Oct. 12, 2018

In view of the tragedy of hurricane Michael and other tragedies

As I write this thousands of homes and properties have been devastated by hurricane Michael. Even worse are the millions of lives which have been devastated and the unknown number that were lost. In times like these, in times of tragedy, whether natural or by the hands of people, the response of many turns to prayer. But for as many as would turn in faith and in hope, there are many who view the situations and circumstances as even more of a reason to question or even blame God. Why would God cause or allow such terrible things to happen?

So, how do we reconcile the truth that God is loving and compassionate with the fact that terrible things do happen, and often those who are affected are good people.  I certainly do not have all the answers and let me first qualify what I share with two statements.   First, what I share is not from a deeply theological perspective. I am not a theologian. I am a believer in Christ who tries to respond and walk in and through faith. Second, I don’t share this as one who is buffered from the tragedy by the thousands of miles from where I live to the places of chaos and devastation. As I write this, I have a nephew who himself, his wife and two children who were in the path of the storm and of whom we know nothing. (As I prepared my final edit before posting we just received news that they are safe. Praise God!)

So how do we reconcile this and other tragedies with the truth that God is loving and compassionate? First let me say very strongly that I do not agree with and will not condone those who say that these things are somehow God’s judgment against a region.  I believe that Romans 8:28-29 can help us to better understand how God works in these things. It says:   We know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren.  God doesn’t cause the terrible things that happen in the world, whether natural or man derived. He is sovereign and could stop tragedies from happening, but instead, He causes the things that happen in our lives to be used for good. Whether good things or bad things, God’s real purpose for our lives is that we would be conformed to the image of His Son. That we would become like Him. It is difficult for us to understand the timing of things, particularly when lives are lost at an early age. We need to understand and accept that in truth, no matter what the length of our life on this earth, whether a few hours or more than a hundred years, it is just a twinkling in the scheme of eternity. God’s love and His compassion is this:  God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.  God is concerned about everything that happens, but He knows the beginning and the end. God is more concerned with our eternal circumstance than He is with the things that happen in the world. He is more concerned with eternity than He is with this finite time we live in.  His love, first and foremost is shown to us in the cross, that Jesus died for our sins so that we could have eternal life.

There is always a question, when tragedies occur regarding the fate of those who did not know or believe in Christ. I can only answer that with the account of the thief on the cross from Luke 23. Even though he did not live a righteous life, in the end he was confronted with Christ the Lord. In verse 42-43 it says:   He was saying, “Jesus, remember me when You come in Your kingdom!” And He said to him, “Truly I say to you, today you shall be with Me in Paradise.” God’s desire is that none would be lost. I believe that He will do what He can to reveal His Son, even at the very last moment of a person’s life, so that they too may be with Him in Paradise. That is the hope we can hold onto, that like the thief on the cross, others too will recognize Jesus as Lord, even with their dying breath.  

I know that what I share will not bring comfort to everyone. There will still be those who choose to question or blame God. For you, my heart truly goes out to you. If there is no hope in God and Christ, then you are left hopeless. Nothing I or anyone else can say or do can change this or the next tragedy. If all that there is for you is this meager existence, that in itself is a tragedy.    For everyone else, I would like to share Jesus words from Matthew 5:4. He says:   "Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.”  It is not wrong that we mourn loss. God created us with emotions and feelings. If He didn’t expect that we would mourn, even that we should mourn, He would not have spoken these words. To those who are mourning today and for those who will mourn in the future, understand this; Matthew 5:4 is more than a phrase to offer comfort. It is a promise from the loving and compassionate God of creation that He will comfort us when we mourn.

Again, I am not a theologian and I don’t offer deeply theological answers in these terrible times. One thing I have come to know and believe is that none of us know the day when our time on earth will come to an end. None of us are guaranteed tomorrow. My hope, my desire is that this would be the day that if you have not believed, Christ would reveal Himself to you, that God would indeed cause all that has happened to work together for good. If you know the God of peace then I pray that the loving and compassionate God of peace grant you His peace and may you be comforted with hope of His glorious eternity even as you mourn what has been lost.