I want to talk about something that I don’t usually address publicly. I want to talk about tragedy and God. I sometimes have these conversations with my wife or with friends privately, but I have never talked about them openly – especially to folks who are experiencing tragedies. Like the folks in Moore.
Why not? I think that part of the reason is because I feel as though no matter what I could say I couldn’t really answer their questions. I feel as if there is no way to make sense out of their pain. And when you really think about it – there is no way to make sense out of their pain, but still people want answers. The truth of the matter is that we are not promised that losing a child will make sense. We are not promised that God will answer our questions about why disaster happens and that is why faith is so important. I am no expert on tragedy. And I am also not trying to make light of the tragedies that people face everyday. I am offering hope. Hope that comes from the God of all comfort, the One who is near to us in our storms of life, the One who promises that in this life we will suffer – but that He has overcome the world and He will give us new life which no amount of storms can destroy.
Faith is illogical. Faith helps us to keep our hands in God’s hands and to allow Him to guide us into greener pastures. Faith allows us to look at tragedy and see our God in the midst of a community reduced to the appearance of toothpicks stacked on top of each other, and to know that He can still heal; He can still comfort; He can still save!
It’s often been said that “the only things certain in life are death and taxes.” Well, if we look closely at these verses just read, we can add trouble, broken hearts, and afflictions to that list of certain things. As difficult as that is to agree with it is a guarantee nonetheless. Jesus told His disciples in John 16:33 that they will certainly have trouble in this world and He reminds them to rejoice when tribulations come because He has overcome the world!
Back in Psalms 34, David tells us that the righteous will certainly experience troubles, that the righteous will have many afflictions in life, and even as we go through these dark hours, even as the pain of lost and tragedy suffocates us – our God is present! He is near to the broken hearted David says! He saves those whose spirits have been crushed by their painful experiences! How He saves? We don’t know, but what we do know is that He saves. If only we would trust Him in hard times as much as we trust Him in good times! If only our faith would not fail when tragedy strikes! The righteous cry out! The Lord hears! The Lord delivers!
2 CORINTHIANS 1:3-5.
Our painful experiences are beneficial to others. The word comfort that Paul uses in this passage is a word which means “to refresh”, “to come alongside of”, and “to call near to”. Does that sound like what we just heard from David? That God is near to the broken hearted? Picture those folks in Moore who have lost all of their belongings, some have even lost their family and friends, and so many people in our nation have reached out to them to refresh them, some have just held them in their arms as they cried over having lost a loved one – a child. Do you think these people will have more or less compassion for other people hit by disaster? Will they have more or less compassion for someone who loses a child, family member, or friend? Do you think they will be more or less inclined to “come alongside” of those people and to offer them comfort? We have all had hard times in our lives where our pain has made no sense, but when we cried out to God He came near to us! He comforted us!
The Apostle Paul reminds us that God is our comfort in the storms of life, just as He was with Jesus. And he tells us that God will comfort us in our darkness so that we can share the comforting presence of our God with others in tribulations. Paul reminds us that even as God was with our Lord Jesus in all of His sufferings He will be with us! And that just as He was there for Christ when He had to endure the cross He would be there for us! Jesus knew that the Father would come near to Him as He faced His accusers. He knew that God would not abandon Him when He needed Him the most. He knew that God would refresh Him even though He was to be beaten, crucified, and buried! But then Sunday came and Jesus got out of the grave! Because of that, Jesus offers us life! Because of that, Jesus can assure us that although we may experience death today, we shall have life tomorrow!
Lazarus, the brother of Mary and Martha, has died. Jesus is on His way to where they are but He is taking His time. While He is away, in verse 19, we see a community of people comforting Mary and Martha. Martha knows that Jesus is coming so she runs out to meet Him and when she gets to Jesus she says, “My brother is dead! Why didn’t you do something to prevent this?” And this is the question that we all have when disaster strikes. “Why me Lord? Why did you let this happen to me?” Martha continues by saying, there is still time to save my brother! Ask God to save Him! I know He will listen to you!” And here is what Jesus says to her, “Your brother will rise again” (John 11:21), but Martha doesn’t get it. She says, I know that he’ll rise when the Messiah comes and resurrects the dead, but what about now? To that, Jesus says, “I am the resurrection and the life. [Whoever] believes in Me, though [that person] may die, [that person] will live again. However, whoever is living – if that person believes in Me – that person will never die.” And then He ends by asking her a question, a question that each of us must answer for ourselves, “Do you believe this?” (vv. 25-26).
Do you believe that God is near you when tragedy comes tearing through your family? Do you believe that God is near you when everything you have worked so hard for is suddenly taken away from you? Do you believe that God can bring life out of death? Do you believe that what God is capable of doing is not limited by the trails of life?
He is the Father of mercies! He is the God of all comfort! And He is near to the broken hearted!
In this life we are guaranteed to have tribulations, but in Christ we can have peace because He has overcome the world!