Disasters always seem to prompt people to ask God questions. Christians ask God questions. People who once went to church ask God questions again. And some people straight out question God.
Two days ago two bombs exploded at the Boston Marathon. Three people were killed, including an 8 year old boy. Additionally, at least 10 people had limbs amputated and dozens more experienced serious injuries.
In the heat of a moment like this I don’t believe there are any words powerful enough to bring comfort. We’re accustomed to the role of disease and illness in our lives, even if we abhor it. We accept that accidents happen. We acknowledge that nations fight wars that cause the loss of life. But a deliberate act of random violence against unsuspecting individuals is something we’re unprepared for. It makes no sense.
Two days after the bombing the media and public seeks answers to the questions, “Who did this?” and “Why did they do this terrible thing?” As yet, there are no answers.
I believe many people also turn to God and ask Him an ancient question found in Judges 6:13,
“If the Lord is with us, why has all this happened to us?”
Perhaps we put a little twist on it and ask, “If God is good, why has all this happened to us?” but it’s basically the same question Gideon posed.
I don’t know the mind of God and how he determines when to spare us suffering and when to allow it.
I do know that suffering, pain and death were outside God’s intent for humanity. I also know that one day they will be eradicated. God’s heart abhors sin and its consequences even more than ours. He abhors it so much he personally died to make its eradication possible.
I do know that we live in the midst of a spiritual battleground, so I can’t blame God for everything. There are moments when Satan exerts his power in the world. Sometimes it happens in Somalia, or Angola, and sometimes it happens in our backyard. Sometimes the evil of sin hits people that are faceless and nameless to us. Sometimes their faces and names are all over the media and inescapable. Sometimes the face and name is someone we know and love deeply.
In one sense I like that people question God and moments like this. Asking God questions acknowledges his existence. These questions acknowledge that God might have answers no one else does. And often these questions recognise the power and authority God has because we know that he has the ability to have prevented tragedy. So these questions affirm God’s identity.
On the other hand, the questions people ask often double as accusations. I think Satan likes this. Satan likes when people accuse God of things Satan has prompted. Instead I think there’s great value in hating Satan, hating sin, and hating the consequences of sin. We should never take sin lightly and great tragedies remind us of the true evil of sin and how far removed it is from God’s love and holiness.
I don’t have all the answers. Perhaps you don’t think that I have any answers.
Here’s 3 points from my sermon Sunday that I hope encourage you.
- Keep taking your questions to God. As long as you’re in dialogue with God, your in the best possible place.
- Expect answers. Jesus addressed Thomas’ doubts by inviting him to put his hand into the hole in his side. That’s pretty invasive, but Jesus let him because he knew it would help Thomas resolve his doubts. I don’t know the time frame for these answers. Sometimes it might take years. But I do believe that God wants to answer our questions.
- Our faith will always require faith. Jesus makes this point in John 2:29 when he looks forward to those of us who will never see the human Jesus and he says, “blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” Jesus acknowledge that his future followers would follow by faith. We will always have to live with some questions. At times the best answer we receive from God is “trust Me.” I can never 100% prove that eternity will be better than our lives in the here and now, but I believe it. Sometimes when my world is falling apart I just have to trust that God can somehow hold it together, because I can’t, and it seems like Satan’s winning.
Here are a couple of other resources on this topic:
- A recent guest post on this blog here.
- A blog by a former describing his journey through the darkness of personal tragedy: http://www.lesfergusonjr.com/
- A friend’s blog here.
- Some thoughts on how Christians respond to violence here.
- A reflection on suffering and tragedy through the eyes of the book The Shack: here.
I don’t have any particular discussion questions this time, but if you have questions or perspectives you’d like to share, please leave a comment.