“Where is God when tragedy strikes” has long been a difficult and seemingly answerable question.
Even the Bible doesn’t give us simple answers. God intervened when Abraham was just about to slay his precious son Isaac, but he didn’t intervene in the miseries of Job and he didn’t intervene in stopping the Roman and Jewish authorities from executing Jesus.
We can all tell of tragedies where some have been prevented and others haven’t. Our histories are full of God’s gracious “intervention” and his not so gracious “non-intervention”.
Why? Are some people more important to God, like Abraham but not Job or Jesus? Are some events planned by God and therefore can’t be stopped like Jesus needing to die to save us from hell? Are some the result of the evil intentions of others and God doesn’t interfere with our free will, even if it be a criminal raping a child?
Why are some tragedies more terrible than others like Jesus’ death over thousands of others who were crucified? Is the result the important thing and not the means or persons involved? Again the question arises why are some tragedies “justified” like Jesus, and yet others like the senseless rape of a child is not? Tell a parent that it’s because of the importance of Jesus’ death to salvation over that of their child that makes the tragedy more meaningful and therefore acceptable and we’d rightly so be called callous and unfeeling.
Does suffering a tragedy become more meaningful and acceptable when a good outcome can be seen but not when no reason is apparent? Are we required, expected to accept tragedy in the belief that God will use the occurrence for good in all those affected by it even if not in our lifetimes?
There definitely is some easing of the pain when we can see that good has come out of the calamity. When we can see that we have come to understand and learn things that would otherwise have evaded us. That sometimes it takes something personal for us to learn the lessons of life passed down to us by others but ignored. Like don’t go to war, don’t drink and drive, have safe sex, don’t murder, lie or cheat, care for one another and your sick, aged and poor, take care of your water resources, your forests, your rivers, your vegetation, etc. etc.!
If we were godlier would there be less and less disasters? And by that I mean if we lived the golden rule of doing unto others as we’d like them to do unto us could we divert so many catastrophes? If we took more responsibility for the outcome of our actions, our words, our thoughts, would we be more careful and circumspect and would things begin to be better and better? Could these things be the prayers and actions that would save us rather than leaving it to God, the gods and someone else to do what is right and good for all and our planet? Can the golden rule work if we believe it but leave it to someone else to practice?
I do believe that God does work things out for good but he needs our co-operation – be it before, during or after the event. It may not be that things begin to change for the perpetrator of the evil as that is not within our control, but it can begin with us choosing to work with God. I do believe he can transform our weeping into laughter and can use circumstances in our lives to make us sit up and change the way we are living! I believe God would far rather that we live life without all the pain and suffering we do, be it as a result of the cumulative selfishness of the ages, of our age, of ourselves or others.
We know what is the good and right thing to do, but we often just turn a blind eye until something happens that forces us to take stock of our lives. Sometimes we are shaken awake by what we read and by the experiences of others but often unfortunately it is only when something trips us up even if it is not an enormous calamity that we are prepared to look at and live our lives differently.
We may never really understand how or why tragedies happen or why they are not always prevented by God or others or ourselves, but there are a few things we can do even so. We can give the tragedy some meaning. We can see that it has made us more sensitive to the pain of others who may have suffered something similar. It can make us more wary of doing the same harm to another. It can be the impetus for us to help others avert such tragedies by giving support and help be it through a new campaign, or joining a organization already operating, or making a phone call, sending flowers or something else that would help ease another’s pain. I remember once being unable to express my sadness for a friend at the funeral of her husband, and could only embrace her. She told me later that the concern and love of that embrace gave her great comfort.
We can imagine a good outcome in the meantime! A favourite scripture of mine is that whatever we can imagine that is good and lovely will not be able to be compared with what God has planned. So image the most extravagant and glorious outcome and God will do better than that. One of my imaginings is that my deceased mother who loved horses and rode them into her 80’s, is enjoying the wonderful scenery of the various planets of the universe riding the beautiful horses of heaven. Now I thrill to think of God’s one up on mine!!
Imagine the best outcome when tragedy strikes and as sure as God is God, it will be better.
NEXT ….. some more imaginings!