Last night some neighbors gathered in our living room to eat, pray, and study the Scriptures together. One neighbor shared how their spouse has recently discovered tumors and the cancer is spreading. It’s tragic.
This morning we woke up to hear how a gunman unleashed on a concert crowd in Las Vegas. One man decided to carry out his evil rage, and now we mourn the pain he leaves behind. A friend that was there just texted me with this, “I watched rows of people get shot down as we ran through fences. I spent an hour hiding behind the tour buses before SWAT escorted us.” It’s tragic.
This week I fly to Houston to assist in some of the reconstruction process as thousands of people have been affected by hurricane Harvey. Not to mention the devastation in Puerto Rico, Florida, Mexico and more. It really is tragic.
So where’s God in all of this? Is he still near? What should our response be amidst the chaos and tragedy? There’s so much we can discuss on this subject, and I believe it’s best done over a cup of coffee (and not a blog), but hopefully, I can help you process this a bit as you consider these questions.
Jesus said in Matthew 28:20 that he’ll be with us always…even to the end of the age. When Jesus died on the cross, I’d be willing to bet that the disciples had lost all of their hope. Can you imagine following Jesus for three years, hearing about how he’s the Messiah and has come to save the world, only to then witness him being tortured and martyred? They probably remembered him saying things like, “I will never leave you or forsake you.” Or, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.” This must have left his followers with confusion, hurt, hopelessness, and asking the same questions we are asking when he was hung on the cross. Did God forget about us? Is he too busy to notice what’s is going on? If you follow Jesus with your life, you know that this world is not your home. It’s temporary. You also know that we live in a world that is broken and in need of restoration. But when tragedy hits, we are still faced with the same question that the disciples must have been asking, “Where is God in all of this?”
Over the next forty days after his death, Jesus began appearing to his followers before giving them some final instructions and reminding them of his everlasting presence. It must have been comforting to finally see him again and know that his plan was actually being fulfilled. Everything he talked about came true even to the very last detail. He told them to wait because the Father would be sending the Helper, and in fact, he said it’s better that he leaves and that the Helper arrives. Who is this Helper that he’s talking about, and could he really help us in the midst of our world and tragedies? Jesus never said to his followers that there wouldn’t be tragic events. He never said this life was going to be easy when they followed him. In fact, he gives us the exact opposite and says that in order to follow him we must give up our lives.
The Helper (comforter) then arrives in Acts 2. It says that they are then baptized with the Holy Spirit as they prepared to take God’s message to the ends of the earth. This was their seal (Eph 1:13), and the Spirit of God now dwells within them (1 Cor 3:16).
So why should we take comfort in even the most terrible tragedies? Because we know that God is in fact still with us through his Spirit. If you are currently going through a tragedy, simply reading these words from the Scriptures may not give you the comfort that you need to know God is near. Perhaps, you need to earnestly seek his Spirit’s presence in prayer and petition. He is present and available for you right now. The Spirit is alive and wants to comfort you as you seek his help. Does this wipe away the tragedies? Obviously, the answer is no, but what it does do is remind us that we have a loving Father that sees our hurt and pain and he does, in fact, meet us in it to walk with us through it. Amidst the tragedy, we can know that God is near because he tells us, Jesus reminds us, and his Spirit dwells in us. Will you allow him to walk with you?
As Christians, what should our response look like to a world that is broken?
Simply put, it should look like love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. We are the “salt of the earth” and we must keep our saltiness. We must be ministers of reconciliation to a world that is in desperate need of hope and answers. We must refrain from joining another political argument and instead become peacemakers. We must do what is good so that others may see and glorify our Father in heaven. We must seek to listen and to understand before speaking, and truly listen with compassion, even when we disagree. Most of all, we must love others beginning with the Church. Because, it is our love for one another that will prove to the world that we are with Jesus.
Tragedy is all around us. Does this mean that God isn’t near? No, it’s the exact opposite actually. Not only is he near, but he comforts us if we let him. God is with us and he’s not leaving anywhere. It’s a promise he’s made so be encouraged.
In closing, my prayer for you is the same prayer I pray over my kids every night coming from Romans 15:13 – I pray that God, the source of hope, will fill you completely with joy and peace because you trust in him. Then you will overflow with confident hope through the power of the Holy Spirit.