Tragedies and sufferings are things we all have gone through or will go through, either directly or indirectly. There are no exemptions. This week several reports of tragedies have come my way and it’s provoked me to think about how they fit into the plan of God. On a national level, I’ve been reading articles concerning the plane crash near Buffalo, NY and the effects of the recession. Much closer to home, I’ve received phone calls this week from close people in my life informing me of their recent tragedies and sufferings.
When tragedies and sufferings strike, the common question asked is, “Why did this happen?”. I believe the foundational answer is sin. This world is fallen and we are engaged in angelic conflict. Presently, this world is not functioning according to God’s intended purpose. But we must not forget in spite of these things, God is sovereign and working all things to His marvelous end. We must not also shrink back in arrogant disbelief when we’re told God, at times, appoints tragedies and sufferings or at other times does not prevent them from happening. Bitter times must never be an account where the sovereignty, love, justice, goodness and wisdom of God is questioned.
So how are we, believers, to assess the tragedies and sufferings that occur in our lives or in the lives of others?
By looking at them as a means of grace. The justification for this perspective is Romans 8:28.
And 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.
The all things in this verse definitely includes tragedies and sufferings. God causes tragedies and sufferings to work together for good according to His purpose. We can not overlook that. We must diagnose our lives in light of the big picture – God’s purpose. We cannot merely isolate the tragedies and sufferings of our lives apart from His overall purpose. Rather, we must also see our tragedies and sufferings integrated into the plan and purpose of God. Consider Job, Joseph, Jonah, Paul, and of course Jesus. All of them suffered in such a way whereas God designed it for their benefit and the benefit of others. That’s the grace. Excluding Jesus, none of these men could see the ultimate good and fruit of their suffering while in the midst of it. And neither will we, but will we take God at His word?
It’s very difficult for Western Christendom to see tragedies and sufferings as a grace gift of God. Our affluence and pride kicks against this biblical truth. But God will have His way. God’s purpose for His people is to see Christ’s reflection in them, that He may be pleased. Tragedies and sufferings are two of the tools of grace He uses to make us more like Christ.
Tragedies and sufferings:
- Reminds us of the folly of self-sufficiency.
- Reminds us of the blessing and joy of depending on God.
- Are permitted to induce repentance and humility.
- Purifies, strengthens and matures our faith.
- Causes us not to trust in money, etc.
- Causes us to long to be with God.
- Creates opportunities for unbelievers to see Who our Treasure is.
- Creates an opportunity to experience the comfort of God.
- Creates an opportunity for other believers to be encouraged by your positive response.
- Enlargens our ability to express compassion and sorrow when others experience trials.
It is good for me that I was afflicted,
That I may learn Your statutes.
Grace & Peace,