The Tulip Driven Life Podcast

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Why Do Tragic Events Happen to Christians?

"But suffering naturally produces in the spectators (unless they are unusually depraved) no bad effect, but a good one- pity. Thus that evil that God chiefly uses to produce the 'complex good' is most markedly disinfected, or deprived of that proliferous tendency which is the worst characteristic of evil in general." C.S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain, 117

"And we know all things that work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose." God, Romans 8:28

"Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them, do you think that they were worse sinners than all other men who dwelt in Jerusalem? I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish." Jesus, Luke 13:4-5.

The question I am addressing is a slight twist, or narrowing of scope really, of a question many have asked: "Why do bad things happen to good people?"

The answer to the above question, of course, is that there are no good people. Romans 3 makes that clear. What I am trying to address, however, is why does a specific type of event, the tragedy, happen to Christians who, while not good in and of themselves, have been bought with the blood of Christ, and are the temple of the God, the Holy Spirit? Why does God let, even cause, His children, chosen before the foundation of the world, to suffer, not only normal pain, but tragic pain?  Tragedy usually comes on suddenly, unexpectedly, thus making it abnormal. Tragedy is a unique pain, a rare suffering, probably the worst kind. If I know I am going in for surgery to take out a tumor, that's one thing. By the time it is to be removed, I may be quite calm and prepared, even if the recovery will be a long, arduous, physically painful process. But when I received the news that I had a cancerous tumor that could take my life, that shock factor, that abnormality, that unexpected reality is the real issue, the real cause of stress and pain.

In the passage of the towers falling on the 18 men, the surprising thing that Jesus says is that we all deserve to have towers fall on us and kill us. Such a death takes us by surprise, happening without warning, and we seem to think that there is something peculiar about that. We seem to think that dying tragically in such a manner may indicate that that person wasn't so good after all. But Jesus says, no, none of us are good. In other words, the reason towers fall on people, the reason tragedy occurs, even to Christians and their families, isn't because the ones killed were any worse than we are, nor any better. We are all sinners saved by grace.

So the reason for God allowing tragedy must be something else. Isn't it interesting that Jesus says, "Unless you repent, you will all likewise perish" yet most of us could name Christian people we know who have died tragically, much like the story in Luke 13? I think the only way to handle that, as far as I can see, is to assume that Jesus is trying to teach us a lesson about eternal things. Tragedy involves eternity, life after death, what it is like, and why we are here in the first place.

I think a tragedy is the closest thing to a miracle we are probably ever going to see. I use the term miracle in the narrow sense, the sense in which Jesus performed them to show that He was God. I am not a charismatic, but I do believe God can and does still physically heal supernaturally, though that of course is a rare occurrence, as it has always been. But nothing gets our attention quite like tragedy. People die, that is to be expected, but a terrorist blowing up the world trade centers, that's madness. That gets our attention. One person shooting others at a college is a tragedy (although frankly, it's beginning to happen so frequently due to man's depravity that it has lost some of its shock value). These we can somewhat understand- sinful man is responsible for them. But what do we say about earthquakes, or tornadoes, when they kill people we know and love, people who are saved? Well, perhaps it was just there time, it could have taken anyone, we usually reply. After all, those events are usually on a large scale, they happen to a large number of people.

That is not the case with the passage from Scripture. A tower unexpectedly falling, killing a small group of men, is not the same thing as a hurricane ravaging thousands or an earthquake taking hundreds of lives. Automobile accidents and the like leave us wondering why.

There is no one answer, for God has many reasons and uses for tragedy, even when He chooses to send tragedy to a Christian person and their family. I do think it reminds us to cherish our loved ones while they are here. We will see our saved family and friends in heaven again, and that is comforting. Incredibly comforting. It's just a journey, this life, to our true home. Death is not a parting, an eternal saying of goodbyes, for the children of God. What tragedy does bring to our attention is the fact that there are many here who are lost and dying, who are, like Jesus says, perishing without hope. Death can come as quickly as a tragedy, and they happen all the time. That unsaved friend or loved one could be gone tomorrow. It reminds us of the importance of evangelism, which reminds us of the importance of the cross, which reminds us of the grace and mercy of God.

For those who are not saved, yet lose a loved one that is saved, God can use that to bring them to their knees, to bring them to repentance. Jesus was saying unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. He was using tragedy as a tool for evangelism. It gets our attention. C.S. Lewis says that God screams to us in our pain and suffering. It's God's way, sometimes the only way, to get our attention. Even we as Christians can get so complacent in our lifestyles, in our passion and devotion to God, that we need a tragedy to wake us up and remind us that life is serious, death is real, and God is good, and worthy of all our praise, worthy of all our  time, energy, and affection. So God speaks to us through pain, not just our pain but the pain of a loved one, of even losing a loved one tragically. And sometimes, the higher the caliber of the person lost, the greater the value, the more good God can and will bring from their tragic death. 

Whatever the reason God chooses to send suffering to a Christian, even tragic suffering, we can always rest in the promise that God is not punishing us for our sins- He did that to His Son in our stead- and as Romans 8:28 states, all things are working together for the Christian's good, according to His purpose. The tragedy itself is according to the purpose of God, and it is an altogether good purpose. He sees the big picture, the full painting of His perfect masterpiece. We now see only in part, as through a glass dimly, but in heaven we shall know just as we are known by God (1 Cor. 13:12). This means that we will begin to see the full masterpiece, and then we will know fully, completely, why tragic events happen to Christians. And we will praise God for them.

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