I am constantly checking the traffic sources to my blog, looking to see what people have typed in searches before stumbling upon my ramblings. One such search was "where is God in the midst of tragedy"? My heart immediately went out to the person who typed that search. Coincidentally, as I pondered writing a blog to answer this hard question, a friend told me that a member of her church passed away this weekend, leaving behind a husband and three children under the age of ten. Please remember this family in your prayers. I cannot imagine what they are going through.
For a moment, let's peek in on a conversation between God and a character we'll call "Sally". Sally is standing before the throne of God Almighty, giving an account of her life on earth.
"Why did You take Peter from me? We had only been married a year. Couldn't You have allowed us just a few more years together?"
"I know this is hard for you to understand, Sally. You must believe that I work everything for the good of those who love Me and are called according to My purposes. If I had given you a few more years with Peter, you wouldn't have started going back to church. You wouldn't have re-dedicated your life to Jesus. You wouldn't have started The Quilt Ministry. Because of Peter's death, you started seeking Me and using the talents I gave you to build My Kingdom."
"There had to be a way to get my attention without ruining my life."
"Sally, it did matter to Me that you were suffering. In fact, I suffered with you when you lost Peter. But I allowed it because I saw that your suffering would produce spiritual fruit. And not only in your life -- as you allowed Me to give you beauty for ashes, the lives of others were impacted. That was more important to Me than your happiness with Peter."
"What about the children starving in Africa? Are they suffering for the purpose of salvation and spiritual growth? Come on!"
"Because of sin, life on earth is full of pain, hardship, heartache and death. I never intended for my precious creation to be subjected to that. It's breaks My heart."
"Well then fix it! You're God! You can take away the war, famine, poverty and disease! Why do You let people live like that?"
"Yes, I could put a stop to it all right now. And in fact, a day is coming when I will do it. I will lift the curse of sin and renew the earth. It will be paradise again. But it cannot happen until every person who has ever lived has been judged according to their works, be they good or bad, and My Kingdom has descended to the earth. I am a Holy God. Though I love people, I cannot tolerate or excuse sin. I cannot dwell among people until the sin is gone.
"By allowing life to continue as it is on the earth, I am being merciful to those who are still living on it. With every day, I am giving them another chance. I don't want anyone to be separated from Me for eternity in hell. Hell wasn't created for people. But at the same time, I won't interfere with their ability to choose to live apart from Me."
"Okay, so if the whole point of life is to accept Jesus so they can be with You for eternity, then why do you allow Christians to continue to suffer in a sin-cursed world after they invite Jesus into their lives? Why didn't you take me to heaven as soon as I became a Christian?"
"If I took all of my children to heaven just as soon as they accepted Jesus, who would go and tell the others about Me? I choose to minster to the world through My children. I need them to remain on the earth to do a job for Me -- to spread the good news of the gospel to those lost, hurting and dying apart from Me -- not to live the life of their dreams."
Okay, we're back. What did you think about that dialogue? Yeah, it's sounds kind of gloomy and discouraging for life in this world, but the truth is, life in this world is gloomy and discouraging because of sin. It truly breaks God's heart to see us suffering the effects of evil. He never wanted that for us. And yes, sometimes He will allow war, hunger, disease and death to touch His faithful servants for the sake of someone's relationship with Him and life in eternity. Take the life of Job in the Bible, for example. He was a righteous man, yet he lost his wealth, his children and his health as God allowed him to be tested. And he was richly rewarded in this life,and in the one to come for his faithfulness to God in the midst of tragedy.
Psalms 34:18 tells us that God is close to the brokenhearted. That He saves those who are crushed in spirit. Verse 19 says, "A righteous man may have many troubles, but the Lord delivers him from them all" (NIV). 1 Peter 5:7 says, "cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you". So when you must weather the storms of life, take comfort in knowing that He's right there beside you and and that He cares about you. Even when your emotions tell you otherwise. You can't trust your emotions. You must trust in His Word and faithfulness instead.
This life is brief, like a flower blooming and dying in a vase. Whatever we had or didn't have in this life won't matter in eternity. Whatever we experienced or didn't experience won't matter. This is all that will matter: Did you accept Jesus Christ as your Lord and personal Savior? What did you do with the talents and people God entrusted to you? What did you do for the Kingdom of God?