By Bob Yacobucci
We exist in a world filled with tragedy; where is God?
One of the many things Christians struggle with in our faith journey is explaining the “Why” as it relates to tragedy in our world. When tragedy occurs, whether a personal tragedy or a global event, the inevitable question is asked: “Why did God allow this to happen?” And in an effort to justify the tragedy, Christians will try to explain these events away with a canned answer such as, “Part of God’s plan” or “There is a purpose for what God does, we just don’t know what it is.” Both of these answers make the assumption that God caused the event to occur.
One of the most painful attempts at justifying tragedy occurs when a child passes away. A well-meaning person falls into the justification trap by suggesting to the parents that God called the child to heaven because God needed to make heaven a brighter place. I suspect trying to justify the death of a child does very little to soothe the pain of grieving parents. God understands completely the pain a parent is experiencing when a child dies; God has experienced this as well. I do not believe God causes the death of a child anymore than God caused the death of His own son. God does, however, receive the child in Heaven as His own and the child immediately feels the comfort of God. The child smiles, comforted in knowing that someday they will be joined together again as a family with their parents in heaven.
Instead of going down the path of seeking to justify tragedy, we are better served to understand the answer to the abstract question of “Why?” Why do earthquakes happen that cause a tremendous amount of loss of life? Or a tsunami, or a man-made disaster, and the list goes on. Why? Where is God? If God did not cause it, then He certainly could have stopped it. These are very good questions, and I also have asked these very same questions. I recall seeing the video and images of the tsunami which occurred in 2004 that caused the death of 230,000 people. Innocent men, women, and children died. People carrying out their day-to-day life activities were suddenly swept away by water, drowned, and left floating in the water or lying on the side of a street to decompose. Where are you God? Really! And you say you love us? None of these events seem to make sense, none of this seems justifiable, or explainable. So where is God?
When we reflect on the first book of the Bible, Genesis, we know the world in which we live is not where we are meant to be. Genesis tells the story of a place God created for us called, “God’s Garden”, a perfect place for us. But when Adam and Eve committed the first sin of disobedience, they were cast out from God’s presence; and therefore, we all became separated from God’s pure purpose, His plan, and yes, His protection from terrible events. We caused ourselves to be cast into a place of evil and a place where terrible events occur that have no justification. We originated from a place of great order to a place of great disorder. Genesis further explains how the first sin of disobedience evolved into the first murder; a brother murdering a brother as a result of a jealous heart. And from that day until today and all the tomorrows we know with certainty sin will continue. We released evil into the world and we have no choice but to watch it evolve and we are powerless to turn it back; we have lost control of our sin. We are in a place where good people die, a place where a child is senselessly murdered, a place where careless traffic accidents cause the death of an entire family, a place where men and women kill each other, a place where trusted friends lie to gain money, and the sin goes on.
Sin seems to spread like a virus unchecked. A virus that we willingly receive, we willingly carry, and we unwittingly and wittingly share with others. The origin of sin, and what sin is, is for another discussion. But the fact is sin does exist and we are all just as guilty as anyone else for propagating it. And just as a man who commits murder and is placed on trial and found guilty, we have also been placed on trial by God for our sin and found guilty. The place we are now, a place of disorder, is our prison created of our own doing; our own guilt. And along with our prison comes earned pain and suffering. We are left in a prison cell to sit on our cot wondering who it is we are, and why we are in this place. And when we look around, we see others who are just as guilty as us. We see people who pass sin from themselves to others as though they are trying to rid themselves of sin with the goal of ultimately finding contentment. But no matter how much we spread sin around, it will not end because our bodies and our blood make up a factory which produces an endless stream of sin. We can never completely rid ourselves of our sin because we are part of it; we all have become part of what is wrong with this world. And no matter how many songs are written or videos made which allude to our human abilities to create a place of perfect order, it will never happen. We are the sin and we cannot escape this prison we are in.
And just as a man in a jail cell ponders his fate, we look around and ponder our relationship with God and try to make sense of this world. The good news is that we can realize that Jesus is the only one who has conquered sin. The jail cell door has been unlocked by Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ descended into Hell, the absolute place of sin, He conquered sin, and now He offers us a pathway back to the presence of the Father through forgiveness. Some of us choose to find comfort by sitting on our cot passing the time in our cell waiting for peace to be placed on our lap, but some of us hear a faint noise; a tapping on the door and a willingness to stand up and open the door. Jesus calls to each one of us in a way that only our individual hearts can hear.
Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me.
This Bible verse above reflects that Jesus is willing to spiritually bridge the gap from the place we are now to the comfort only His presence can offer (“I will come in to him…“). Jesus is ready to come to each and every one of us and sit with us in this place; if only we have the courage to stand up from our cot and open the door. He will come to us and He will sit and eat with us; He will provide us sense of comfort in this place. Jesus will laugh with us, cry with us, and most of all, Jesus will whisper in our ear the words, “I am in control, everything will be okay, be patient for I am with you! Rejoice!” Jesus is communicating to us that the battle over sin has already been won and to be of good cheer! We are to sit with Christ, trust in Him, listen to Him, and absorb the presence of His spirit in our soul.
We are to take comfort in the promise that we are forgiven of our sin through the power of Christ. And through the forgiveness of our sin, Jesus promises us that through our eventual death in this life we will shed this place of disorder and be reborn in a place of great order. The “how we pass away” will not matter to us. All that will matter to us is the warmth that we will feel of an unobstructed Love; a pure form of the passing of Love from God over to us without the hindrance of sin. Our soul will absorb the essence of who God is.
We should eagerly anticipate the day Jesus will take us by our hand, tell us to stand up from the cot which has been our comfort zone, and walk us out the door and guide us to the place where we are all meant to be. A place where children do not die, a place where there is no greed, a place of no disease, no hate, no murder, no pain, no tsunamis, and no more tears; this place is His place; a place of Peace.
I hope that you know who Jesus is, and if you’re not sure, continue to seek Him. Our faith is not a destination or a single word, it is a journey which only comes to fruition when Jesus takes us by the hand and leads us to a place of Peace.