Michelle and I have been watching the World News every day this past week, and I have to say it is very depressing. With all that's going on in our economy, with political feistyness flying everywhere, with so many tragic deaths and natural disasters and more. It's all very dizzying.
One thing that brings me hope in the midst of the storm is the statement in God's Word in Romans 8 - "I will work all things out for the good of those that love me and are called according to my purpose."
I see this in the life of my friend and mentor Sujo John, who was a survivor of the 9/11 terrorist attack on New York City. He had moved over to the US from India only 6 months prior to work at the trade towers, and along with many others, barely survived that terrible day. From that tragedy, however, with his incredible story, he has had receptive audiences and thousands of opportunities to share his story and challenge people with the question "do you know where you are gonna go when death is staring you in the face." He has spoken to audiences around the world and in one event in his home country of India alone he personally led over 50,000 people to Christ. Simply put, if this tragedy hadn't of happened, hundreds of thousands of people would never have escaped hell through Christ because of the ministry of Sujo John.
I also see this in the life of our friends Brent and Lauren Bohn. Lauren was a survivor of the school shootings in Columbine, CO. Although I don't know lots about their story, I do know that her story has opened up opportunities to speak to thousands of people across the country, including a meeting with the President of the United States. Simply put, if Columbine would never have happened, multitudes of students who have found Christ and been strengthened in their faith never would have, if it hadn't have been for Lauren.
A lady at church asked Michelle and I recently, "Why do bad things happen?" We don't always have a reason for tragedy. Sometimes it is clearly the result of human wickedness, as in the cases above. Other times it may subtly be a result of humanity's sin, as in the case of some diseases, relationship issues, heartache. Even some natural disasters, I believe, are the result of the earth "groaning" under the weight of humanity's sin. Other times it may be the punishment of God, which Scripture clearly backs at times. Still other times tragedy may be unexplainable on this side of eternity.
I love what my cousin Brittney writes in a note about dealing with the recent death of her brother:
" ... a quote I love from a book called "The Shack," this is God speaking: "...just because I work incredible good out of unspeakable tragedies
doesn't mean I orchestrate the tragedies. Don't ever assume that my
using something means I caused it or that I need it to accomplish my
purposes. That will only lead you to false notions about me. Grace
doesn't depend on suffering to exist, but where there is suffering you
will find grace in many facets and colors."
What we do know for sure is that both non-Christians and Christians experience tragedy. It happens with or without a concept of God in our hearts. The beautiful side of tragedy with Christ in our lives is that we know two things:
1. We believe our God endured the greatest tragedy by giving his only Son for us to become a man, and to endure a painful, tortuous death on the cross, so that we could find reconciliation to God through him and also healing in the midst of our tragedies.
2. With God in our lives, we can turn to Him, even with the unexplainable tragedies, and ask him to make something good out of it ... to give some reason and purpose to those things which rack our lives. This he promises to do in the Scripture above.
I believe we should redefine the word tragedy to ... opportunity. Although tragdy constantly racks all of our lives day in and day out, it opens the doors of opportunity for the lost to find Christ and to defeat the ultimate tragedy of eternity in hell.