FINDING GOD IN TRAGEDIES
With national fame in Opioid overdose deaths, devastating Memorial Day tornadoes and most recently, a deadly mass shooting, people are asking: What in the world is going on in Dayton, Ohio?
Additionally, I’m hearing those two dreaded questions…the ones, we in the Christian faith struggle to answer…and sometimes even haunt us: Why does God let terrible things happen? Where is God in the midst of tragedies?
My answer to the first gets theological. It involves the Sovereign will of God, His greater purpose, and the assurance that God causes all things to work together for good. All scripturally sound teaching.
But not much help to victims and grieving families. Offering loving compassion and support is a better approach.
And while I struggle with the “why” I have no doubt on “where” you’ll find God in tragedies.
IN THE MIDST OF TRAGEDY GOD IS ALWAYS PRESENT IN THE HEARTS OF HIS PEOPLE
Usually when people ask where God is during tragic events, they look for a big, dramatic appearance. Yes, God has and does show up dramatically, but not always.
When ancient Israel was pinned against the Red Sea as an Egyptian army approached, God miraculously parted the waters for their escape. A big, dramatic, miraculous act of God.
Hollywood even made a movie about it!
But thousands of years later, the same group of people…millions of them…suffered the Holocaust. God intervened on one occasion, but not the other. And that’s puzzling.
There is one place, however where God is always present. And that’s in the hearts of people who personally invite Him into their life. That’s where His greatest transforming work is done. Starting individually and then expanding corporately through the church.
IN TRAGEDIES AS IN GENERAL LIFE GOD MOST COMMONLY ACTS THROUGH HIS PEOPLE
God’s transforming work in His followers motivates them to pursue Him in relationship and obey His teachings. Not because they have to, but want to. Demonstrating their love for God through acts of service.
In general life and in the midst of tragedies, God’s people offer multiple acts of service, often quietly, individually and inconspicuously. And in more significant ways through organized church endeavors.
As a result, thousands of small, ordinary miracles are weaved into a blanket of God’s love. It’s how God best presents Himself.
But you have to pay attention. Because this faithful activity regularly misses the news. And yet, through it God’s presence is visibly demonstrated.
Of course, others who may not consider themselves Christ followers participate in community service too. But followers do so specifically in the name of Jesus and for the glory of God.
GOD’S REMEDY FOR TRAGEDIES BEGINS WITH A PERSONAL RESPONSE
So why does it seem like God’s presence in the world is growing more remote?
Because God indwells only those who personally respond and invite Him into their lives. It’s where God always starts. And when you do, you’ll always know where He is.
But it requires a heart and soul commitment that a shrinking number of people choose to make. It’s much easier and convenient to clamor for a solution. To expect someone else to fix the problem.
But when I personally respond to God, He compels me to BE part of the solution. To partner in His work so He accomplishes it, in and through me. To engage rather than demand.
This is part of God’s greater purpose for all of us. And where His presence in Dayton and beyond will be unmistakable and complete.