We want answers when bad things happen. We wonder who to blame, why it happened, and how could God allow such tragedy. Let’s see how Jesus addressed the issue. ♦
Several years ago there was a horrific slaughter of people worshipping in their church. Many wondered whether God was punishing them. At that same time nearby there had been a collapse of a building structure that killed multiple people.
This past week we have yet another cruel act of violence. This time a deadly shooting of innocents while they are in a Texas church service. They were worshipping the very God that some say did not save them.
So many questions: Why? What good does praying do? What good does worshipping God do? How could God allow even little babies to be brutally murdered? Where was God? Was it something they did? Why didn’t God stop it? Why was God allowing this to happen to good people?
So really, where is God when these tragedies strike?
What Would Jesus Say?
People really asked Jesus the same thing. The 2 incidents cited above involving a brutal church massacre and a building accident that caused the death of 18 men literally happened when Jesus walked the earth. For reasons unknown, the Roman governor of Judea, Pontius Pilate, directed the bloody murder of a group of Jewish people during sacrificial services at the temple. Those killed by the Romans were from Jesus’ hometown region of Galilee. The event surrounding the tower of Siloam in southern Jerusalem added another dimension to Jesus’s reply.
Here’s the account written up in Luke 13:
Now there were some present at that time who told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices. Jesus answered, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans because they suffered this way? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish. Or those eighteen who died when the tower in Siloam fell on them—do you think they were more guilty than all the others living in Jerusalem? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish.” – Luke 13:1-5
This is a strange response that is actually fairly loaded with meaning and a Godly perspective, from Jesus the God-Man himself.
The people were looking for a comforting and rational explanation as to why bad things happen. While they did not doubt the existence of God, the prevailing thinking was that God punishes or allows things for a deserving reason. This comes up again in the question posed to Christ (in John 9) about the cause of the man being born blind:
As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” “Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him.” – John 9:1-3
Jesus simply points out our wrong thinking. It’s not about deserved punishment, an absent or powerless God, or even a capricious God. Dark deeds, spiritual battles, accidents, and misfortune happen and are allowed by God. But for His purposes, and known by only Him alone sometimes. We need to repent, surrender and turn our hearts to God or we too will perish ourselves. In fact, as theologian R. C. Sproul points out, we should all be so fortunate to not have a tower collapse on us!
As the entire Bible lays out the context in totality, in this present dark but purposeful world created and redeemed by God through Jesus, we are all lost and doomed. We are each saved for eternity by the gift of God’s grace alone.
Harsh sounding but true. All other perspectives are actually mere chatter.
The Confused, the Doubting, and the Unrepentant
If you think about it, all of mankind can be placed into 3 categories on this matter: the confused, the doubting, and the unrepentant:
- The Confused – like the man Job in the Old Testament, it’s fair to question God with friends and wonder why oh why are these bad things happening (to you, or them, or others far away). It’s in our human nature to want answers. As a full reading of the Book of Job will reveal however, God has His reasons and ways that are way beyond our understanding. Even Job gets it eventually. (See Job chapters 38-41.) We are foolish to do anything but submit to omniscient God.
- The Doubting – like the prophet Habakkuk in the Old Testament, it’s fair to challenge and even debate God directly in righteous anger about things not seemingly fair and just. As Habakkuk finally learns and humbly submits by Chapter 3, God is doing a work in our days “we would not believe even if we were told.” We are foolish to doubt or do anything but quiver and rejoice in the presence of omnipresent God.
- The Unrepentant – like the non-believers then and now that Jesus challenged to repent lest they too soon perish, it’s fair to resist the Word of Truth and historic and physical evidence of the work of God/Jesus Christ. But resistance is ultimately futile in this life and beyond. But as many have ultimately seen the light, many remain foolish in their stubborn unrepentance in the face of omnipotent God.
So What’s the Answer?
God is God and we are not. It’s not about us and our comfort here on earth. His ways are unknown to mortal man beyond His revealed Word in this broken and corrupted world. But He loves us and wants to reconnect and restore relationship with each of us, like a loving Father and His children. We need to repent, submit, and worship Him who is eternally faithful and just. Abiding in His love, without fear but even courage, we can experience human and spiritual peace now and everlasting.
Are you confused, doubting, or unrepentant?
He told them, “This is what is written: The Messiah will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance for the forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things.” – Luke 24:46-48
Mike, How I love this! It beautifully, boldly captured my heart this past week. The TX tragedy was not proof of no God but a powerful witness of everything we learn about in the Bible, and the power of God to overcome worldly tragedy.
Love ❤️ this! So grateful to receive these blogs. Sue
Thank you, Sue. Yes, it is so difficult to see God through tears in the midst of tragedy. But we can know and rest on His promises and presence all through human history.