No one expected the Boston Marathon to end in tragedy. No one expected the Twin Towers to fall. No one expected the shootings. Unfortunately, tragedy has become a routine part of our experience. Dealing with any tragedy is difficult, but God gives us tools to both endure and overcome tragedies in our lives.
We need to remember that “bad” things do happen.
Adam and Eve chose to sin and were excluded from the ideal Garden of Eden. Life in the world outside that Garden has proven to be full of struggles. Romans 8:18 displays God’s understanding of our ordeal in this life and reassures us of the hope we have because of eternal life:
For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed to us- ward. For the earnest expectation of the creation waiteth for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to vanity, not of its own will, but by reason of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the liberty of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now. And not only so, but ourselves also, who have the first- fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for our adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body.
Although the increasingly routine tragedies of life press down upon us, we still have the reassuring words of Jesus to sustain us: “These things have I spoken unto you, that in me ye may have peace. In the world ye have tribulation:but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).
Focus on Spiritual Things.
If we focus on physical things, we will always be disappointed–all that is in the world is passing away. If we are to overcome tragedies in our life, we must focus on our spiritual destination. Paul wrote:
“Not that I have already obtained, or am already made perfect:but I press on, if so be that I may lay hold on that for which also I was laid hold on by Christ Jesus. Brethren, I could not myself yet to have laid hold:but one thing I do, forgetting the things which are behind, and stretching forward to the things which are before, I press on toward the goal unto the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. Let us therefore, as many as are perfect, be thus minded:and if in anything ye are otherwise minded, this also shall God reveal unto you” (Philippians 3:12-15).
With out spiritual destination in mind, we also want to be overwhelmed the spiritual blessings we have in this life rather than the physical deficits and depravities surrounding us.
Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honorable, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things. The things which ye both learned and received and heard and saw in me, these things do: and the God of peace shall be with you.
Know the blessings of prayer.
Paul was certainly acquainted with grief. He was rejected, he battled guilt, he had a thorn in the flesh, he was beaten, he was left for dead, he was the object of ridicule, his own Christian family forsook him, and he ultimately died for the cause of Christ. How did he endure? He was a man of prayer. He wrote what he lived: “Pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17).
Philippians 4:6-7 offers the Christian hope and a tremendous Christian challenge:
“In nothing be anxious; but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall guard your hearts and your thoughts in Christ Jesus.”
Remember where God is.
We often ask, “Where was God when ______ happened?”. There is a great book which deals with the problem of suffering titled, Where is God When It Hurts? It is a good question to ask, and there is a good answer to know.
Hebrews 7:25-27 tells us of Jesus’ intercession on our behalf during our most serious problem:
Wherefore also he is able to save to the uttermost them that draw near unto God through him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them. For such a high priest became us, holy, guileless, undefiled, separated from sinners, and made higher than the heavens; who needeth not daily, like those high priests, to offer up sacrifices, first for his own sins, and then for the sins of the people: for this he did once for all, when he offered up himself.
When God’s people are hurting the most, God knows and cares. We see this pictured in the book of Acts chapter 7 and verse 56 when Stephen is in the process of being martyred. The suffering did not end immediately, but Stephen was not overwhelmed with the pain, he was overwhelmed with his Redeemer: Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of Man standing on the right hand of God.
Be prepared at all times.
The reality of life is that we never know what will happen next. We can only pray and prepare for whatever may come. The most certain thing in life is death. We begin that journey into that shadowy valley the moment we are born. It only seems right to be prepared for that time. Suffering and tragedies and pain play a great role in helping us to be prepared. C. S. Lewis described pain as “God’s megaphone” to the world. It is one way our attention is turned to Him.
So Amos was right to say, “prepare to meet thy God” (Amos 4:12). Through Christ we can be prepared for both life and death. Paul wrote “But ye are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you. But if any man hath not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his. And if Christ is in you, the body is dead because of sin; but the spirit is life because of righteousness. But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwelleth in you, he that raised up Christ Jesus from the dead shall give life also to your mortal bodies through his Spirit that dwelleth in you” (Romans 8:9-11).
No one ever expects tragedies to come, but everyone can be prepared for every situation by walking hand and hand with Jesus.