It is of course hard to think about much else other than what is happening in the Gulf Coast, especially Houston. I lived many years in Texas and think of myself as a Texan at heart. I have spent time this week checking in on a number folks who live in Houston. Thankfully, for the most part they are fine.
One professor declared that the natural disaster was karma for Texas’ republican leanings. Others declare that this disaster of almost biblical proportions is God’s will. And the question is being asked, “If God is so loving, why does God allow all this tragedy?” The one response is of course nonsense. One question attempts to give a black and white answer in the face of tragedy. And frankly, the last question is really one we are all asking.
Karma is a Hindu notion that states there is “payback” for all the things you do in life. In essence, whether as a group or an individual, we are paid back for our sins. This is not the message of Jesus. Because of Jesus we never get what we deserve, but rather what we don’t deserve – God’s love and forgiveness.
I am convinced that God does not allow tragedy as a form of indifference. Rather, I think that God allows creation to run its natural course. The acts of creation are not evil, while they may be painful or tragic. God is not indifferent. What we see in the life and death of Jesus is that God is always at the place of our greatest need and greatest suffering. Nobel Peace Prize winner Eli Wiesel shared a story from his concentration camp experience. At one point the prisoners were all lined up to witness an execution by hanging. A person next to Eli said with disdain in his voice, “Where is your God now?” Wiesel’s answer, “at the end of the gibbet.” His point, God is to be found at the place of suffering.
Thoughts on Suffering
- Suffering is not God’s desire for us but occurs in the process of life.
- Suffering is not given in order to teach us something, but through it we learn.
- Suffering is not given to us to teach to others something but through it they may learn.
- Suffering is not given to punish us, but it is sometimes the consequence of sin or poor judgement.
- Suffering does not occur because our faith is weak, but through it our faith may be strengthened.
- God does not depend on human suffering to achieve God’s purposes, but through it God’s purposes are sometimes achieved.
Finally let me share with you the words from a beautiful song by Casting Crowns, “Praise You In This Storm.”
And I’ll praise you in this storm
And I will lift my hands
That you are who you are
No matter where I am
And every tear I’ve cried
You hold in your hand
You never left my side
And though my heart is torn
I will praise you in this storm
I don’t mean to imply it is easy. But the simple fact is…God is with us even in this storm and all the others yet to come. And God is still God. In all this tragedy, God was the first to shed tears.
Encouragement from the Bible
22 Right then, Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go ahead to the other side of the lake while he dismissed the crowds. 23 When he sent them away, he went up onto a mountain by himself to pray. Evening came and he was alone. 24 Meanwhile, the boat, fighting a strong headwind, was being battered by the waves and was already far away from land. 25 Very early in the morning he came to his disciples, walking on the lake. 26 When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified and said, “It’s a ghost!” They were so frightened they screamed.
27 Just then Jesus spoke to them, “Be encouraged! It’s me. Don’t be afraid.”