This week my own world overlapped with a tragic event, a death that has altered my summer plans. This tragedy has provided an opportunity for reflection on life, suffering, and if God is just. In June a church youth group stopped at the National White Water Center in Charlotte, NC. My travel plans also include a stop at this location about a month later however the Center is now temporarily closed because of the death. While at the Center a young lady contracted a form of meningitis that eventually lead to her death a week later. The cause is an ameba that is found in fresh water streams and lakes all over the southeast United States. Cases are very rare but devastating none the less. The Center is closed until they can find the source of the pathogen.
My heart goes out to the family and community where this young lady calls home and I pray that through the grief comfort might be found in Christ in whom salvation and life is real. Why would God permit or allow such a dangerous thing to happen? Does the blame fall on God, the Center, or was it just random? If random then the blame should fall on God right? If you like me live on this planet then bad things will happen regardless of who you, where you live, or what kind of relationship you have with God.
44 But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. Matthew 5:44-45 ESV
Jesus speaking about the need to love all people even those who are unlikeable reminds the disciples that if they live on this earth that tragedy and blessing will befall all regardless of how just and wonderful they might or might not be. The young lady and her family suffered tragedy this summer and many families in similar way be it accidents or natural causes suffer tragedy every day the world over. That is an ever present reality of how short and temporary life on earth will be regardless of how good or bad one lives life. We are brothers and sisters all caught up in the human condition.
There was a tragic and shocking event that happened in the news during the time of Jesus that everyone was talking about. A tower in part of the city collapsed and eighteen people were killed. An act of God one might claim. Did they deserve to die? Why did others escape? What is just about this and what was God thinking? Some of the eighteen might have been the most wonderful and loving people in the community. Why? Jesus brought it up…
4 Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them: do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who lived in Jerusalem? Luke 13:4 ESV
Common in that day was the thought that those that died must have been worse than everyone else. They must have done something to deserve it. Jesus answers the question but before that I want to back up to the book of Job. This book is about a righteous man who lived a moral devoted life to God. His life is blessed beyond measure in family and wealth. However tragedy strikes quickly in such a way that his children are dead and his wealth is lost. The community morns with him and a few of his friends come to sit with him. After some time they begin a dialog on how God operates and one of Job’s friends “reminds” Job that God would never punish the innocent and blames Job for the situation in that he must be reaping some form of punishment for his actions.
7 “Remember: who that was innocent ever perished? Or where were the upright cut off? 8 As I have seen, those who plow iniquity and sow trouble reap the same. 9 By the breath of God they perish, and by the blast of his anger they are consumed. Job 4:7-9 ESV
His friends asked Job to repent for whatever he had done to deserve such tragedy in this life but God intervenes and tells these friends that they have assumed wrongly. This tragedy in Job’s life had nothing to do with living a just or unjust life. In fact Job himself answered the issue right up front and was further confirmed by God in the end.
JOB: Should we accept only good things from the hand of God and never anything bad? Job 2:10b NLT
GOD: 6 Then the Lord answered Job from the whirlwind: 7 “Brace yourself like a man, because I have some questions for you, and you must answer them. 8 “Will you discredit my justice and condemn me just to prove you are right? Job 40:6-8 NLT
God’s plans are perfect and tragedy is allowed and permitted by God for His own reasons and planning. Sometimes He provides a window into those reasons and sometimes he does not. Jesus provided a little more perspective into this when he answered his own question about the tragedy at the tower. He asked if the people who died were more deserving than those who lived. What do you think?
5 No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.” Luke 13:5 ESV
Tough answer. All are going to die. All are going to be overcome at some point and perish no matter how “good” of a person they have been in this life. R.C. Sproul puts the answer from Jesus in these terms. “Jesus was reminding His hearers that there is ultimately no such thing as an innocent person (except Him). Thus, we should not be amazed by the justice of God but by the grace of God. We should be asking why towers do not fall on us each and every day.”
Why God do I even still have life and breath? I should have died so many times and I can think of several instances from my past right away. I am here right now because He gave me life, and he has sustained my life. I deserve nothing but death for the wages of my sins and rebellion. When I look on this tragedy and I pray that all would take a moment to reflect and give thanks to God that in his mercy he has provided an opportunity to know him.
Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life John 5:24 ESV