Where is God in Tragedy?

Whilst He was nailed to the Roman cross (literally, stake), Jesus cried out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Mark 15:34) In times of tragedy, many down through the ages have asked much the same question. But just as God worked things out for Jesus, He can do the same for us.

There is a common view that when things go wrong, it is entirely God’s fault. Either He caused the tragedy or He failed to prevent it. Such a view is unreasonable because it denies human responsibility. Many tragedies occur not because God “went away” but because humans mistreat other humans. This is well illustrated by terrorist attacks, wars, murders, and domestic violence. Even famines are not so much “acts of God” but results of human greed and agricultural mismanagement. Further indication of human responsibility lies in a 1994 report which said that it would require 36 billion dollars per year to supply clean water to every human on this planet. Yet the world spent that same amount every two weeks on military activities. And with all the pollution pouring into our oceans, rivers and air, is it any wonder that there are so many cases of cancer? In addition, many suffer as a result of human accidents (such as vehicle collisions).

True, there are also natural calamities such as earthquakes, storms and tsunamis. Even in these cases though, humans are not without warning. A friend of mine, for example, chooses to live (along with millions of others) in an area prone to earthquakes. Major earthquakes have occurred there recently and another is forecast to occur in the next few years. Yet he still lives there. I once read that the native inhabitants of Florida in the USA knew to move away from the east coast of the Florida region during the hurricane season (thus avoiding the destructive impact of such storms). But now, whole cities have been constructed in those same areas.

The point thus far is that tragedy is not an indication of an uncaring God. If His word (the Bible) was taken more seriously, much human evil and suffering would cease. From that point of view it could be said that much tragedy is caused not by God but by a rejection of God.

God is not present only in the good times. He is there in times of tragedy as well. (The question of why God causes us to face hardship was briefly discussed in an earlier article.) One of the ways God intervenes is through the skills He has given to humans. Throughout the Bible, God instructs us to help one another according to our resources and abilities (e.g. Luke 10:25-37; Romans 12:3-21). God put us on this planet and enabled us to live and work together, helping and encouraging each other. One way He intervenes in tragedy is through us acting as His agents.

But God also assists in other ways. He assures us, for example, that He causes all things to “work together for good” for those who love Him (Romans 8:28). How God always accomplishes this, I cannot say but the fact is that God promises it to be so. And that applies even in the case of death. Yes, from one perspective death is a tragedy. Yet, for all who follow God, death is merely a doorway to a glorious, eternal existence with God. Whatever be the tragedy, God is with His people. He ensures that in one way or another, there will be a positive outcome.  We have His firm promise that “in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us”. The same Bible passage goes on to say that absolutely nothing separates us from God’s love, not even death (Romans 8:37-39). He doesn’t desert His people when tragedy strikes. He gives hope and reassurance through the words of the Bible. He provides the help of human abilities. And in His own ways, He works everything out for good for all who genuinely turn to Him.