When Tragedy Makes You Doubt God
John ShoreBesides here on Crosswalk, John blogs on JohnShore.com.
- 2011 Sep 13
Remembering back to the nightmare of 9-11---or these days, it seems, going online or opening up any newspaper at all---one finds oneself sympathizing with those who after such tragedies ask themselves and others where God is when such events occur. When we can't understand how something could have happened in a world overseen by a gracious and loving God, even we who are deep believers find ourselves sometimes looking skyward, and wondering if there really is anything up there but clouds and empty space.
If you happen to just now be in a place where for the life of you you cannot understand how something unimaginably tragic could have occurred, and as a result are questioning whether or not the God in whom you believe is real---or at the very least asking where He was when the plane crashed into the tower, or the tornado struck, or the earthquake hit, or the pipeline in Kenya killed all those people---the first thing you should know is that nobody would fault you for asking such questions. That's what tragedy does; it makes people who usually have a perfectly fine relationship with God wonder whether all that time they have, in fact, been having a "relationship" with a being no more real than a child's imaginary playmate.
You're allowed feel such things. How can you help it? And it's perfectly okay that you do. God is a lot of things, but He's not stupid. He understands that in the course of a person's life things are likely to happen which will cause that person to question the degree to which He is or isn't participating in their lives, or in the lives of others. God gets that. He knows that will happen. He's ready for it.
When the raw emotions of a tragedy first sweep over you, there's nothing you can do but ride them out. You wait, essentially. And during that time of waiting, all kinds of thoughts and feelings will rush and swirl through your heart and head. There's nothing you can do about that. It's entirely natural. It can't be stopped. Let it happen. Trust that process.
If, after the intensity of that phase of grief or shock has waned a bit, you do, in fact, find yourself face-to-face with the question of whether or not God is there, or real at all, then do not fear or hesitate to ask that perfectly valid question. The only caveat I would reccommend is that you do so with the seriousness and sincerity such a question deserves.
Sit down, close your eyes, take a few deep breathes, and when your mind has settled just a bit, simply ask God if He’s still there: if He’s still real, if He's with you, if He’s still watching out for you and the world. If the tragedy with which you’re dealing involves the death of someone you love, ask God if the person He took is all right--if they’re safe, if they're okay, if they're with him now.
Ask God these questions. Doing so is your right.
Trust that when you do so, you will have your answer: that God, and the Holy Spirit within you, will put the answers to your questions into your heart and mind---and that you will learn, and know once more, that God is still, as he has ever been, with you.
Things happen for reasons that we on this side of heaven cannot understand. But no matter the degree of our grief and doubt, what does not change is that the nature of the God whom we worship is, and shall ever remain, benevolent. We must trust and finally take solace in the sure knowledge that everything God does, He does for what, in the end, He knows is best.
We must trust that what we cannot now fathom will be clear to us later. For He has made us that promise, and in it we can take true, steady, and lasting comfort.
" I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart ! I have overcome the world ! " -- John 16:33
"Jesus said: 'I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies'....." -- John 11:25
"Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see" -- Heb.11:1
We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus' sake, so that his life may be revealed in our mortal body. -- 2 Corinthians 4:8-11
For God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything. -- 1 John 3:20