Why do terrible things happen? Today’s devotional says that darkness, suffering and tears furnish an occasion for God to bestow his grace. This is not sadistic, like “let me hit you so I can comfort you.” It is more like a lawyer who is knowledgeable and has a deep burden to help the downtrodden, but if help is to be given, he must first have a case. That is, someone must bring him their troubles so he can help.
Most of the time, those who know and love God look for the good that He can bring out of tragedy. We bring our trials to Him and sometimes He explains the ‘why’ by giving us verses like these…
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too. If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; and if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we suffer. (2 Corinthians 1:3–6)
Those who suffer empathize with others who go through the same tragedies. It can even happen on the spot, like the many in Boston who were injured themselves but did not run from the danger. Instead, they stayed to help others who were more injured.
However, there are other reasons for suffering besides God’s plan to use it for good. Sometimes I can bring it on myself. That is, foolish choices can have injurious consequences. If I want to walk in disobedience, I will also walk in darkness, not seeing truth or purpose in any events in life. Nothing will make sense to me and confusion will reign. How do I know this? Experience sadly proves it, and the Bible also says it…
Who among you fears the Lord and obeys the voice of his servant? Let him who walks in darkness and has no light trust in the name of the Lord and rely on his God. Behold, all you who kindle a fire, who equip yourselves with burning torches! Walk by the light of your fire, and by the torches that you have kindled! This you have from my hand: you shall lie down in torment. (Isaiah 50:10–11)
Further, as these verses say, if instead of heeding God and obeying Jesus (the servant mentioned above), I decide to formulate my own rules for life in an attempt to create ‘light’ for myself, there will be additional consequences. If I try to walk by the light of my own reasoning that is motivated by thinking I know better than God, or I will go my own way and ignore Him, then I will “lie down in torment.”
Reading on in Isaiah, God speaks first to those who determine to obey and tells them of the blessings that will bring to their life. Then He addresses those who have decided to walk in darkness or kindle their own light. This “torment” is explained as being like a drunk person with no one to guide her among her children. Then God says…
These two things have happened to you — who will console you? — devastation and destruction, famine and sword; who will comfort you? Your sons have fainted; they lie at the head of every street like an antelope in a net; they are full of the wrath of the Lord, the rebuke of your God. (Isaiah 51:19–20)
This seems extreme, yet the consequences of turning away from God can be devastation, poverty, violence, all without comfort or consolation. It can bring loss of family, even God’s anger visited on them also.
I know that not all tragedy is a result of personal rebellion. Job is the biblical example. He did nothing against God who called him, “My servant, Job.” Yet this godly man suffered terrible loss in a long ordeal that eventually proved that the faith he had from God was strong and sufficient to help him persevere. He trusted the Lord even as he complained, even under the most severe suffering.
This is heavy-duty stuff. The bottom line, at least as I see it, is that no matter what happens, I need to trust the Lord. The situation may be very grave, but far better to walk by His light than fumble around in the darkness or face more torment by trying to makes sense of it without His light and consolation.