"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
The death of a family member. An unexpected job loss. A devastating earthquake.
It’s safe to say that just about everyone who’s ever walked this planet has wondered why God allows tragedy and injustice. We reason that if He’s all-powerful, He should prevent it. But consider that God’s mysteries extend far beyond the human experience and into the wonders of His creation. For instance, how can an awkward caterpillar gorge itself with leaves, spin a cocoon around itself and later emerge as a beautiful butterfly? And how can a tiny acorn grow into a mighty 80-foot oak?
The principle here is the same. Whether the unexplainable involves a tragedy or nature, we must remind ourselves that God’s ways aren’t our ways. Our human minds are much too limited to grasp the entirety of His greater purposes.
Our perspective is limited. But we’re not totally in the dark here. God’s word to us – the Bible – gives us several clues. First, we live in an imperfect world where bad things can (and often do) happen. Ever since Adam and Eve first disobeyed God in the Garden of Eden, perfection on Earth was spoiled. And soon followed the first murder: a cold-blooded attack on one family member by another.
Have things really changed since then?
Our own bad choices are another reason for suffering. For instance, if someone chooses to get drunk and then gets behind the wheel, tragedy often follows. But that’s hardly God’s fault. We instead reap from the foolishness we’ve sown.
As depressing as this all may be, remember that we worship a God who specializes in turning seemingly bad situations into very happy endings. Consider someone who gets laid off from a job, only to find a much better one in a different city – and with better pay – in an industry he or she had never previously considered. If it weren’t for the “tragedy” of unemployment, he or she might have become stuck in a boring, dead end job with little future. God (as always) know bests!
Finally, God often turns suffering into good by using it to discipline and mature us. Are we ever the same after experiencing a major illness or family tragedy? It’s through adversity that we draw closer to God and depend on His help. And He can even use our suffering as a witness to others. If you’re a Christ-follower faced with a God-sized situation, where you place your faith speak volumes to others.
Yes, our lives can be filled with disappointment and heartache. But God never promised us a pain-free existence. In fact, Jesus told His disciples to expect trouble. But let’s take comfort that we worship a “Big Picture” God – One who sees beyond our limited scope to turn even the greatest personal tragedies into the greater good.