Lessons In Tragedy

The horrific events of last week are fresh on our minds, and our hearts go out to our friends throughout the area who lost family members and property. Many of our churches collected funds last Sunday for food and shelter, and other opportunities will come in the days ahead for people of faith to step forward with compassion.

Tragedy always brings questions.

This was true for Jeremiah as he walked through the smoldering ruins of Jerusalem in 586 B.C. Babylon came in fury and leveled the City of David, including Solomon’s temple and the Ark of the Covenant with the tablets of Moses.

The prophet recorded his thoughts in the book of Lamentations. It’s a sad book, save for one familiar passage: “Through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness. ‘The LORD is my portion,’ says my soul, ‘Therefore I hope in Him!’” (Lamentations 3:22-24).

We must remember several things during tragedy.

Evil is a reality in our fallen world. The Bible doesn’t tell us everything we’d like to know about the origin and working of evil, but someone suggested a helpful model. Think about a triangle with three points: Satan and demons, personal responsibility and the sovereignty of God. Somewhere in this model is the proper mix and it’s often hard to determine how it comes together. We continue to struggle in our understanding of the “why” of bad things.

Yet we continue to trust in God. Paul said “we see through a mirror dimly.” The mirrors in his day were simply polished metal, like mirrors in modern prisons, and images were indistinct and muted. We often can’t clearly see the purposes of God, but we’re promised an accounting one day. In the meantime, we continue to hold to the idea that God is good.

Also, we don’t give up hope. Hope is probably the least trumpeted of the three great principles: faith, hope and love, but it is, nonetheless important. Hope means that we trust God will be with us and that life will be better. Paul wrote in Romans 8, “For why does one still hope for what he sees?” In other words, hope is future faith! It’s believing that God will be working out his purposes in our lives tomorrow, next week and next year.

Tragedy also reminds us of what’s important.

We must make the most of today and use it for God’s glory. We have opportunity to mend relationships, serve God and love others. And we have opportunity to ask for God’s mercy so that when death comes, we’ll meet him not as a stranger, but as a friend.

Michael J Brooks

Pastor at Pine Flat Baptist Church
In addition to serving as Pastor of Pine Flat Baptist Church in Selma, Brooks serves as an Adjunct Professor of Communications at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary - Birmingham Extension. Previously he was Professor of Communication and Assistant to the President for Public Relations at Judson College, along with serving as pastor at other Alabama churches.
Michael J Brooks

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