Keeping Faith Through Tragedy
March 16, 2011 § Leave a comment
Thursday November 25, 2010, Thanksgiving morning, I received news that would tragically change my life forever. I was awakened by a phone call from my father with the terrible news that my little brother was killed along with his wife of six months in a car accident. The irony of this phone call was that just four and a half years earlier I received a similar phone call from my brother informing me that my mother had passed away.
I do not consider myself an expert on the psychological effects of tragedy or even a great counselor to those who have experienced loss, but I have had considerable experience dealing with the uphill climb that comes with picking up all of the broken pieces and trying to maintain my faith during tragedy and disappointment. In this post I want to simply relay some of the things that I have learned in hopes that my experience can help someone else.
I would like to begin by saying that we were not designed to be able to deal with death. The human race was designed to live in a garden where death and disappointment weren’t realities. Death and disappointment were introduced as realities because of the fall of man. We need to understand that even though the realities were introduced at the fall, the construct of humans was not changed to make dealing with them easier.
Understanding that we are incapable of handling loss on our own makes the presence of the Holy Spirit in our life invaluable. Through the most tragic experiences that we face the Holy Spirit will always bring comfort. Obviously the pain will be present and without a doubt tough days will still happen, but the presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives makes death and disappointment bearable.
The trouble that many believers run into while experiencing loss is a tendency to blame God and lose trust in him. One of the most blatant failures of the church is that we often preach a Gospel that makes us immune from hurt and disappointment. Church leaders often talk about the blessings, health, and favor that come with living a life of faith in Christ at the neglect of the reality that life will happen. We are never promised that things will always be perfect. The promise that we have is that God will never leave us alone in the midst of the hard times. I know that church leaders may have the best of intentions when they are talking about the blessings and favor, but the truth is that they are withholding truth from the believer that could end up being devastating to their faith.
The first thing most people do when they get the news of tragedy or loss is question whether or not God is really as loving as they were told. If God really loved me why would he allow this to happen? If God is all powerful why didn’t he fix this? These are questions that believers ask because they are not correctly instructed on what a life of faith really looks like. They have been falsely led to believe that the life of a Christian is immune to hurt. It will be impossible for this believer to rely on the power of the Holy Spirit to comfort and heal them because they feel that God has broken their trust. It is imperative that we do not try to create a pseudo-Gospel for the sake of marketing. The Gospel that Jesus gave us is the only Gospel and it does not need help to be effective. We simply need to preach it faithfully.
The second thing that often happens in the mind of a believer dealing with loss is that they begin to wonder whether or not God is punishing them for their lack of faith. We have seen Christian leaders speak up regarding the recent tragedy in Japan by saying that God is punishing them for the lack of faith and obedience. We heard much of the same rhetoric from Christian leaders when New Orleans was devastated. When I hear someone speak like this I want to tell them that they don’t even know God and they should not have a platform to speak from. It hurts me so deeply when I hear Christians misuse scripture and misrepresent God in this way because I know the hurt that it causes the families of the victims.
The bottom line is that life happens. We are not immune to tragedy. Truthfully there is no sense in even trying ask God why the tragedy had to happen. He is sovereign. That is where we need to focus our thoughts. We will lose our minds if we start down the road of “what if?” and “why?”. During tragedy we must work hard to keep our thoughts in check and rely on God for strength. Keeping my faith in God is the only thing that has allowed me to keep living after the loss of my brother. Just two weeks prior to the accident my wife asked me what my greatest fear in life was and I told her that it would be losing my brother. I didn’t think that it would be possible to make it through that kind of loss, but with my faith in tact I have allowed the Holy Spirit to heal and comfort me. Does this mean I don’t have hard days where I miss the phone calls and doing life together? Absolutely not, I still cry. I still have days when I go back and look at pictures and feel empty because I know that those days are gone. But at the end of the day we cannot allow our faith to be taken from us. We can not allow the unfaithful preaching of pseudo-Gospels to warp our understanding of the all loving God.
Our promise is not that we are immune to tragedies but that we can do all things through Christ who strengthens us. Tragedy isn’t something we can handle on our own and if we choose to blame God and lose trust in him we are choosing to fight that battle alone. We will never understand why things have to happen like they do, but always be aware that it is not God punishing you or leaving you. He is there. He wants to comfort you. Allow him to be your strength.