A Biblical Reaction to Tragedy

The Virginia Tech tragedy took the entire nation through a roller coaster of emotions early last week. The roller coaster ride definitely doesn’t end when the shooting stops or the news cameras turn off or the daily papers return to other headlines. Senseless violence shakes us. It shakes us as parents and children. It shakes us as husbands and wives. It shakes us as brothers, sisters and friends. No one in my readership that I know of was directly affected by this outpouring of hate and bloodshed, but that doesn’t stop it from making us pause and wonder about the fragility of our own lives, and the fragility of the lives of our loved ones. As Christians, we need to be prepared for tragedy. We need to be primed to fight Satan on any level, and that especially includes when he levels us and our families with tragedy. Here are 15 principles that I have gleaned from Scripture that will guide us when sorrow is knocking at our door.

1. RESPOND with grief, sadness and mourning. Weep with those who weep. All this is most appropriate. We are emotional beings and a massacre is certainly something worthy of our tears. The fact that we are grieving has nothing to do with our trust in God, or the lack thereof. It simply communicates sadness. Jesus wept over the death of his friend (John 10). We shouldn’t be afraid to do the same.

2. RESIST the temptation to blame God. No act of sin is ever God’s fault. He has no faults. God is never to be blamed for the evil that men do.

James 1:13 Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man:

Claim Romans 8.28 as a promise.

3. RECOGNIZE the true cause of tragedy, heart attacks, cancer, diseases, premature death and other disasters--SIN.

Genesis 3:17 And unto Adam he said, Because thou hast hearkened unto the voice of thy wife, and hast eaten of the tree, of which I commanded thee, saying, Thou shalt not eat of it: cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life;

Every heartbreaking circumstance in our lives is a direct result of man’s rebellion against God in the Garden of Eden.

4. REALIZE or REEMPHASIZE that Satan is REAL. Evil is a part of this life—there is no getting around it. Satan is constantly tempting our sinful flesh and fallen mind to act on our desire to hurt other people. Satan is powerful and seductive, yet God is still in control.

The book of Job reveals that Satan is a real being who operates within the bounds that God permits until such time as God decides. The Bible describes him as a roaring lion. He is our enemy.

Ephesians 6:12 For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.

This tragedy is the work of Satan and his demons. This does not absolve any one individual of personal responsibility but it does help understand how something like this could happen.

5. REACH out to Jesus. He knows what you are experiencing. There is no other alternative. Only God can comfort. Pray. Only God can heal. Pray. Only God can mend a broken heart. Only God has the answers we desperately are seeking for. REACH out to Jesus. Jesus is our High Priest who was tempted and tested in all points yet without sin. Paul describes the kind of friend our Lord is—He stands by us when no one will stand with us (see verse 16).

2 Timothy 4:17 Notwithstanding the Lord stood with me, and strengthened me; that by me the preaching might be fully known, and that all the Gentiles might hear: and I was delivered out of the mouth of the lion.

6. REJECT a desire for REVENGE. When the party that afflicted the crime is still alive, let God be the one who executes justice. God has ordained that governments will be His instrument of vengeance,and even when the shooter is dead, he is not beyond the scope of God’s judgment.

Romans 12:19 Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord.

Let God’s wrath avenge.

7. READ scripture. Search out the promises of God’s Word and let the words comfort you. Read the 23rd Psalm over and over again. Pray that God will use his Word to comfort you. Do NOT refuse to be comforted—let yourself enjoy the comfort that the word of God provides.

8. REJOICE in the hope and knowledge of a brighter future. Review over and over again the reality that life on this planet is only a very small part of eternity. The Bible is clear that we are citizens of an eternal kingdom whose King is Jesus.

1 Corinthians 15:19 If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable.

Without a hope and knowledge of an eternal life, we are most miserable when life ends prematurely. A rejection of the afterlife puts an incredible premium on this life.

9. RESPOND with love or RECEIVE love from others. If you are not directly affected by the tragedy, respond to others with an outpouring of love. RESPOND with compassion toward those in need. RESPOND with touch when appropriate. RESPOND to others with the love of God and His plan of salvation.

Matthew 5:44 But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;

If we say people need the Lord and God is love then we can surely say people need love. They need the love that comes from the one true God, whose Son is Jesus Christ, who is love. See 1 John 4:8.

Matthew 5:16 Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.

These good works are actions that show the love of God and therefore glorify God. In this manner God can take a tragedy and turn it into good—in so much as glorifying God is good.

“If you are going to be used by God, He will take you through a number of experiences that are not meant for you personally at all. They are designed to make you useful in His hands, and to enable you to understand what takes place in the lives of others” Oswald Chambers.

10. REFUSE to be bitter. Instead, pray that God will give you the strength to forgive. Bitterness is animosity toward someone—or God. We must refuse to allow seeds of bitterness to interfere with our relationship with God.

Ephesians 4:31 Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice:

The Bible is very clear that those who are born again will forgive others; the idea of me refusing to forgive others who have sinned against me while expecting God to forgive my sins is unscriptural.

Matthew 6:15 But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.

11. REST in the fact that the secret things belong to the Lord (Deut 29.29).

Accept the idea that you may never be able to answer the question why. Trust in the Lord. Sometimes God ordains and allows events of which he disapproves. Often, things happen with which God is not pleased. These events occur in order to accomplish His will. This part of God’s nature will always be mysterious to us. (see Deut 29.29).

Proverbs 3:5-6 Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.

12. REMEMBER that events like this remind us of the brevity of life and the need for a relationship with God.

James 4:14 Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away.

Let us not think, for even a moment, that we control our own destiny with regard to how long we live or what our future holds. Here James compares my life to the steam that is generated from my morning tea pot.

13. RENOUNCE any suggestion or thought that God is not in Control. REST in His Divine Sovereignty. The entire book of Esther communicates that God ordains the affairs of men to achieve His divine purpose.

The Most High God rules in the kingdom of men (see Daniel 4).

14. RELY upon the grace of God. The enabling grace is what I must rely upon. The same grace that saved my soul is now available to refuse bitterness, show love, rest in God, think right, and obey God’s plan for my life.

2 Corinthians 12:9 And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.

My struggling at the idea of glorying God in my infirmities could be a tragedy like the VA Tech massacre on a personal level.

15. REPENT and confess sin to remain in a position to receive His grace.

There can be no doubt that I will sin during my reaction to a “VA Tech” incident that affects me or my family directly. When this happens I must turn from this sin and ask for forgiveness. This may happen several times as I go through the grieving and questioning period of time that is typical of any human suffering through tragedy and its aftermath. I am very thankful for 1 John 1.9. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

1 comment:

  1. This was a powerful message! I don't understand how people survive tragedies without the Lord.