Several friends and family members have been going through tough times such as losing loved ones, ending marriages, or hearing difficult news from doctors lately. I have been pondering bereavement, and how it is often difficult to understand why God allows tragedies to happen. People with good intentions will tell grieving individuals that the pain they are experiencing is part of God’s plan, and they should just trust Him. While there may be truth in that, in those moments, it can be hard to reconcile why God allows such tragic events to happen while also believing that He loves us and pursues us.
As Christians, we talk about how God is in control, but He also gave us free will to make choices that have consequences. I believe the way in which those two concepts work together is far beyond our understanding. However, there are some concepts about grief about which we can be more confident.
First, if someone is going through a difficult time, it doesn’t mean always mean that God is disciplining them or that God is punishing them for some terrible crime they have committed. Jesus never did anything wrong, but he suffered a horrific death. Paul, who wrote a large portion of the New Testament, experienced abuse and imprisonment during his ministry, and we can look at stories of other disciples who suffered as well. The pain they endured was not an indication that they deserved discipline in those moments, nor did it mean that those who were not suffering did not deserve correction.
Second, God redeems every awful event we experience by making good come from it. That’s not to say that the grief that someone experienced should be dismissed or taken lightly, but we can have hope that God won’t let pain be the only lasting result of tragedies. He took the terrible death that Jesus experienced, and He turned it into a way to rescue sinners from a tragic fate. In a more recent example, God took a tragic shooting in Charleston, SC meant to cause pain, and He provided an astonishing example of responding to hurt with forgiveness instead of hatred. As one example from my own life, God used the death of a beloved friend to play a role in bringing my husband and me together. Romans 5:3, 4 (ESV) tells us, “…we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope.”
We can debate the theology of whether tragic events are part of God’s plan or whether God uses tragic events to fit His plan once they happen. While I believe the answer to that question is beyond our understanding, I believe God turns every horrific experience into something beautiful, and pain and suffering will not have the last word. Romans 8:28 confirms this, “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.”
What examples can you give of times God has taken a painful time and made good come out of it?
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