On Tuesday two tornadoes touched down in Alabama, bringing total devastation to some places. The residents of that area had little time to prepare or evacuate. Yesterday, fast moving Winter Storm Niko hammered the Northeast, dumping up to a foot of snow in some places while only a few inches in other places. Also yesterday, a man was killed when his tractor-trailer plunged into the frigid waters after being blown off the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel in gusty high winds.
The unpredictability of the weather reminds us of the uncertainty of life, and the fact that we often don’t know what lies ahead or even have time to prepare for it. Maybe today you are not experiencing bad weather, but rather, are facing a major financial crisis due to a lengthy period of unemployment and you are just hoping you don’t lose your house. Or maybe you’ve been diagnosed with stage four cancer. Or worse yet, you just received that telephone call, as we did 12 days ago, nobody every wants to get; a family member was killed in an automobile accident. There are any number of life events that cause us to ask “Where is God?” or “Why?”
We want to focus not on those two questions, even though they are real and reasonable questions to ask in times of tragedy and suffering. Instead we want to focus on how we should respond in our own moments of pain.
While pain and suffering does not come from God, in his providence He allows it to happen, and can use our pain and suffering for good. While suffering is never good from our point of view, in Romans 8:28 we read these words, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” Notice the word “all;” this means the good and the not so good, the easy and the not so easy, the joys and the sorrows.
Having said that, let us turn to how we can respond to our own pain and suffering. There might not be any better illustration that Job. In Job chapter 1 we read that all ten of Job’s children died in a natural disaster when a wind storm blew down their house. Job was faced with the reality of seeing ten new graves on the hilltop. How did he respond? Surely he experienced all the same emotions we experience when we face tragedy and suffering. But there is more; in Job 1:20-21 we read – At this, Job got up and tore his robe and shaved his head. Then he fell to the ground in worship and said: “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart. The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away; may the name of the LORD be praised.” Some versions say “Blessed be the name of the LORD.”
We are not downgrading the severity of pain and suffering, or the devastation that comes with it, because it is real, and truthfully, it stinks. But Job shows us that it is possible to worship God even without explanations, even when we don’t know all the reasons.
So today, it is our prayer that you experience the real life-changing presence of God, both in moments of ecstasy and moments of heartache.
New Bern, North Carolina