This past Tuesday, tornadoes, with estimated winds of 175 mph, ripped across central Tennessee in the early hours of the morning. The storm left a path of cataclysmic destruction which included 24 fatalities, 88 persons injured and 3 individuals still missing. Five children under the age of 13 died in this horrific storm. Among the dead are several from God’s family. An entire family of three was killed, including this couple’s two-year-old son. Another family lost their young daughter while her one-year-old sister lies critically injured in the hospital. At least one other sister in Christ was also killed in this disaster. I’m sure that these families are grappling with the question, “Why, Lord?” Why should our family who is faithfully serving You be struck with such tragic loss? Calamities such as this challenge our faith and our understanding of God.
Why does God allow catastrophes such as this to touch the lives of His people? The book of Job addresses the human plight of those who suffer. Job was a blameless and upright man who feared God and turned away from evil. We can read of the tragedies that befell him and the personal suffering which he endured. Job sought the answer to this same question, “Why, Lord?” Jehovah never gave His servant a direct answer to his question. However, the Lord’s response indirectly challenged Job to regard God’s unfathomable power and understanding. What Job took away from his exchange with Jehovah was that God is in total control and that His understanding far surpassed that of Job’s. Job learned that he needed to commit not only his life and the lives of his loved ones to the Almighty, but his soul as well.
It is impossible for us to grasp all of the reasons why terrible things happen to godly people. We agonize in pain and grief as our hearts raise the question, “Why, Lord?” Perhaps, if we were to alter our perspective when examining such paradoxes then we would find more comfort and peace. How then should one view such tragedies?
Paul assured the Roman Christians that God will take everything that happens to His children and bring something good from it (Romans 8:28). An individual who suffers pain, illness or loss while maintaining their faith, peace and confidence in God has the opportunity to exert a positive influence by showing those around them their unfailing trust in God. In addition, suffering offers an occasion for individuals to draw closer to God and to reaffirm their total dependence upon Him to provide for their physical, emotional and spiritual needs.
God promises that those who die in the Lord will rest from their labors (Revelation 14:13). The Holy Spirit assures us that God’s children have an incorruptible inheritance reserved for them in heaven (1 Peter 1:3-5). Infants and young children are innocent and have not been stained by sin; therefore their souls are not in jeopardy if they are taken from this life. Though taken away at a young age, these have been spared the heartaches and tears of this world. Perhaps, if our perspective were more like that of the apostle Paul such losses would not dishearten us as readily. “For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain. But if I live on in the flesh, this will mean fruit from my labor; yet what I shall choose I cannot tell. For I am hard pressed between the two, having a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better” (Philippians 1:21-23). Those who are faithful and those of the tender years of innocence have shed this veil of tears and gone on to their eternal reward.
It is unpleasant and heart wrenching to let go and say goodbye to those whom we love so dearly. Such losses, especially sudden ones as occurred this past week, are not easy to deal with. We must cling ever closer to the One who holds our lives and souls in His loving hands.
Changing our perspective might also help us to better cope with such pain and loss and allow us to shine our light even brighter among those of the world who, too, are asking the question, “Why?”