I have been asked several times how we can have trust or faith after tragedy.
Considering the scope and the magnitude of our recent events – several mass shootings, I took it as God’s Spirit moving me today to write this devotional.
As with a host of countless others, I have been through a few tragedies in my life and never genuinely thought of myself as a trauma survivor until I was trained as a Professional Registered Nurse in the field of Psychiatry.
I have never in my life experienced the scope of the tragedies from those events.
The closest: My father was a two-tour combat veteran of the Korean Conflict. I lived my life as a first-generation male child born from his combat experiences.
My Father was 100% Service Connected for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. I as the only male child, bore the full brunt of his experiences on those battlefields.
His mental health issues and his alcoholism created enormous challenges for our relationship as father and son. I was constantly, desperately trying to cope.
These struggles and challenges shaped and reshaped each of my career choices.
I tried engineering like my father wanted me to except the math was too hard. I flunked out of college trying everything I could do to make him ‘happy’ with his career choice for my life. I learned to fear what might happen if I indeed failed.
Instead, I followed my RN mother into Nursing and became quite successful.
I got a position as a Psychiatry – Mental Health Counselor for a new Homeless program serving a diverse population of long-term Homeless Veterans, from both peace time military service and military service in a combat zone.
Part of the introductory speech was to be sure you identify yourself as a trauma survivor, if in fact, you were. One identified this way out of maximum respect. I myself am a veteran of both the Navy and Army serving sixteen and a half years.
As that Professional Counselor, I was able to see how people handled their grief and the impact of that tragedy and grief impacted their outlook on their faith.
How you trust, have faith and develop a living hope after a tragedy may be in direct correlation to how you faithfully trusted in living hope prior to tragedy.
Indeed, in good times it is easy to trust, have faith and a living hope and our trust, faith, hope may be a bit shallow and naive, immature and uninformed.
When all is well there is very little to trust since there seems to be so much evidence of God being good and good to you.
Seldom do we genuinely trust that God would ever allow any tragedy or sorrow to come our way. Yet, that is not consistent with what the Word of God teaches.
Job 13:13-18 Amplified Bible
Job Is Sure He Will Be Vindicated
“Be silent before me so that I may speak;
And let happen to me what may.
“Why should I take my flesh in my teeth
And put my life in my hands [incurring the wrath of God]?
“Even though He kills me;
I will hope in Him.
Nevertheless, I will argue my ways to His face.
“This also will be my salvation,
For a godless man may not come before Him.
“Listen diligently to my speech,
And let my declaration fill your ears.
“Behold now, I have prepared my case;
I know that I will be vindicated.
The Word of God for the Children of God. Gloria! In Excelsis Deo! Alleluia! Amen.
We may quote that verse from the oldest book of the Bible at times and even think we have that kind of trust, but we do not want it tested.
Indeed, all of us would fail that test.
I suspect very few people have suffered as much tragedy as Job.
He lost his wealth, his ten children and his health in a very short time.
The trauma of it all so devastated his wife that she encouraged him to curse God and die. Sometimes folks are hard on Mrs. Job as if she was being heartless.
Indeed, she may have been seeking relief for his suffering and hoping God would kill her as well to stop her pain.
During the many times of war and plagues since then people have had some Job moments.
Still, Job said God could kill him and still he would trust God. Is it any wonder God pointed to him as a man of God and the devil wanted to destroy him?
We tend to forget that we are in a sin cursed world because of Adam and Eve.
Everything was in perfect peace and balance in Eden.
Once they chose to opt for being like God all of that changed and in essence man was in charge of a world he could not control or fix as it deteriorated.
Mankind also began deteriorating so that here we are in the last spasms of the Earth with men and women of minds and souls so depraved that we are seeing indescribably lethal, and unbelievably violent horrors almost on a daily basis.
Indeed, the song “This Is My Father’s World” is accurate in the title, but not in theology.
While God owns the universe, He gave the Earth to man who gave it to the devil at the Fall.
Now that man is cursed and influenced by satan more so than God it is being destroyed like a bad renter who breaks everything and allows animals to use it as their bathroom while never cleaning allowing the place to be infested by roaches and rats. (Apologies for the brooding anger behind that description).
One day God will come to repossess the world and after a thousand years he will destroy it and build new.
In a sense, since man has chosen the devil over God this world is our father, the devil’s world.
Unfortunately, due to some bad theology many people lose their trust or faith after a tragedy because either they have not read the Word, or someone taught them that God wants His people to always be healthy and wealthy.
If you pull some Scripture out of context you can come up with many errors that will blast your brain, your trust and faith and hope when they do not prove true.
3 John 1:2 Beloved, I wish above all things that thou mayest prosper and be in health, even as thy soul prospereth.
Many use this passage to teach health and prosperity is a right.
Yet, John only wished that they would prosper and be in health.
It is not a guarantee any more than when we wish someone to have a good day and stay safe.
Note that John wants it to be in direct proportion to their soul maturing in the grace and knowledge of Christ.
Many immature Christians cling to this as a promise and when they lose their job or their health or worse, then they lose their faith in God and the Word.
If our health, wellbeing and wealth were truly tied to the prosperity of our soul many of us would be in near total poverty and near death. Grace is wonderful.
2 Timothy 4:20 Erastus abode at Corinth: but Trophimus have I left at Miletum sick.
Philippians 2:25-27 25 However, I thought it necessary to send back to you Epaphroditus, [who has been] my brother and companion and fellow soldier, who was also sent as your messenger to take care of my needs. 26 For he has been longing [a]for all of you and was distressed because you had heard that he was sick. 27 He certainly was sick and close to death. But God had mercy on him, and not only on him but also on me, so that I would not have sorrow upon sorrow.
We believe in divine healing and yet God does not always heal as some teach.
Some healers say if you are not healed it is because you did not have faith.
Paul had enormous faith and yet, for some reason he could not instantly heal Trophimus like he did others.
Epaphroditus nearly died and it appears that God did not use instant healing in his case, but still healed him without Paul.
I would easily suggest that all three of men had far more faith or trust than the average “Christian” today, but they suffered, one even to the brink of death.
If you believe that God always heals and must heal every time prayer for healing is made you are going to have a crisis of faith after that loved one died that you had on twenty prayer lists and had them anointed three times.
You are going to be extraordinarily angry with God and throw the Bible on the shelf or in the recycle bin and declare you no longer believe or trust God. Your faith was based and cemented in bad doctrine, your emotions instead of God.
How so many good and bad and horribly bad people can believe the saved are somehow surrounded by an iron dome keeping us free from sickness, poverty, persecution, oppression and death is beyond me when so many in the World did not have a life like that and we are even warned about what we will experience.
Tell that to many believers around the world today who suffer great persecution and yet love the Lord to the max and take great risks to worship and evangelize.
John 16:32-33 (Amplified Version) 32 Take careful notice: an hour is coming, and has arrived, when you will all be scattered, each to his own home, leaving Me alone; and yet I am not alone, because the Father is with Me. 33 I have told you these things, so that in Me you may have [perfect] peace. In the world you have tribulation and distress and suffering, but be courageous [be confident, be undaunted, be filled with joy]; I have overcome the world.” [My conquest is accomplished, My victory abiding.]
Jesus said we would have tribulation!
The word is literally ‘pressure’, but is also translated as persecution, anguish and affliction.
No promise of exemption from it, just that He has overcome and so will the saved though they will have to bear up through heavy burdens or tragedies.
1 Timothy 3:10-13 10 Now you have diligently followed [my example, that is] my teaching, conduct, purpose, faith, patience, love, steadfastness, 11 persecutions, and sufferings—such as happened to me at Antioch, at Iconium, and at Lystra; what persecutions I endured, but the Lord rescued me from them all! 12 Indeed, all who delight in pursuing righteousness and are determined to live godly lives in Christ Jesus will be hunted and persecuted [because of their faith]. 13 But evil men and impostors will go on from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived.
Paul had listed some of the trials and persecutions he had gone through and is saying this is not just my issue or legacy.
You live godly and the ungodly are going to persecute you.
There is a connotation of fleeing your pursuer in the Greek.
It begs the question that if I am not being persecuted am I living a godly life?
I believe it was Menno Simons who said something like a church that is not being persecuted is not a true church. Ouch! So, if everything is peachy keen maybe we should be in prayer asking why instead of asking why when it is not.
Romans 8:16-21 16 The Spirit Himself testifies and confirms together with our spirit [assuring us] that we [believers] are children of God. 17 And if [we are His] children, [then we are His] heirs also: heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ [sharing His spiritual blessing and inheritance], if indeed we share in His suffering so that we may also share in His glory.
18 For I consider [from the standpoint of faith] that the sufferings of the present life are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is about to be revealed to us and in us! 19 For [even the whole] creation [all nature] waits eagerly for the children of God to be revealed. 20 For the creation was subjected to frustration and futility, not willingly [because of some intentional fault on its part], but by the will of Him who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will also be freed from its bondage to decay [and gain entrance] into the glorious freedom of the children of God.
Christ said that the student was not greater than the teacher and if they hated Christ and called him of the devil ultimately crucifying Him what do you think they will do to you if they can?
The “if so be that we suffer “is not saying you might not suffer with Him, but more that it is our lot to look forward to being glorified with Him because we suffer with Him indicating He is near us when we suffer. It comes along with the divine bloodline. If we have to suffer, fine, because we will be glorified.
Romans 8:34-39 34 Who is the one who condemns us? Christ Jesus is the One who died [to pay our penalty], and more than that, who was raised [from the dead], and who is at the right hand of God interceding [with the Father] for us. 35 Who shall ever separate us from the love of [a]Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? 36 Just as it is written and forever remains written,
“For Your sake we are put to death all day long;
We are regarded as sheep for the slaughter.”
37 Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors and gain an overwhelming victory through Him who loved us [so much that He died for us]. 38 For I am convinced [and continue to be convinced—beyond any doubt] that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present and threatening, nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the [unlimited] love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Paul would not go through this list if there was no possibility of these tragedies happening to saints making them wonder if they were separated from Christ.
Jeremiah 29:10-13 10 “For thus says the Lord, ‘When seventy years [of exile] have been completed for Babylon, I will visit (inspect) you and keep My good promise to you, to bring you back to this place. 11 For I know the plans and thoughts that I have for you,’ says the Lord, ‘plans for peace and well-being and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. 12 Then you will call on Me and you will come and pray to Me, and I will hear [your voice] and I will listen to you. 13 Then [with a deep longing] you will seek Me and require Me [as a vital necessity] and [you will] find Me when you search for Me with all your heart.
Some of you may have been wondering how in the world does all of this square with Jeremiah 29:10-13.
Israel was in captivity because of sin, but then God promised an end to it and great blessing.
Yet, they suffered and when you tie in the next verses the key to 11 is 12 and 13. When they seek Him with all of their hearts and pray in earnest then He will hear and set them free. That goes for us as well.
How do we trust after tragedy?
It boils down to do we really believe what we often glibly ask. “Is God good all the time and all the time God is good or not?”
If He is, then we can believe that in His omniscience and omnipresence He has opted to exercise or withhold His omnipotence for the greater good or to bring us closer to Him because we have strayed away or because it is just part of this sinful world to lose a loved one because we are in a world of death.
If Christians never died or became ill, disabled or unemployed or financially distressed, then everyone would want to be a Christian to escape those things.
Both believers and unbelievers need to see that we do not ever escape the pain, but we have Jesus Christ who 100% gets us through the pain because He is good.
If He were not good, nothing good would ever happen because both He and the devil would be bringing evil to us.
We always question why bad things happen to good people when really the question is why good things happen to bad people since no one is righteous.
We will never know (why should we want to know?) exactly how bad our lives could be or could have been without the faithfulness of God until we get home.
I have had tragedies in my life, but still He has been faithful and so good to me.
God’s thoughts towards us are not evil.
The devil on the other hand has no good thoughts about us.
He wants to steal everything we value.
He wants to kill all of us and if our good God did not thwart his desires, we surely would all be dead and everything we have sought to build in our lives destroyed; marriage, children, testimonies all gone.
Too often we create our own tragedies.
Free will can cause our greatest pain when we do what God said not to do or not do what He told us to do.
The worst tragedy is running from God instead of to Him.
No one or nothing else will heal your pain and offer your life that is abundant either in quantity, quality or both even when you had to pass through the valley of the shadow of death to get to those green pastures.
2 Corinthians 1:4 Who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God.
It also comes down to it not being all about us.
God will comfort you, if you allow Him.
When you are ready. Be still and ask Him to take the pain, bring comfort and ultimately peace and joy.
He may never explain why the tragedy was not averted.
We may not know until we get to Heaven and then that puzzle piece with the question mark on it will fit perfectly, but we will not care then.
Listen to Him.
Read the Word.
Fervently Pray even when it seems useless to the maximum.
Let Him change your theology, if necessary.
Parents do not always outlive their children.
People are not always healed.
Not everyone will be rich, but through His Holy Spirit working in you it can be a life rich in many more things than money.
Peace with God and a ministry to use your gift is worth all the material wealth in the universe.
You cannot trust a person until they have been proven trustworthy.
God is the only one you can 100% trust and often you will not fully believe that until He has proven to you that He is in the time of trouble.
Open your hands, your heart and your soul to Him.
Tragedy does not have to define the whole or any single place of your existence
You can be healed of your tragedy, your pain and you can and WILL trust again.
In the name of God, the Father and God the Son and God the Holy Spirit,
Let us Pray,
Lord, we pray for those who have been utterly devastated by recent tragedies. We remember those who have lost their lives so suddenly and without cause. We hold deep within our hearts and souls the families forever changed by grief and loss. By Your mercy, Bring them to their Shalom, their consolation and comfort.
Surround them with our prayers for strength and healing. Bless those who have survived and likewise, in Your own way, in Your own time, heal their memories of trauma and devastation. May they have the courage to face the days ahead.
Help us as compassionate human beings, to respond with generosity in prayer, in assistance, and in comfort to the best of our abilities. Keep our hearts focused on the totality of needs of all the community. We ask this in Jesus’ living name. Gloria! In Excelsis Deo! Alleluia! Alleluia! Amen.