This past week stands as a grim reminder of tragedy, with events being remembered that have not only shaped the course of our nation but certainly the lives of individuals. Here is a short list to help our memories:
– 1865 President Abrahams Lincoln assassinated
– 1889 Hitler born
– 1912 Titanic sinks
– 1961 Bay of Pigs invasion
– 1983 United States Embassy bombing in Beirut
– 1994 Black Hawk down
– 1995 Oklahoma City bombing
– 1999 Columbine massacre
– 2007 Virginia Tech massacre
– 2013 Boston Marathon bombing
These events, and many others, had a profound impact collectively and individually. Sometimes it was through the images we saw and the stories we heard; other times it became personal. I had a good friend deployed to Somalia in 1994; a daughter living in the Oklahoma City community in 1995; a son who was a freshman at Virginia Tech in 2007; and family and friends on the Boston race course in 2013. These were very long days waiting to hear about their condition.
So, we remember these events and many others throughout the year, but more importantly we remember the individuals who lost their lives and those impacted physically, emotionally, and relationally. One commonality these events share is they brought diverse people together—tragedy, tragically, often seems like only time that happens. Unfortunately, that togetherness fades and disappears and as a society we are back to our “normal” and our comradery is replaced with divisiveness.
This divisiveness leads to a question I have often been asked and myself have asked. “Why does God allow all this tragedy and suffering to occur?” My simple, but true answer, is “I do not know.” I reconcile it in my mind in realizing that the door of “free will” swings both ways. However, I do not think on the same level of God—I do not have His insight to what this life is all about. 1 Corinthians 13:12 warns us of presuming to understand the ways of God while in this life, “Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror, but then we will see everything in perfect clarity.” Jesus did not sugarcoat the inevitability of us going through trials and suffering; John 16:33, “You will have suffering in this world.”
So, what do we do with these tragedies? Might I remind us after these type events emerge stories of one person saving another, one person showing love and compassion to another, one person sharing their faith with another, one person giving their life for another. While it is hard for us to remember the good that comes out of the evil, there are always examples that we should carry as we return to “normal.”
God took the very worst thing in the history of the universe, deicide–the death of Jesus on the cross—and turned it into the very best thing in the history of universe. He opened Heaven to all who follow Him. If God can take the very worst circumstance imaginable and turn it into the very best situation possible, can He not take the tragedies in our lives and create something good from them?
My wife is enrolling in her masters degree program, so of course the university needs all of her previous transcripts. One university she attended in the mid-1980’s is the University of Alaska-Fairbanks. Recently she was on the telephone with a registrar worker who she guesses is in her early-20’s concerning how to get her transcript. Well, the young lady helped her establish an on-line account where she can request records and asked my wife if she could update her profile because they don’t even have her email address from when she attended. I wasn’t in the room, but I can picture my wife’s smile as she explained that we didn’t have e-mail in the 1980’s! They both had a good laugh and no feelings were hurt in this story.
My, how times have changed; my, how communication has changed. The phone call to Alaska was not a big deal because we have unlimited minutes through our cell provider—in the 1980’s you would strategically plan the lowest rate time to make a very expensive call. When I served overseas it could take up to a month to receive a letter from home—now our servicemembers only must check their email, Facebook, or look for a Tweet to know what is happening back home—instantaneously—that is great stuff!
Communication is obviously an important issue with God. Otherwise we would not have the Bible–He lays it out to tell us what He means. We don’t have to wait for a “like” or a “retweet” from God to understand that He is communicating with us. Prayer is a two-way communication channel in which we can ask Him about those things in life we just don’t understand–those things that hurt us–those things that disgust us–those things we might even blame Him for. But we need confidence in prayer, knowing that what we bring to God is heard, will be answered, and will impact our lives.
As a student of Bible history, I find it fascinating when I hear the argument that the Bible cannot be trusted as a source of communication because it is old and has been changed through the years. Well, let’s put that into some context by comparing the New Testament to some other ancient writings:
Writing Written Earliest Copy # Of Copies
Plato 427-347 B.C. A.D. 900 7
Caesar 1000-44 B.C. A.D. 900 10
Aristotle 384-322 B.C. A,D, 1100 49
Sophocles 496-406 B.C. A.D. 1000 193
Homer (Iliad) 900 B.C. 400 B.C. 643
New Testament A.D. 50 – 100 A.D. 130 5,600
What’s the point you might ask? Well, ancient philosophers’ writings are held in high esteem, but the New Testament is often disregarded as an outdated, unreliable writing. But look at the numbers—they are indisputable as far as credibility.
What does that mean you might ask? I think 2 Timothy 3:16 makes it clear “All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right.” Are we living our lives according to our desires or God’s plan? Do we seek the wisdom of ancient philosophers or modern day motivational speakers to guide us, or do we seek the Truth of God, through His Word, that has been tried and tested?
Personally, I all to often fall into the “self-help” attitude with situations, especially now that I can Google advice. God has communicated with us His glorious and timeless plan–it’s called the Bible. As for me, I am committed to seeking the tried and proven Scriptures for my life…I ask you to join me.
I appreciate you who follow my blog. At least for this week the Lord has told me to take a break. The more I tried to write something, the more I realized I was reaching and that I need to recharge and prayerfully reorganize my life. I know through His strength I will be back soon–better and stronger!