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How to Respond to Human Tragedy

Stories of human tragedy keep us glued to media sources as we wonder why there is so much pain and suffering in the world.  In fact, if you just do a brief survey of history you’ll see that humanity has been capable of coming up with dozens of ways to hurt and kill each other. 

Here’s a few for you to consider:

July 20, 2012
a gunman's attack on a movie audience in Aurora, Colo., that left at least 12 people dead and wounded about 58 others.

December 26, 2004
A tsunami in Indonesia killed more than 250,000 people.  Millions were left homeless.

19 terrorists hijacked 4 passenger jets and flew them into the World Trade Towers, the Pentagon, and a field in Pennsylvania.  Nearly 3,000 people died and over 6,000 were injured in the attacks that day.

November 12, 1996
Two airplanes collided in flight near New Delhi.  349 people died instantly.

In 1994 an estimated 20% of the population of Rwanda were murdered.  More than 800,00 people lost their lives because of political turmoil.

December 20, 1987
4,000 people died when an overcrowded passenger ferry crashed into an oil tanker in the Philippines.

August 21, 1986
1.6 million tonnes of CO2 suddenly released from Lake Nyos in Cameroon.  1,700 people and 3,500 livestock died as the gas dispersed over neighboring areas.

December 3, 1984
25,000 people died in India when a Union Carbide pesticide plant released toxic gas.  Over 500,000 people were affected by the poisonous gas.

The Tangshan earthquake in China killed somewhere between 255,000 and 655,000 people.

December 6, 1917
2,000 people died and 9,000 were injured in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada when a French cargo ship loaded with wartime explosives collided with a Norwegian ship in Halifax Harbour.

Between 11 and 17 million people were killed in the Holocaust during World War II.

April 15, 1912
1,500 people sunk to a watery grave as the Titanic sank in the North Atlantic Ocean on her maiden voyage.

30 AD  Eighteen people died when the tower in Siloam fell on them.  (Luke 13.)

2067 BC
The destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah no doubt took out thousands of people as a judgment for their sin.

Before 3000BC
God wipes out all of humanity, except for 8 people, during the great flood as a judgment for the sin of the world.

From natural disasters, to accidents, to people doing heinous things to others, millions of people have died at the hands of others throughout the history of humanity.  Add to that the millions that have died of cancer, heart disease, car accidents, war, and abortion.  In fact, only two have cheated death: Enoch and Elijah—everyone else will suffer the same fate: death.

We often forget that people die every day.
Karolyn S. Hutchinson, 72, of Logan passed away July 20, 2012
Steven Carter, 60, of New Plymouth passed away July 18, 2012.
Sarah Deardorff, age 97, of Athens, OH died Tuesday.
Robert Hawk, 68, of Guysville, died Tuesday morning.

We have to remember that people who die without a relationship with Jesus Christ are going to a place of eternal separation from Him.

Pain and suffering are all around us.  Human tragedy, including eternal separation from God, are all around us all the time.  We have to remember that Jesus specifically addressed this in John 16,

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” 

As well as in Matthew 5:45, “He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.” 

And in Matthew 10 we read a long list of the trouble coming to those who truly believe that He is the Savior of the world.

Quite often this causes us to wonder why God would allow so much pain and suffering to exist in the world and to question if He’s really able to wipe out evil.

The answers to these questions are simple – but they’re hard to accept.  The honest truth starts in the Garden of Eden when God gave us the chance to choose to follow His ways for our lives, or to choose to follow our own.  In Genesis 2 and 3 we see the Adam and Eve were originally created to experience a close relationship with God and were protected from anything that would take them away from that close connection to Him.  He gave them the choice to choose to do things God’s way, or to choose to do things their own way.  They chose to do things their own way.  Since that time we’ve been suffering the consequences of that decision. 

Jeremiah got it right when he wrote, “The heart of man is deceitful above all things and beyond cure.” (17:9)

The pain and suffering that we cause each other makes this assessment easy to understand.  My heart mourns when I think of the horrible things that we’ve done to each other.  The holocaust, genocide, the caste system, sexual slavery, etc.  I mean, seriously, what are we thinking!  This is true pride of the heart saying, “I’m better than you are so I’m going to…”  Lord, forgive us!

This causes many off us to clench our fists and cry out to Heaven something like, “Why have you done this to us God?  Don’t you care about us?  Why don’t you do anything about this?!?!”  We have to humbly realize that what we see around us is our fault and that God will help us through these tough times if we let Him, but we have to let Him do His work using His ways!

Many also ask if God really cares about His creation.  While He might not care about His creation the way YOU think He ought to, God’s heart mourns at the way His creation has fallen and how far it’s fallen from what it would have been like if we chose Him in the Garden. 

Romans 5:8 says, “God demonstrates His own love for us in this: while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”  While we’re raising our fists at God, while we’re questioning His timing and His ways, His response was going to the cross to redeem us unto Himself.  God started to lay out His redemptive plan as soon as Adam and Eve disobeyed Him. 

Genesis 3: 15, “And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.”  A good paraphrase for this would be, “I will foil your plans.  I will send someone who is going to redeem my people from their sin.  You will think that you won, but you will not even hurt Him and He will overcome you.”  By the way, God was talking about the plan He had formed since the foundation of the world (1 Peter 1:20).  He knew what we were going to do and had already developed a plan to save us from our mistake.

Revelation 20 gives us a great picture of God’s ultimate redemption.  Here we read of the time when Satan will be captured and contained in the Lake of Fire and we’ll be able to experience God’s love and grace in a tangible way. 

There are three different primary interpretations about end of time.  The CMA believes that there will be a literal 1,000 year reign of Christ on a new earth, and that Satan would be released for a short time to tempt us one last time.  Then will come the battle of Armageddon, the Great White Throne of Judgment, the end of time, and believers will face the second judgment (the one where we’re asked what we did with all of the blessings that God has given to us).  Why does He wait until then?  This is one time where we just have to let God be God and realize that His ways are not our ways, and that His thoughts are not our thoughts.  Isaiah 55:8.

The next thought we have is, “Why doesn’t God do something about this pain, suffering, and injustice?”  Again, another easy answer, but hard to let sink in: because He loves us.  If God took away the choice for evil, then there would be no choice but to love Him and that’s not the way He operates.  He’s given us the choice to choose Him or reject Him.  We need to humble our hearts and allow God to be God.  These are His decision to make and if we step in and tell Him what to do then we’re guilty of idolatry.

Ultimately God will end all of this.  He will step into history again and redeem all things, but keep in mind that day will mark the end of history as we know it.  All of those who are not in the right place with God will be separated from Him for all eternity.  We know that God’s patience is reigning right now, waiting for all to have the opportunity to choose Him.  We’re glad that He was patient with us, extend that same gladness to those who need to choose Him today.


Copyright ©2015
James E. Bogoniewski, Jr.