Here are some thoughts from Jon Hand, son of Pastor Pat Hand at Woodland Hills Church in Asheville, NC on the tragedy in Japan. (www.whcweb.org)
I got an email this afternoon from a good friend. “Jon, you’re pastor guy. So in one week, Tsunami in Japan and 7 children die in a house fire in Perry County. What am I suppose to tell my family members who already don’t buy into the God and Jesus thing?”
So bear with my quick and spontaneous response, unfiltered grammar, and typos.
Dear broken confused heart,
We don’t have a good answer for suffering if we are expecting to answer God’s detractors in a way that somehow leaves everyone wanting to know God. But in brief. Read Romans 8. God did not create this world to be like this. It says creation is groaning. Creation groaned at 3 am this morning in Japan. This world is a broken shell of what God intended it to be. Why? In a biblical view, there is a direct correlation between Creation and Creator. When the Creation chose independence from God it didn’t just affect their own little lives, it threw all of Creation out of whack. It disrupted everything. It’s like it set off a tsunami of brokenness in this world because there was a cosmic disharmony now between God and His creation. So it unleashes cancer, it unleashes a natural order where things atrophy and run down and wear out. So wiring in old farm houses wears out and short circuits and burns down a house with 7 sleeping kids. Where is God? Weeping. Suffering. Hurting. How do I know? God knows what it’s like to lose a child? He lost his child in a fire. Scripture says Jesus descended into Hell in the days between his death and resurrection. God suffers with us.
1. the world is broken and not what God created it to be.
2. God knows what it’s like to lose a child.
3. this broken world gives birth to pain and tragedy, yet God is not absent from it.
What is the alternative? No God? A world where nothing has any meaning. Everything in the universe is random and totally accidental and has no real point. Nothing has a point. So make money, make your kids and family your idol and put all of your hope in them. Place all your hope and find meaning in your job. Hope that you have a good life. But if you don’t have a good life and your kids don’t turn out right, and your job doesn’t turn out, and your marriage doesn’t turn out…you have nothing but bitterness and contempt for a world that randomly and accidentally gave birth to your tragic life. Or you are born in Japan, your life is swept away, your children die, and there’s no hope. There’s no seeing them on the other side of eternity. There’s just empty pain and loss and dealing with a seemingly cruel impersonal twisted world.
Romans 8 says this waiting period is when God is raising up those who are revealed as Sons and Daughters of God. Which means, instead of just an empty cruel world of meaningless suffering and pain unless you are the 1% of the world who has money and a good life with no tragedy, pain, and loss…but it’s only 1% of us that have that. We just think it’s most people because that’s the fishbowl we swim in here in America. Spend time in Sub-Saharan Africa or Haiti and tell me you think life should just work out in your favor.
Romans 8 says God is not only suffering with us, he’s also raising up a force of people who so align their lives with his heart and kingdom that they rush out to help strangers who have been brutalized by nature or violence or whatever. There is nothing in Secularism that has the power to shape human beings (long term) to de-prioritize money, tribe, comfort, ease, to embrace suffering people, and concern themselves with the hurt of the world or love and die for their enemies. Secularism doen’t have the power to do that in the human heart. Not long term at least.
God is doing something about it. he’s binding the hurts, he’s wiping tears, he’s providing strength, and he’s doing it through his Spirit and his Church. See Rev. 21:1-7
Hope that helps. This pastor guy doesn’t have any magic answers. I have a framework of hope to give people in light of the alternative. I have a person to point people to in Jesus in light of the mystery and unknown. I have a community of love and grace formed by God to invite people into to be nurtured by God en-fleshed in His people in light of the loss and seeming injustice of it all. Outside of that I have nothing to offer!