do I look to find God in this world of tragedy and pain?
and pain are disorienting. We don’t want to experience
either, yet life keeps bringing them on. Our egos try to keep
our lives tragedy and pain-free. In his book Credo,
preacher and writer William Sloane Coffin suggests that we have
a God who provides us with minimum protection and maximum support.
I agree with him—but I don’t like it. In the face
of tragedy and pain, minimum protection from God just doesn’t
feel good enough for me. My instinct is to seek—and expect—a
spiritual firewall from God. And when I don’t get it,
I get indignant, and like millions of others, I shake my fist
at the heavens and demand to know why this is happening. I
end up looking for a God who will provide protection—and
miss out on the God who offers support.
may want to keep clear of tragedy and pain, but God always moves
toward it. Over the years, I have sat with scores of families
who have been shredded with grief over the death of a loved one.
Especially in the cases of unexpected death, the pain is as deep
as it ever gets. In practically every single instance, whenever
someone shares a memory, a story—something about the
person who just died—people begin to laugh. It’s
not nervous laughter, or an exercise in denial, or simply a short
break from tears and despair. It is real joy—short-lived,
yes, but deep joy for the love that was shared, and will always
be remembered. That joy is real; it often surfaces in the midst
of tragedy. I can’t say for certain that this fleeting
joy is God, but it certainly can be a comfort; and a divine support.
Rev. Mark Beckwith
This is a world of tragedy and pain. It is also a world of joy and fulfillment.
It is my conviction that God is present to us in both worlds. The question
always is how these two worlds can exist at the same time. There is no
easy answer. The closest I can come to it in my own experience is that
only a world of freedom could create that possibility. How could we choose
good if evil did not offer us a choice. Creativity always comes out of
to return to our question: It is easy to sense God's presence
when things are going right. But where is God when things fall
apart? Do we not find the divine presence in the very place that
Jesus found it during his crucifixion? Could there be a greater
experience of tragedy and pain than that? God was there in the
loving acts extended to Christ by those who loved him and stayed
with him to the end. His mother, Mary Magdalene, the disciples—all
were there in their grief and broken-heartedness.
our world of pain, we can find God in the loving acts of those
who stand by us. In our illnesses we can be grateful for those
of the medical profession who fight to restore our health. They
are the instruments of God and through them his love comes. All
healing really is divine. In our emotional distresses God comes
to us through a friend, a family member, a counselor, or a minister
to offer us encouragement. God is there through those who care.
In moments of deep need, God comes in a mysterious way to give
one escapes the struggles of life. Our goodness or our faith
do not make us immune from suffering. God never promised that
life would be without its painful moments. We are promised that
God will be with us no matter what we face. Someone wrote, "Peace
does not come with the absence of troubles, but with the conscious
realization of adequate resources." God
can be found as the supplier of all the resources we need to
get through life's difficult moments. We also find God in the
messages of hope. This experience of pain will not have the last
word. Jesus said to his disciples, "In this world you have
tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world." (John
ultimate victory belongs to the power of love. Christ came to
bring us that message. Something abides beyond the suffering—the
presence of one who has control of the future. The word of hope
is that our future is in the hands of God. Love, courage and
hope sum up the resources we have to face our personal tragedies
Rev. Dr. Brooks Ramsey
God does not promise to prevent pain and tragedy. If we are fortunate to live
long enough, we will experience and encounter pain over and over again.
What God does promise is to be with us through the pain; God promises to
give us the power of His presence so that we can cope, so that we can have
perspective, so that the pain of loss, of heartbreak, of our own dying
does not overwhelm.
for God in the person who sits and listens with his or her heart
when you need to pour out yours. Look for God in hope that grows
out of ashes; look for God in the growth and peace that comes
to some who have been through dark valleys. Look for God in the
laughs of small children and in the confidence of youth. Look
for God in every person who is open to God, everyone who seeks
and searches for God; look for God in everyone who asks questions
such as yours.
Rev. William A. Kolb
part of Christianity that is most meaningful to me is the story
of the Good Samaritan. Its message speaks of helping those one
doesn't know, maybe those with whom one has never spoken, those
who are different from ourselves. There are opportunities to
reach out, out of our comfortable lives into those lives of need.
At my church, we feed the homeless on Sunday mornings, asking
nothing from them in return. These are the ones who are traveling
from Jerusalem to Jericho. In their faces are pain and tragedy.
They are mostly men but sometimes women and children. They have
lost hope. Last week the group of homeless was bigger than ever.
I prayed for loaves and fishes, Lord let there be enough so none
goes hungry. There were 96 meals and exactly 96 waiting to be
is God in this world of tragedy and pain. I see Jesus in their
eyes on Sunday mornings.
Littleton, Oklahoma City - these words bring to mind images of
awful human tragedy and pain. Were those victims able to find
God in their midst? Where can we find God in this world?
As I thought about this compelling question, I realized that ideas have come
to me from a variety of sources:
there was Rabbi Harold S. Kushner's book, When Bad Things
Happen to Good People.
there was a homily that Doug Bailey, my church's rector at
the time, delivered on Easter some years ago. "Christ
has died. Christ has risen. Christ will come again in you,
and you, and you," he said as he pointed to us in the
pews. WOW! That thought had never occurred to me before. Christ
coming through me to others? Could that be?
Borg's book, The God We Never Knew, helped me more
thoroughly comprehend that Easter sermon and helped me grow
in the understanding that God is not a judge up in the heavens
but is living among and through you and me.
used to think that God's presence would come to me like a bolt
of lightning and zap me. Now I know that I need
to reflect many times each day and take an inventory at the end
of the day. How
has God tried to touch me today? Was it in a stranger's smile,
a new flower, an e-mail message, scripture, words in a hymn?
(During my first Sunday visit to Calvary, I felt God's presence
in all the smiling faces.) Could it be possible that I have helped
others know God's presence today? What might I or could I have
done to help God's presence be felt by others? Could I have done
God's presence may not be packaged in the way we expect. Taking the time to
make that mental inventory helps me recognize that presence. I hope it helps
my experience, God is everywhere. On the rare occasions when
I've been able to focus on Him, I've felt His presence. It is
amazingly difficult to do. The pressures of work, family, friends,
schedules, deadlines, wants, needs, and fears all flood my mind
and crowd out God. Sometimes tragedy and/or pain has been the
catalyst that allowed me to turn off the noise of my everyday
life and focus on God.
I've allowed myself to be open to God, I've seen Him all around
me. I have seen Him in other people, in acts of kindness, in
the faith of another fellow Christian, in my children, and in
my wife. I have felt His presence in worship, in nature, in meditation,
in scripture, and especially in prayer. My spiritual life sometimes
seems like a roller coaster. In times of great despair when I
yearn for God's presence, I often find I'm too busy dealing with
the problems at hand to stop and listen to Him. Not that He speaks
words; I experience God in a spiritual joy and comfort that is
more powerful than mere words. I have found that when I sincerely
put God above all else and look He is there.
people become disillusioned by tragedy and pain. They attempt
to explain it away by saying that everything has a purpose. I
like to think that God manifests himself in our solutions. It
is our responsibility to make the proper response. Crisis can
be opportunity. In Search for Meaning Victor Frankl refers
to the concentration camps stating,
is just such an exceptionally difficult external situation which
gives man the opportunity to grow spiritually beyond himself
accomplishment which in ordinary circumstances they would
have never achieved.
on human potentiality, I firmly believe that everything can have
a purpose. Glory be to God.
look for God in prayer, in close relation with others, and
in the church. Most of all we find the face of God in the tears,
the hugs, and the words of comfort others bring to us in times
of great sorrow and pain. Here
we can experience authentic moments of God's pure and unconditional