when tragedy strikes
A tragic event was in the headlines this week when five month old baby Cadey-Lee Deacon was savaged and killed by two rottweilers in Leicester. The dogs were owned by the mother’s boyfriend. Later the same day, the child’s grandfather and partner were also attacked in their own home. He suffered knife injuries, Debra Larn was sadly killed. Truth is sometimes stranger than fiction. Every sympathy goes out to the family who are trying to come to terms with what happened. But how do you come to terms with such an event? 

When such things happen – and they do all too often – how can we understand them? These events are life-changing in the worst of ways. Life will never be the same again. Sometimes things can happen that may plague us with guilt for years afterward, whether we really are guilty or not. The nagging ‘why’ question may never find a satisfactory answer in such circumstances. Yet life must and has to go on. Somehow we have to rebuild our lives and start over. Such events can either make us or completely break us and our relationships.

Why is life punctuated with such horrors? The pages of our newspapers are filled with them, some personal, some national. From murders and rapes, to cruelty dished out on their own citizens by brutal regimes, and wars where belligerent attitudes of leaders make the poorest people bear the consequences. It is a sad and grim world. A world of pain, sorrow and anguish. A world where we experience brokenness, sadness and grief. If these things don’t touch your life, you have been spared. But the reality is, one day we will all face our own mortality too. We will not be spared the certainty of our own impending death. 

Are there any answers? 

As a Christian I am sure there are answers. Though it may be difficult to give direct reasons for every specific happening this side of eternity, God has revealed to us some timeless truths that can shape our understanding and help us come to terms with tragedy. 

Firstly, God has revealed to us that the world when it was first made was ‘very good’ (Genesis 1:31). God made a perfect world, there was no suffering and death, pain or sorrow in the first creation. But man was tested and rebelled against God’s goodness. Thinking that he could be a god himself, he rejected the truth of God and set himself up as a self-determining master of his own universe. But this rebellion and sin against God brought upon us His curse. We were made from dust and God’s just punishment was to return us to dust by our own physical death. From then on, we died to God. Though we are alive physically, we are dead spiritually. Yet even the death sentence had mercy wrapped up in it. Death, pain and suffering are the constant reminder to all of us that there is something wrong – wrong with us and wrong with our world. It is a warning sign that we need to see and heed, that declares trouble ahead if we ignore it. 

But triumph can come out of tragedy, and this is seen in God’s great way of redemption. When man sinned, he brought death upon himself. But that physical death was also the way in which man’s soul or spirit could be delivered to new life. God promised a redeemer right there in the garden of Eden. At the very time He cursed the serpent, He also promised a descendant of the woman who would bruise his head while also bruising his own heel (Genesis 3:15). The fulfillment of that great promise is what Old Testament history points towards and New Testament history reveals. That in the fulness of time, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman (Galatians 4:4). He came to bear the curse of sin, to pay the death penalty Himself, though He had no sin, and become man’s Saviour. 

Original sin

Thus the Bible traces all suffering back to the entrance of sin into the world. That original sin, stamped it’s mark upon all of us who have descended from those same parents. Added to that, we have also committed our own sins. It doesn’t mean that every personal consequence has a direct personal cause, though that is sometimes the case. But it does mean that in a world gone bad, filled with people gone bad, bad things happen. God’s mercy through these things, are that they form an ever present reminder that something is badly wrong. 

The reason we are here is not the result of ‘nature red in tooth and claw.’ That hollow evolutionary philosophy can only lead to emptiness. Chance is no comfort and gives no purpose. No, we are the direct creation of God. Made by Him and for Him. It is only in Him that we can find the deepest of answers to the deepest of our needs and our folly in running from Him just buries the pain deeper. 

But God knows our pain, He has tasted it Himself. He surrendered His only beloved Son into the hands of cruel men, knowing that we would reject Him and kill Him. In fact we nailed Him to a cross. But by that very act of God’s Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, dying on the cross, and rising from the dead, the curse, pain, penalty, sorrow and suffering of sin and death was brought to an end. Christ triumphed over death and the grave, in order to give love, life and light to all who would believe in Him. The greatest of triumphs was brought about in the worst of all tragedies. God sees, God hears, God knows – and God has acted, to bring hope that can reach beyond the sufferings of this present world. 

The question remains, will you believe? It is only when we personally recognise our own sinfulness and God’s great provision in Jesus Christ, that we can begin to piece together the complex threads of life that make us up. That discovery might itself be the reason God has allowed tragedy to strike. It is a very painful journey, but the two opposing destinations for every soul, of heaven or hell, life or condemnation, are the very reasons we need to heed the wake up call.

“For God so loved the world, He gave His only begotten Son, 
that whosoever believes in Him, should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God did not send His son into the world to condemn the world, 
but that the world through Him might be saved.” 
John 3:16,17
Tuesday, 26 September 2006