Where is God in the midst of tragedies?

 

 

By Gbenga Osinaike

If you are sick, God remains God. If you are poor, God remains God. If you had accident God remains God. If you were saved from an accident, God remains God. No matter the condition we find ourselves, God will still remain God. That you were involved in an accident and you were the only one saved while others died does not in any way make you special. Was it God that killed those who died and spared you?

Perhaps we may need to ponder on this and ask ourselves where God is when tragedies happen. Is God responsible for saving some lives while allowing others to perish? Why will God allow his beloved children to be victims of accidents, calamities and untimely death while a vast majority that don’t know God by our own rating are spared and kept alive?

This is one question many will love to find answers to. Unfortunately, believers live in denial of reality. There is always the song, “me I no go suffer”, “I will not die but live” “I can’t be sick”. A brother reportedly threatened that he would tear his Bible if he does not get rich. He claimed that wealth is his portion. But the truth he has not been told is that those who don’t know God, who had never stepped into the four walls of the church are also rich.

As a matter of fact with all our claim to wealth and material riches the percentage of believers that are rich is appalling compared to that of those we claim don’t know God. The percentage of Christians who live in good health is not even close to those who are Buddhist and animists. It goes to tell us that this temporal world is not what God wants for us but rather an eternity with him. The only promised attached to those who accept Jesus is eternal life and nothing more. John 3v16 settles that. Of course the good life is there too. But that is not a priority as it were.

But then we must realise that God is not in the business of distributing tragedies. He is a good God. He is so good that the rain falls on both the just and unjust. (Matt 5v45) The same weather is available for the righteous and the sinner. It is the same ground that the righteous sows his seed that the sinner sows his seed. The farmer who is a sinner sometimes makes good harvest if he understands farming better than the righteous.

So what we must take from this seeming constant character of God is that he does not relate with us based on our attitude though the Bible constantly reminds us that God is angry with the wicked. That God is angry with the sinner does not mean he would withdraw the sun from shinning on the sinner. The natural laws apply to both the wicked and the godly. Jesus tells us the parable of the wheat and the tares in Matt 13v 24-30 and he summed it up by saying both should be allowed to grow, and that at the harvest there would be separation. What that tells me is that God does not act based on sentiment. He acts based on his own timing and nobody knows his timing.

But the question again is: Where is God when bad things happen to good people? Or better still why will God allow bad things to happen to good people? The other perspective is to ask: Why will God allow good things to happen to bad people? I do not have all the answers. But what I think we must first appreciate is that there are natural laws that have been put in place by God and irrespective of our standing with God such laws will take its course if we go against them. There are biological laws too. Sometimes God suspends these laws for a purpose. But that is an exception rather than the rule.

There is a clear example in the Bible. Jesus was tempted to jump from the top of the mountain by the devil in Matt 4v1-11. He was given a scripture to support the temptation. Jesus knew that it would be suicidal to jump. He simply fired back with the word of God. He told the devil, thou shall not tempt the Lord your God. That simple scripture tells us that every time we contravene natural laws in the name of faith, we are tempting God especially when God has not instructed us to do so. What people don’t understand about faith is that faith is acting on the word of God that has been revealed to us. God gives specific instruction to his children in specific circumstances.

That said, natural laws are sometimes suspended but they are at the discretion of God and they are not done to satisfy one’s ego or show off. Jesus could have jumped from the mountain because he had the ability and the power and nothing would have happened. But he did not, to teach us a lesson that we are not to tempt God. When Jesus was in his infancy, He was taken out of Israel. Joseph his foster father was asked to take him to Egypt so that Herod would not kill him (Mathew 2v13-15). Could God not have commanded angels to kill Herod? He did not do so because he wanted to teach us a lesson that faith does not mean foolishness.

But the beauty of the natural law as I said earlier is that it could be suspended. And Jesus demonstrated that when he walked on the sea. This time he was not being tempted. He walked on his own volition. Usually miracles happen at the instance of God. Though man would set in motion the process, it is God who ultimately decides to intervene. We may not get what we want. But usually God allows his programme and plans for our lives to come to play irrespective of what we are going through or what happens to us in life.

That is why two blind people are prayed for one receives his sight the other does not. Two sick people are prayed for. One dies in the process while the other gets healed. The one who dies is no more of a sinner. It is the desire of the blind to see. But God may not intervene in his situation and yet glorify himself in the life of the blind man. That is why a man like the late Timothy Obadare remained blind throughout his life yet he was greatly used of God. The celebrated Pastor Nick was born without hands and limbs yet God is being glorified in his life.

But anytime a tragic thing happens to a supposedly good man, it is just an indication that if it happens to the good man it can happen to anybody. The trials a believer goes through also help to show where his heart is. So for every wicked person that has accident a child of God also has accident. The difference then lies in the attitude and the temperament. The believer goes through tragedy with equanimity with the assurance that his condition is only for a while. Even when he does not get out of the situation while living, he is assured of an eternity with God. But the sinner would despair. He has no hope of an eternity with God. If he dies without Christ he would be losing from both end, here on earth and in the world to come.

The reality that I however think we should come to terms with is that “being a Christian is not an immunity against tragedies” as Philip Yancey stated in his book, “Where is God when it hurts”. Right from the Bible days, tragic things happen to believers. But today, the kind of message we listen to make it appear as if we are immune. The question I usually ask is; Are we better than John the Baptist whose head was beheaded? Some will argue that it served him right that he did not stay in his ministry that is why his head was cut off. Okay, if he veered off his ministry what about Stephen who was stoned to death for preaching the gospel; did he also veer off his ministry? Or James who was beheaded and it pleased the Jews; did he also veer off his ministry?

Now, none of the apostles died a peaceful death apart from John the beloved and that was after unsuccessful attempts to take his life had been made. Nobody prays to experience what they experienced. But that should not obliterate our sense of history and the need to be realistic and understand that we should not be afraid of those who can kill the body but we should be afraid of God who can kill both the spirit and the body. Matt 10v28

Paul, despite his great anointing carried a thorn in his flesh that defied prayers. He prayed three times and the Lord told him in 2Cor 12v9 “my grace is sufficient for you” or why did God not just heal Timothy of his sickness rather he was admonished to take wine for his often infirmity. Down through the centuries Christians have gone through painful and horrendous situations yet God remains God. The closest to us is the horror believers went through in the old Soviet Union up till the 80s. As a matter of fact there are many countries in the world that are still hostile to the Christian faith. Believers die daily in those countries in the hands of their persecutors. And yet we serve the same God.

The truth again is that if bad things only happen to bad people and good things happen to good people as Yancey argued in his book there won’t be bad people. The bad people would be forced to love and serve God not because they want to love God but because they know that by serving him they would be shielded from evil. But God allows things to happen naturally so as to know those who genuinely love him.

When God bragged about Job, the argument was that Job was serving God because God had put an edge around him. And God gave him the permission to remove the edge to see if Job would remain faithful. And Job remained faithful. God does not inflict harm. God does kill. But the laws of nature as I stated earlier applies to both the unbelievers and the believer.

For instance there is this constant dredging of the sea in Lagos Island. Land is being reclaimed and houses are being built on waters ways. If in another 50 years there is earthquake in those regions that claim lives many would question God. Meanwhile this is tragedy that have been orchestrated by our excesses. While we are also susceptible to tragic events in life, our hope lies in the faithfulness of God and the simple fact that this world, despites its beauty and allures is a temporal world. The Christian indeed must rise above primordial sentiment and embrace the reality and the challenges of life.

 

About Gbenga Osinaike

Gbenga Osinaike is a 1992 graduate of Dramatic Arts from Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, Nigeria. He specialised in Play-writing. He also holds a Master of Arts Degree from the University of Lagos. He was Assistant Editor in Punch Newspapers from where he resigned having worked for 13 years to start Church Times Nigeria in March 2007. He is currently the Nigeria representative of US based Institute of Global Church Studies and also the Publicity Secretary of the Lagos, Nigeria Chapter of the Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria. He is married and blessed with two children.

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