Where is God in the midst of tragedy?
My mum rang me up early on Tuesday morning to ask if I had seen the news. I said, ‘no’. ‘Eight dead and seventy missing in Toowoomba’, was mum’s reply. At least I think it was because I turned on the television and saw the shocking image of a man and his wife in a white 4WD being carried away in a torrent of mud and water. This image has pushed away the memory of that conversation.
It can be hard to cope with the shock of the news and the shock to our stable existence. In fact, the sheer stability of Australia and Queensland makes the shock even greater. Yes, bushfires rage but we know how to contain these. Car accidents happen but we are a touch immune to these due to their regularity. But a flash flood in peaceful, country Toowoomba? I was filled with shock and only later in the day started to reflect on the depth of the tragedy.
It is right that we should eventually turn to the bigger questions. Where is God in the midst of this? Why did he let this happen? Doesn’t he care
The writers of the Bible have a long history of asking God big questions:
How long, O LORD? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? 2 How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and every day have sorrow in my heart? (Psalm 13:1-2 )
But if God is in control of this tragedy why would you call out to him? The writers can call on God because of his character. If he was a tyrant what would be the point in calling out to him? If he was weak why bother? He can’t help. But the writers knew about God from his previous acts of love and care. They had evidence that he was both powerful and loving. So even if the current circumstances looked as if God had deserted them they had evidence of his love and power from other situations.
In the midst of our shock regarding Toowoomba and in the general devastation through Queensland though we might be tempted to think that there is no evidence of God’s power and love. However, there is evidence, crucial evidence. Let me give just two pieces of evidence.
The first is Jesus, God the Son, and his response to the death of his friend Lazarus. When Jesus comes face to face with the death of his friend Lazarus, he weeps. God cares. God feels. God knows our pain and loss. But then God shows his power as Jesus raises Lazarus from the dead. God shows his love, concern and power in the midst of tragedy.
The second piece of evidence is again Jesus. But this time Jesus, God the Son, does not see someone else’s death but dies himself on the Cross. God’s love for us is so great that God came in the flesh to die on the cross for us. That is the story of Christmas and Easter together. The famous verse from the Bible of John 3:16 captures just this. For God so loved the world he gave his one and only Son. He gave him to die on the cross because of his love for humanity.
We don’t know why the tragedy in Toowoomba unfolded. We don’t know why some died and some didn’t. We don’t know what God was doing in this particular act. There are no answers to some questions.
In some ways, this short article might not persuade you. How could it in light of the tragedy? But thinking about Jesus is the place to start to see that God loves and cares for us. In the midst of tragedy he is not aloof from us. As God in the flesh, Jesus, he wept at the death of his friend. And then he even died for his friends and his enemies.