Friday, September 23, 2011

Out of Tragedy Grows Hope

    It's been an emotional month. The IHOP shooting, the 10th anniversary of 9/11, and the Air Race tragedy, not to mention the untimely deaths of a friend from high school and of a former co-worker, have shocked me, and many others, into various states of shock and bewilderment. I think that it's probably a part of human nature for each of us, when faced with death, to wonder "why", and when faced with senseless or untimely death we wonder it all the more. People aren't supposed to die when they are out to breakfast, or out for a day of fun with the family, or before they turn 40. But they do, and the reality of it is that the world we live in is broken. It's not meant to be this way, we aren't supposed to hurt like this, but things happen that even make God's heart break.
    It's a common belief that God is actively choosing who lives and who dies on a daily basis. And while that is sometimes comforting (because I am still alive), I don't believe it gives any help or comfort to the family and friends of someone who is no longer with us. Does God pick and choose? Or does he just "allow" bad things to happen to good people? Or is there another option? While I am no theological expert, there are a few things which I know based on my few years of experience: God loves the world. Our world is broken and bad things happen... a lot. God loves people and wants the best for them. God loves people enough to allow them to choose how they live. People make bad choices (myself included)... a lot.
     Hurt, abuse, racism, death (to name a few) happen because we as people choose them. And unfortunately our choices have ramifications which affect the people around us  whether we know them or not. I can't say why God doesn't step in and protect innocent people from our bad choices, but I can say that God has (and is) stepping in to redeem our bad choices. In fact, I believe that redemption is a lens that best defines how God interacts with people. God is a redeemer. He enters a situation that is hopeless and offers hope. Since the beginning (whenever that was) God has been in the business of fixing (redeeming) our mistakes and bad choices and bringing hope. And according to Scripture, that will be a huge part of the culmination of history. There will be no more hurt, or crying, or death, or sickness, or cancer, or war, or natural disasters, or selfishness, or envy, or greed, or (fill in your least favorite bad thing here). God will dwell with people and people will be in relationship with God in a world that exists how it was originally created to be. Unfortunately, we aren't there yet, and we are left to deal with tragedy.
     The beauty of who God is though, is that even in the aftermath of tragedy He is drawing people to hope. God can supernaturally bring peace and comfort in the midst of tragedy  Supernaturally people heal and move forward from hurts so deep they feel like dying as well. But God also works in stranger ways, through other people. A hug, a smile, a heart-felt "I'm sorry", or just simply being there without saying anything brings God's presence into a situation (whether you want Him there or not), and brings hope. Then we join with people in the process of picking up the pieces, redemption.
     As a follower of Jesus, I am an agent of redemption. Sometimes I'm not very good at it, but God can redeem that too. Yes, bad things happen, to everyone. Yes, our world is broken. Thankfully there is a God who loves us, and understands our hurt and doubt. Out of loss comes victory, out of hurt comes healing, and out of tragedy comes hope. As a Jesus-follower, I just have to be present and look for ways to love those around me.

   There's the root of our ancestor Jesse,
      breaking through the earth and growing tree tall,
   Tall enough for everyone everywhere to see and take hope!
Oh! May the God of green hope fill you up with joy, fill you up with peace, so that your believing lives, filled with the life-giving energy of the Holy Spirit, will brim over with hope!
         Romans 15:12-13

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