BRADY COLUMN: The tragedies of life

Published 10:30 am Thursday, May 19, 2022

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If you have ever been watching a television program and the announcer suddenly appears and says, “We interrupt this program to bring you some breaking news. Sure you have. We’ve all experienced this kind of interruption. But normally when this interruption comes we experience increasing anxiety. Why? Because usually it signals bad or troublesome news.

Jesus had just interrupted the disciple’s agenda with a very grave announcement. He had informed the disciples that their fellowship was about to be broken. Jesus had told them of his impending crucifixion and death. And, oh yes, he had also told them about his resurrection but in their despairing anxiety they didn’t get that part of the message. They only knew that the one who had actually revealed God to them was leaving, and things would never be the same again.

It was in such a troublesome time as this that Jesus spoke these clear comforting words, “Let not your hearts be troubled; believe in God, believe also in me…”(John 14:1). However appropriate these words are at Christian funerals, they were first addressed to disciples who were on the verge of a major failure. “Let not your hearts be troubled, you believe in God, believe also in me.” Jesus is  telling us to “believe” in God-not a generic “god” but “the Father” to whom he leads us. In addition, he’s telling us to trust in Him. “Believe in me“ means to trust.

Now, in light of Jesus’ admonition to trust God, I want to briefly focus on the tragedies of life.

First, God does not send tragedies! Some years ago, when the “death of God” theology was a fad, there was a bumper sticker that read, “My God is not dead; sorry about yours.” Now, if I had a bumper sticker today more than likely it would read, “My God is not cruel; sorry about yours.” One thing we Christian’s ought to underline is that human tragedy is not the will of God. As someone observed, “Tragedy happens because life happens.” Some tragedies are caused by bad luck, some are caused by bad people, and some are simply the inevitable consequences of our being human and being mortal and living in a world of very inflexible natural laws.

Second, God is with us in our tragedy! Author Sue Monk Kidd was going through a difficult time and was crying. Her husband touched his finger to the tears running down her cheek. She wrote of that experience, “His gesture spoke volumes to me. It said, “Your tears run down my face, too. Your suffering aches inside my heart as well, I share your wounded place.”

As Isaiah the prophet expressed it, “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you” (Isaiah 43:2).

Third, God is the last word in the tragedy! At the center of the Christian faith is the message of hope-that God brings life out of death. The God who has the first word will also have the last word.  Dietrich Bonhoeffer put it like this: “God will give us the grace we need when we need it, but not in advance lest we become dependent on ourselves and not upon God.”

Jesus said, -Let not your hearts be troubled, you believe in God, beliefs also in me…”