The Tentacles of Tragedy and God’s Abundant Grace

Today began as a heavy-hearted day. On the news I saw a story of three children killed in a tragic accident at a bus stop. Last night a dear family in our community suddenly lost a child. Yesterday a another lady and two children were killed in a car accident. These are heavy times, deep waters. Thomas Paine was once quoted as saying, “These are the times that try men’s souls.” Indeed.

Over lunch today we talked about the heavy wave of grief, saying things like, “I can’t even imagine.” Truly, I can’t. My heart hurts so deeply for all those involved. As I sit here mulling over the events, contemplating how the families must feel and how on earth we could help, I’m impacted by a very serious thought: Tragedy knows now bounds, but neither does God’s grace.

Tragedy has this eerie quality where it wreaks havoc on one person or family while simultaneously calling someone else, or some other family to repentance. It may also give someone an affirmation of past decisions or future direction to another.

It’s hard to know what to say, what do do, or even what to pray. I am reminded of Romans 8 which reads:

26 In the same way the Spirit also helps us in our weakness, because we do not know what to pray for as we should, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with unspoken groanings. 27 And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because he intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.

28 We know that all things work together for the good of those who love God, who are called according to his purpose. 29 For those he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, so that he would be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. 30 And those he predestined, he also called; and those he called, he also justified; and those he justified, he also glorified.

People often focus on verse 28, and rightly so, but don’t forget the rest of this passage! Such hope, such comfort. Sometimes our hearts are so sad, so broken, we search in futility for even the words we should cry out to God. I am comforted by Paul’s words as they reassure me I don’t need to figure it out. Jesus is ever-present on our behalf, interceding for us with words and prayers we can’t ourselves muster.

The reason verse 28 can bring us such hope is found in verses 29 and 30. God is, Himself, keenly interested in the outcomes He has ordained for us. He is invested in our good and His glory which He will one day complete and reveal.

We often remind ourselves in times such as this that nothing comes to us that has not already passed through the fingers of our all-knowing and loving God. That is a weighty truth, to be certain. In the days to come many will ask things such as, “Why did this have to happen” or “why him, or her, or them?” These questions are appropriate ones, hard ones. Questions that may never have answers this side of our glorification in Christ.

What we do know, though, is that God is good. It may seem trite and trivial to bring up this fact in times like this, but I would disagree. I would swing this pendulum the other direction and say this is precisely the time when we should remind each other of the goodness of God. It is this goodness on which turns the very difference between hope and despair, between faith and futility.

If God were all-powerful yet not all good then He would be the most dreadful being the mind could enthrone. It is His goodness that wraps us in the warm hope of restoration, the blanket of comfort we desperately need in times such as this. It is a steadfast hope in His goodness that brings us back from the precipice of despair.

“But what do we do?!” one might ask. Another good question. Another one I have no good practical answer to, except to say, BE His goodness to others in this time. There are already GoFundMe pages being set up, MealTrains taking shape, prayer being offered, and hurt being felt. Do those things and do them well.

Romans 12:15 encourages us to weep with those who weep. The tentacles of tragedy seem to know no bounds of color, race, ethnicity, socio-economic status or political affiliation, but we can rejoice during our times of mourning because neither does the matchless and marvelous grace of our Lord.

Speak peace to those who are hurting. Speak love to those in your circle. Kiss your spouse, hug your kids, say the things left unsaid, clear the clouded air, for in so doing we show the very grace and love of Jesus which is the only thing that can sustain in these treacherous times.