What’s your Theology on Tragedy?

Well, things are especially fruitful on the book front again right when other things in the world go to pot. 

The big success of THE FALL happened the same day as the Boston Marathon bombing. Tragedy & heartbreak.

Now Rock Star shoots out of the weeds on the same day killer tornadoes sweep across Oklahoma.

Little children lose their lives, parents devastated, homes destroyed, grief in the Heartland. Joy is shrouded by mourning. 

Had an interesting conversation with my favorite 80 year-old Catholic priest this morning. Normally he is lively and teasing. Today he still teased but he moved a bit slower and the smiles didn’t reach his eyes, eyes filled with sadness. I didn’t even have to ask if he’d seen the news. 

He asked a question that said loud and clear that even holy warriors sometimes grapple with their faith. 

“What is your theology on tragedy?” 

Theology? Sometimes the circumstances go too deep for ideals. Therefore we just talked, of so-called acts of God, of free will and how our choices, when they run amuck, are thrown back into God’s face as evidence of His vengeful judgment. I spoke of the sermon at our church last weekend that dealt with Jesus commanding the wind and waves, “Peace. Be still.” There was even a gorgeous song we sang called “Oceans” that talked of walking on the waters and allowing faith to take us where our feet cannot.

Timely. Very timely. You’d almost think God knew what was coming, eh? 

But there truly is a peace that is beyond understanding and circumstances. There truly is a rock of faith that remains solid when everything goes to pot. It can’t be explained. This peace and faith can only be experienced. And the experience can only happen with a leap—from cynicism to faith. Right through the scary wilderness of foolishness.

There was another quote that rang so true in last weekend’s church service.

“Cynicism is just arrogance disguised as intellectualism.” (unknown twitter author)

When tragedy comes, so many jump to say, “If there was a God, this wouldn’t have happened.”

Or even more cruelly, some say those already reeling from devastation somehow deserved their fate and/or it’s God’s holy anger that brought on the tragedy. Thus condemnation flies even into the face of God. 

I don’t have all the answers to hard questions in the face of tragedy. But I do have faith. I do not believe God caused the horrific circumstances, but I do believe, if we turn to Him with humble, trusting hearts, He is able to bring beauty even out of the most cruel of circumstances. 

This faith will not return beloved children to the arms of their grieving parents, but when placed at the feet of our loving God, miracles still happen. Beauty pushes up through the ashes. In our brokenness, God’s grace fills the cracks, not eradicating them but causing blinding light to shine through those chinks with purity and peace that is truly beyond intellectual understanding.

Therefore, when we witness those in this latest tragedy who seem to exhibit superhuman hope and resilience, we’re right. What is impossible with man is possible with God. Please toss aside the armor of cynicism and consider that, just maybe, there is a loving, almighty God who longs to carry our pains and absorb our griefs. 

Surely he took up our pain
    and bore our suffering,
yet we considered him punished by God,
    stricken by him, and afflicted.
But he was pierced for our transgressions,
    he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on him,
    and by his wounds we are healed.
Isaiah 53:4-5

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