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Tragedy . . . Why?

There are a few words in our language that are a complete sentence by themselves.  “Why” is one of those words.  Having four children, I have heard that question a lot:  “But dad, WHY?”

As a father, many times I did have an answer for that question:  “You can’t play in the street because you might get run over.”  “You can’t just eat candy and no vegetables because you need the nutrients of a balanced diet to grow.”  “You need to go to school to learn what you must know to be a ‘grown-up.’”

As my children have gotten older, however, finding an answer for “Why?” has gotten much harder.  Many times I have had to resort to that answer that I grew to hate as a child:  “Because I said so, that’s why!”

Times when tragedy strikes cause us to ask that one-word question to anybody who will listen.  “Why did this have to happen?”  “Why did this happen to me?”  “Why?” “Why?” “Why?”

I wish that I could answer that question, “WHY?”  but I can’t.  Without getting too theological, however, I believe that I can rule out at least one possibility.  I do not believe that God points his finger down to earth and says “it’s your time for a tragedy!”

I know that God is usually the one who takes the rap for bad things that happen on this earth, but it really shouldn’t all fall on Him.  Way back at the beginning of humankind, the possibility of bad things happening today had its start.  Sin entered the world and because of sin, sickness, diseases, infirmities, death and other tragedies also entered the world.  Because of these things and the human lack of immortality on earth, bad things happen.   It doesn’t mean that those who experience bad things are bad; we’re just experiencing life on earth.

Certainly God is able to stop bad things from happening.  Often, through our prayers, we are able to avert tragedies.  But while God is sovereign and on the throne, he does not put an end to all bad things.  It wouldn’t be fair to the millions of people who have gone before us if He was to just do away with bad forever.

Human kind started us on this “bad” track, and God is bound by His own word to allow it.  But let me quickly add that God looks down with sorrow when we experience tragedy.  He hurts when we hurt.  He grieves when we grieve.

So, can we answer that question “WHY?”?  I don’t think so.  We may just have to accept the answer, “Because I said so, that’s why.”

But another couple of one-word questions can help us in any tragic experience:  These questions are “HOW?” and “WHO?”

In bad times, after asking “WHY?” we naturally ask, “HOW?”:   “How can I possibly survive?”  “How can I get through this?”  “How can I go on?”

I believe that these “HOW” questions can be answered best with the “WHO?” questions:  “Who can help me survive?”  “Who can help me through this?”  “Who can give me the strength?”

Many times those around us can be a great help:  your battle buddies, your friends, your family or church members, your Chaplain, even your First Sergeant or Commander.  All of these people can help in some way.  But many times we need more.  We need someone who can truly understand what we’re feeling.  We need to know that he is always there for us.

The writer of Psalm 23 knows who that One is that we need:  He is God.  The Psalmist answered his “WHO?” question by writing, “The Lord is…”  In earlier Scripture, when Moses asked “WHO?” God, himself, told Moses, “I am that I am.”

So the answer to our question “WHO?”  is God!

God does truly understand us.  He knows our heart and he has experienced loss and tragedy.  God has promised to be with us always.  He can go with us where others can not—and can be with us always.  God can help us survive, He can help us through whatever we face, and He can give us the strength to go on.  Look to him in your time of tragedy.  Lean on Him, He will be your help!

(by Chaplain (CPT) Daryl Densford. Originally published 23 Jun 05 in The Turret, Fort Knox, KY.)

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