God’s Role in Tragedy

God does not allow evil and suffering to continue because He does not love us, or is in some way detached and removed from us. God takes our suffering so seriously, that he took it upon himself on the cross. ~ Tim Keller

When I speak to a group about RELENTLESS GRACE, the questions are frequently penetrating and gut-wrenchingly honest. One question is asked more than any other. “Do you believe that God caused your injury?”

That’s tough to answer because I know what’s beneath the surface. A child gets cancer. A spouse dies in a senseless accident. Dreams and aspirations are destroyed indiscriminately, pain strikes needlessly, suffering endures pointlessly. And we want to know why. Why did this happen? Is it God’s will? How could He do such an awful thing, or how could He allow it?

I can’t speak definitively for God (which probably doesn’t surprise you) and I think there’s great danger in claiming to understand the details of God’s plan. We tend to create Him in our image and ascribe limited human motives to Him. We seek simplistic cause-and-effect explanations for complex circumstances. I’m convinced that His thoughts are bigger than our finite ability to reason.

However, my injury has prompted me to examine the question of God’s role in suffering and apparent tragedy. I’ve compiled an incomplete list of basic principles that cast some light for me into a troubling personal darkness.

  • God’s purpose and plan are bigger than anything I can see or even imagine.

    However, as it is written: “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him. 1 Corinthians 2:9

  • God loves me and never wants me to be afraid.

    God is love … There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. 1 John 4:16(a),18(a)

  • God sent Jesus as the perfect sacrifice. No matter what my situation, I know I’ll spend eternity in relationship with Him.

    For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16

  • I trust that God will never let go of me.

    For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:38-39

  • I trust that God’s work in my life will ultimately come together for my good, even when I can’t see how or when that might be possible.

    And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28

  • God made me along with the rest of His creation. His intent for me is for good.

    God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. Genesis 1:31(a)

God loves me, wants only good for me, and will never let go of me. And even when circumstances are temporarily horrible, I know that He sacrificed His son to assure that I’ll be in His presence for all of eternity. This is the sum of my experience.

Childhood disease, random accidents, and indiscriminate suffering don’t seem to qualify under any reasonable definition of “good.” Neither do senseless, disabling injuries like mine. Therefore, my answer is that I don’t believe God causes these events. I do not believe that God decided one morning that this would be a good day to cause the suffering associated with a spinal cord injury and permanent paralysis.

Evil is present in our fallen world. Why does He allow it? I don’t know, because His purposes are bigger than my vision. But I know that He’ll always use even tragedy for good and that one day the pain will end and be replaced with endless joy.

That’s not an easy answer, but it’s all I’ve got. It’s enough for me.

I have been asked on hundreds of times in my life why God allows tragedy and suffering. I have to confess that I really do not know the answer totally, even to my own satisfaction. I have to accept, by faith, that God is sovereign, and He is a God of love and mercy and compassion in the midst of suffering. ~Billy Graham