When Faith is Challenged by Tragedy

Amy VanHuisen writes about faith and struggle, and I often find that her blog makes me think.  Today she wrote about the loss of a young mom in their community who leaves behind a husband and three young children, the youngest only 8 days old.  She titled the post, “God, How Could You Do That?”  Amy’s writing is honest, and you’ll be blessed by clicking over to read her post before coming back to read some thoughts that occurred to me.

The first thing that jumped into my consciousness was a conversation my daughter Sara, a nurse practitioner, had with a colleague this week.  They are members of a palliative care team, and deal with patients and families suffering tragedy daily.  Faith nearly always becomes a part of the conversation with the patients and families, and sometimes among the medical staff.

The conversation went something like this.  The colleague said, “I don’t believe in God because if there were a God, he wouldn’t let the things that we see happen to people every day happen.”  Sara’s response was, “Do you really believe that God is the only force active in this world?  What about Satan?  What about the free will God allows people?”

This is a good summary of the faith struggle that we all go through as we experience events like Amy writes about, and our question often becomes like Amy’s, “How could God…”

I don’t have the answer.  But I will offer a couple of thoughts.

  1. God has not yet won the final victory.  The Bible makes clear that we live in an active battle ground with God on one side and the forces of evil led by Satan on the other.  Until that final victory when God creates the new heaven and the new earth, this earth that we live on will continue to experience injustice, tragedy, illness, poverty, and all of the other things that are wrong, that are unfair.  And these come equally to all of us, whether we are people of faith or not.
  2. When I read what we call The Beatitudes in Matthew 5,  I see Jesus talking about people who have suffered and who are suffering what’s not fair about this world.  He doesn’t say that we won’t have to mourn (v4), for example, but he says simply that those who mourn will be comforted.  Jesus seems to be offering hope for those of us who suffer in this life.

Which leads me to this final thought.  The more of life I experience, the more I look forward to that point in time when God claims the final victory, when all the bad stuff ceases, when God is fully in control.  That doesn’t mean I don’t love this life and getting to experience it with my family and my friends –  just that more and more often I am aware of how flawed this world is, and how wonderful heaven will be.

  1. Dave says:

    Those moments in life where our hearts simultaneously break and fill with hope (because the only other option is despair) become turning points in our lives. With that comes a great deal of thought and questioning. This story of unfathomable loss is sad, without a doubt. As a husband and father of two busy, inquisitive children I can’t imagine what I’d do without my wife. My heart goes out to the family.

    One thing I’d like to mention as well, is that your daughter does incredible work and her faith most certainly eases the hearts of her patients and their families. My father was in palliative care three years ago as his cancer was nearing its final stages. He was a shadow of his former self; gaunt, sad, without control of his body. But his love for us and his concern for my mother was just as apparent as it had always been. And the nurses were amazing.

    Before my dad became ill, he and my mother had resumed a spiritual journey that had fallen by the wayside for a number of years. He was hitting a stride, so to speak, when his strength began to slide. I was visiting him in the palliative care room and I asked him if he had ever taken the time to ask Christ into his heart. His response was that he didn’t know.

    I asked if he’d like to do so right then and there and he said yes. So in the middle of that room, he summoned what strength he could and he stood beside me as I led him through a prayer declaring Christ his Lord and Savior. I reaffirmed my belief as well.

    I’ve never left a hospital as full of hope as I did that day. I knew for sure that not only will the day come that I will see the Father, but I will also get to see my dad restored to his full and former self.

  2. Jim Hughes says:

    Dave -

    Thanks for your comment which adds greatly to this conversation. What a great story about your dad and how in adversity, faith rises. And yes, palliative care practitioners are some of my heros too!

  3. I love Dave’s final paragraph. Thanks for taking time to share your story, Dave.

    Thanks, Jim, for telescoping relative to my post–there is always so much more to see, to consider in every situation in which we find ourselves. Often, it is in community that we are provided with the needed lenses.

    And, your daughter is indeed a hero! She must be a woman of inner beauty.

    Amy VanHuisen’s last blog post..God, How Could You Do That?

  4. Susan says:

    Thanks for sharing with us Jim, your so right, just like I tell my hubby, we are not “home” yet….

    Susan’s last blog post..Papa needs a new pair of shoes!

  5. Grace Bower says:

    I love Dr Robert Harold Schuller where he says – God will have the last word and it will be good!!

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