Habakkuk 2:2 "Write the vision and make it plain on tablets, that he may run who reads it."
for so many suffering loss.... Weep With Those Who Weep
Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.Romans 12:15
We are experiencing so many natural disasters and horrific events like what we witnessed in Las Vegas, and in times such as these, our temptation is to try to encourage people too quickly, when the more important thing to do is merely “weep with those who weep.”
Our home city of Santa Rosa, California is right now going through unimaginable loss of life and homes, and even the landmarks and scenery that make the city “home.” As tragedy unfolds, it is time to weep. Take the time to just hold someone, to look in their eyes with deep compassion, to listen to them and to merely be there. Love is the greatest encouragement that you can give.
When you meet someone who is hurting or grieving, be slow to speak and long to embrace.
Words can’t fill the loss, but love can comfort the heart. I have no doubt that Jesus was a good listener. Compassion flowed from Him and healed those that He passed by as well as those that He sat with. He is still listening and still comforting today. The Holy Spirit is the Comforter; let Him move through you with ears to hear and eyes to see and arms to hold. Let compassion flow from your life into those who are hurting. Let your eyes weep as He weeps with the grieving.
There will be time for encouraging words and even searching for understanding, but in the moment of pain, love in action is the message we must live out. Rejoicing will come again and we will dance with the very ones that today we mourn with. There are seasons where we learn the art of comforting and weeping; those tears become the water in which beauty arises from the ashes.
Today, wherever you are and whatever you are facing--especially for our family and friend in Santa Rosa and the surrounding areas--this is my prayer for you,
I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit. Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God. Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think. Ephesians 3:16-20. If I could, even now I would hold you.
Mercy or Judgment?
A few days ago I read a grimly humorous story about a family who posted a message on social media, “Good news! We are OK,” to which a friend wearily replied “I’m sorry, remind me: which disaster are you in?”
The level of destruction due to natural—and man-made—catastrophes we have recently been witnessing is heartbreaking. We all want to do everything we can to help and to ease people’s suffering.
Many Christians are deeply troubled and fearful in the midst of such chaos, and unfortunately, we have seen much conflict and animosity occurring as people entrench themselves into opposing viewpoints, vehemently arguing their case as to the cause behind all the trouble. Some claim the disasters are judgments from God; others react against this, questioning why God would judge one place and not another; and still others try to walk a middle road, claiming that God is merciful, but there are times He does need to judge and we can’t always understand His ways.
These pronouncements and opinions miss the point.
In Luke 13, we read that Jesus was told about a group of Galileans who had been cruelly killed by Pilate. He gave a response that, at first glance, almost seems evasive, but it actually gives us an enlightened perspective:
And Jesus answered and said to them, “Do you suppose that these Galileans were worse sinners than all other Galileans, because they suffered such things?I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish.Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them, do you think that they were worse sinners than all other men who dwelt in Jerusalem?I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish.” (Luke 13:2-5)
The Lord had just been discussing the importance of discerning the signs of the times when someone piped up with the account of the slaughtered Galileans, probably with the intent of receiving a response about judgment and retribution. But Jesus clearly pointed out that these events were not direct examples of heaven’s judgment upon wicked people. As He often did, He changed the focus of the question back upon an individual’s responsibility to live in right relationship with God.
So, as we ponder and pray our way through the turmoil and chaos, and wade through all the declarations of doom from self-proclaimed prophets—and the resulting hurt and angry protestations from individuals offended by what they perceive as heartlessness—there are a number of factors to consider.
We understand that God is sovereign; everything that exists belongs to Him. He reserves to Himself the ultimate authority to judge every individual, every people group, every nation. There is a coming Day when the present age will be consummated, and the secrets of every heart will be revealed. In that Day, we will all stand naked before the holy One who sits upon the glorious throne, judging with perfect justice.
It is important to recognize that God has a controversy against every nation (Jer. 25:31, Hosea 4:1), so we are to seek Him for wisdom and guidance as to how we should pray, and not automatically declare “This particular occurrence is a judgment of God upon this particular people at this particular time.” The great truth, and great hope for us, is that God desires all men to be saved. His heart is always reaching for mankind with good-will and kindness. Jesus did not come to condemn the world, but to save it. He said if we believe in the Son we are not judged; if we do not believe, we are judged already (John 3:16-19); and it is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God if we refuse His grace (Hebrews 10:31). But for us who have been justified, the hands of God are a refuge of strength and comfort and mercy, for we have been tenderly engraved upon them (Isaiah 49:16; John 20:24-29).
We also recognize that at this present time, Scripture teaches that all creation groans and convulses as a woman laboring in childbirth, desperate for the full manifestations of the sons of God (Romans 8:22). It is irresponsible and naïve for us to ignore our own complicity in the convulsions of creation due to sin. Our planet groans and aches with longing for us to fully take our place in righteous stewardship, properly managing our Lord’s good gifts, because then creation itself will be delivered from its bondage to corruption into the glorious liberty that awaits us (Romans 8:21).
So, when we see tragedy strike, it is helpful and right that we humble ourselves and confess our sins—not in morbid introspection, but in humility like Daniel, identifying ourselves with the failings of our people and our nation. As we repent, we also respond with gratitude and worship for God’s great kindness and goodness. We have freely received, so we freely release blessing and life over our nation, proclaiming mercy and healing into every heart and every situation. As children of the great King, ambassadors of His grace, it is our mandate to bless and not curse. We are to be blameless and pure so that we shine as lights in the midst of a warped and perverse generation (Ph. 2:15).
So, do not feel as though you must take sides about “why” tragedies occur. Frankly, there are many “whys” we all must face that do not have completely satisfying answers. But it is vital that we keep as our foundation the clear teaching of Scripture that our Lord is good, and He expresses that goodness to all He has made! At the birth of our Savior, the sky exploded with brilliance as angelic hosts proclaimed the kind intentions of our eternal Creator: “…peace on earth, goodwill toward men….”
We honor our Father when we trust Him. We do not bury our heads in the sand and refuse to face reality; rather, we courageously and boldly live lives of hope and trust in the face of dark trouble and wickedness, knowing that the God of all the earth will do justly.
We are assured that the time is coming when He will wipe every tear from our eyes, and His dwelling will be with us eternally. There will be no sorrow, or sickness, or fear, or pain. All will be as our God desires. Behold, He makes all things new.