How To Respond to Tragedy
Ecclesiastes 8:14-16 NLT – And this is not all that is meaningless in our world. In this life, good people are often treated as though they were wicked, and wicked people are often treated as though they were good. This is so meaningless!15 So I recommend having fun, because there is nothing better for people in this world than to eat, drink, and enjoy life. That way they will experience some happiness along with all the hard work God gives them under the sun.16 In my search for wisdom and in my observation of people’s burdens here on earth, I discovered that there is ceaseless activity, day and night.
(NCV) “Sometimes something useless happens on earth. Bad things happen to good people, and good things happen to Bad people.”
There are two mistakes that you can make regarding disaster. One is to think all the good things that happen to me prove I’m good, and that all the bad things that happen to me prove I’m bad. That’s wrong. In Luke 13, Jesus is talking about two tragedies that happened in His day. He said you know there were a bunch of innocent people up there worshipping at the temple and they came in and were brutally slaughtered. And he said there was a tower that fell on eighteen people and killed them. And He posed the question, “Who sinned, that caused this tragedy?” Was it a result of their sin? And then He answered His own question. He said, absolutely not, absolutely not!
Not everything that happens is God’s will. When I hear people hearing about a disaster or tragedy and they say, “Well, it must have been God’s will”, I have a spiritual term for that. “Baloney!”. It makes me want to puke. Because it’s just not true! Don’t blame God. God’s grieving too. God’s will is not always done.
Does that make sense? God’s will is not always done in this world folks. God will never force His will on your will. That’s why we’re to pray in the Lord’s Prayer, “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven”. Why? Because God’s will isn’t always done on earth. How’s it done in heaven? It’s done perfectly. And so we’re to pray, “God, just like your will is done perfectly in heaven, we want that to be done on earth”. If it was being done, we wouldn’t have to pray for it.
John 16:33 AMP – I have told you these things, so that in Me you may have [perfect] peace. In the world you have tribulation and distress and suffering, but be courageous [be confident, be undaunted, be filled with joy]; I have overcome the world.” [My conquest is accomplished, My victory abiding.]
It would be impossible, in just one message, to go into all the reasons for suffering and for why God allows tragedy. Instead I want to focus on five ways that we should respond to tragedy.
Tragedy – an event causing great suffering, destruction, and distress, such as a serious accident, crime, or natural catastrophe.
1. I Need to Release My Grief
When you go through a tragedy, the first thing you need to do is release your grief. Why? Because tragedy always creates strong emotions.
When people have emotions, they don’t know how to handle so they deny them, they ignore them, and they push them down. In fact many people use God as an excuse for this, believing that God wants everybody to have a happy face all the time. But real life isn’t always happy. God doesn’t expect you to be smiling all the time.
Matthew 5:4 NIV -“Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.”
In other words, it’s OK to grieve. Face your feelings. Don’t repress them by pushing them down You release your emotions to God. If you don’t talk it out, you’ll take it out on yourself or somebody else.
Dr. Gary R. Collins: “Grief is a normal response to the loss of any significant person, object, or opportunity.”
The Grief Recovery® Institute: “Grief is the NORMAL and NATURAL reaction to loss. Grief is EMOTIONAL, not intellectual.”
God wants to comfort you in a tragedy.
Psalm: 62:8 NIV – “Pour out your heart to God, for he is our refuge.”
Psalm. 34:18 NIV – “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.”
2. I need to Receive from Others
It is a big mistake to isolate yourselves from others when you’re going through a crisis. Now usually that’s what we want to do, we want to get all by ourselves; But you need other people. You need their perspective, you need their support, you need their encouragement, you need their prayer, and you just need their presence.
Galatians 6:2 NIV – Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.
•“By helping each other with your troubles, you obey the law of Christ.” (NCV)
To make it through a crisis, we need not only the promises of God; we need the people of God.
Hebrews 12:15 NLT – Look after each other so that none of you fails to receive the grace of God. Watch out that no poisonous root of bitterness grows up to trouble you, corrupting many
3. I Need to Refuse to be Bitter
One of the things I’ve learned from being in the ministry for many years is that there’s absolutely no correlation in life between your experiences and your happiness. I’ve seen people who had absolutely the worst experiences in life—things that would shock everyone of us, and yet they maintain this happy, cheerful, positive attitude, because happiness is a choice. You’re about as happy as you choose to be.
Job 21:25 NIV – Another dies in bitterness of soul, never having enjoyed anything good.
• GNV- “Some people have no happiness at all: they live and die with bitter hearts.
Now you’re going to have to decide when you go through those tragedies, those disasters, “Am I going to allow this to make me a bitter person, or better person?” And he says here, you can have a choice, “you can either choose happiness in life or you can choose bitterness.” It’s your choice, but you can’t have both. And if you choose bitterness in your life, realize you’re not hurting anybody else with it, you’re hurting yourself.
In the ministry I’ve seen people who had every right in the world to whine and who chose not to do so. Happiness is a choice. You refuse to be bitter, because bitterness always hurts you. It never changes anything. Blaming others (or God) never changes anything. It only makes you feel worse.
How do you keep from being bitter when the inevitable tragedies of life are going to come?
•Accept what cannot be changed.
Job 11:13,16 NIV – “Yet if you devote your heart to him and stretch out your hands to him, 16 You will surely forget your trouble, recalling it only as waters gone by.
Faith is facing the facts and not getting discouraged. Can you write that down? That’s what real faith is. It’s not pretending everything’s great. Everything’s not great. There are bad things in the world. And bad things do happen to good people, but faith is facing the facts without getting discouraged. You see there’s very little in life that you can control. In fact, I’ve discovered that the most important things in life you can’t control.
•Focus on what’s left, not what’s lost..
I Thessalonians 5:18 NIV – Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
What’s God’s will for me in a crisis? It’s that I be thankful, no matter what. For the problem? Of course not; God doesn’t expect you to be thankful for a tragedy. But you should be thankful for what’s left, not what’s lost. And you choose to focus on God’s goodness, because gratitude and depression cannot exist in the same body.
You want to get over depression, start making a list of all the good things in your life. You cannot be grateful and depressed at the same time. And the fact is, there are people in this world who would love to have your problems. They’re worried about, am I going to get a meal in the next month, not how am I going to make it. Like that old expression I complained I had no shoes until I met a man who had no legs. You focus on what’s left, not what’s lost.
4. I Remember What is Important
Disasters have a way of clarifying values. They have a way of pointing out what matters and what really doesn’t matter. They define your values
Luke 12:15 NIV – Then he said to them, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.”
•“Jesus said… Life is not measured by how much one owns.”
What is he saying here? Don’t confuse your net worth with your self worth. Don’t confuse your possessions with your purpose in life. Don’t confuse what you’re living on with what you’re living for. A man’s life does not consist of what he possesses.
I Timothy 6:7 NIV – For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it.
You’re never going to see a hearse with a U-Haul behind it. Here is the point, if you want real security, you must build your life on something that can never be taken from you.
Can you lose a home? Yes. Can you lose a career? Yes. Can you lose a marriage? Yes. Can you lose your health? Yes. Can you lose your youthful beauty? Yes. Can you lose your relationship with God? No. God says, “ I will never leave you or forsake you.”
5. I Rely on Christ
Christians get to approach tragedy differently than the rest of the world. We get to rely completely on Christ. We get to have hope. But how? By intentionally leaning on Christ for stability, listening to Christ for direction, and looking to Christ for salvation. He is our Rock, our Shelter, our Great Shepherd, our Hiding Place.
Philippians 4:12-13 NLT – I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little. 13 For I can do everything through Christ,[a] who gives me strength.
Suffering and tragedy are inevitable in a sinful world, but Jesus Christ makes all the difference. Decide that you will rely on Him even in the darkest of hours of your life.
Psalm 46:1-2 NLT – God is our refuge and strength, always ready to help in times of trouble. 2 So we will not fear when earthquakes come and the mountains crumble into the sea.
2 Corinthians 1:9-10 NLT – In fact, we expected to die. But as a result, we stopped relying on ourselves and learned to rely only on God, who raises the dead. 10 And he did rescue us from mortal danger, and he will rescue us again. We have placed our confidence in him, and he will continue to rescue us.
Psalm 125:1 NLT – Those who trust in the Lord are as secure as Mount Zion; they will not be defeated but will endure forever.