It’s no secret that the 24 news cycle and the ubiquity of social media has inundated each of us with coverage of every single mass tragedy that occurs in our world. Over the last few weeks we’ve seen hurricanes, earthquakes, and terrorist attacks claim hundreds and hundreds of lives. Each event seems to be more troubling than the last. They cause us to ache over the state of the world. They force us to evaluate our own mortality.
As we struggle to cope and make sense of these events, things like prayer and God’s control of the world become divisive topics. As a Christian, I admittedly struggle with how to respond to the skepticism or even annoyance over the invocation of prayer or God in the midst of tragedy.
When someone tweets out something like “Thoughts and prayers for X” at times seems hollow. When I see responses like “We don’t need prayer, we need laws or controls against X” I recognize that there is a genuine concern and frustration with the state of the world. When I see something said like “Clearly God doesn’t exist because X tragedy happened,” I see where they are coming from. I don’t want to downplay prayer, but let’s be honest, “thoughts and prayers” don’t typically resurrect the dead, reconnect severed electrical lines, stop bullets mid-flight or pull thousand pound trees off the roof of a house.
I’ve been sifting through these things in my mind a lot lately. I’ve wanted to comment, but at the same time, I’m not sure what I could say that hasn’t been said. I don’t have a solution for the all tragedy in this world. It is too big. There are somethings that each of us can and do contribute to make situations better and that’s one thing. However, tragedy is a shared experience for us all. In light of that I would offer this:
God makes it clear in his word that He wants our full obedience to His commandments. He knew that we couldn’t bridge the gap ourselves because of our sin. His son Jesus, came in human form to die as an innocent man to take on the full punishment for our sin that causes the gap. He bridges the gap caused by sin. He gave all, so now we must give all in submission to God. However, we don’t do that fully. How we spend our time, how we treat others, how we spend money, etc. are frequently areas where we don’t live in full submission to God’s will. In other words, we do not let God control everything. This is true for every single one of us.
When tragedy strikes we wonder why things seem like God isn’t in control. Yet, when you remember that none of us have fully given the supreme being and creator of the universe control, doesn’t it seem a little silly to wonder why the world seems out of control? Furthermore, doesn’t it seem odd to offer thoughts and prayers up for a tragedy when we know that there are areas of our lives that we aren’t submitting to God every day?
I know that doesn’t solve the tragedy, but maybe it gives you a way to respond personally. I know it does for me. I know I need to continuously evaluate what’s not in submission to God’s will and I struggle to let go. As for the chaos in the world, I put my faith in God’s promise to return to perfectly restore our world. Fortunately, Jesus didn’t just show up, die, and leave without a word. He promises to return. In the meantime, it’s going to be hard, really hard, to navigate the tragedy in this world. But, maybe we can do our best to hand over control of our lives to God in the meantime.