How Do You Make Sense Out of Tragedies?

Tragedies are a part of life here on earth. The greatest tragedy by far for me and my wife, Iris, is the death of our daughter, Crystal. She died at age 36 from leukemia in 2005.

God has made a world inhabited by imperfect human beings, human beings who make mistakes and cause accidents, human beings who are capable of evil that can injure and kill others. Hitler and Stalin were human beings who inflicted great suffering and death on millions. However, not all tragedies are accounted for by evil people or self-inflicted. As far as I know, no evil person caused Crystal to get leukemia and die at age thirty-six. As far as we know, too, Crystal did not get leukemia because of a mistake she made.

We must recognize that life consists of many factors that we have difficulty accepting or explaining. If God created everything, why is there suffering? Did God create that too? Author, E. Stanley Jones, makes a helpful observation. He says, “God has chosen to run the universe by order rather than by whim or notion. The laws are orderly because God’s mind is orderly; they are dependable because God is dependable.” [i] I agree with this statement and it helps me understand that just because we are Christians, we are not exempt from the laws of the universe that God has designed. If I fall off of a 200 foot cliff, I will crash to the earth below. Our bodies are wonderful creations but they are imperfect. They are susceptible to disease and we all have a limited life span in our current bodies

Sometimes God does intervene and rescue us from disaster, disease and even death; but even then, those interventions are temporary. However, most times it does not seem as if God does intervene with a miracle. God heals some, but not all; nor does He promise to. An absence of healing is not a sign of our lack of faith. Author Jones even suggests that when God chooses not to heal it may be a “compliment of His faith in our spiritual strength.” [ii]

God has a way, though, of turning our sunsets into sunrises. At the time the sun is setting, the hope of a sunrise sometime off in the future may not be too comforting. At the moment of the death of a loved one, the darkness of the setting sun can be so dark that the promise of another sunrise in the future, somewhere, sometime, may fall short in its power to heal our pain. This does not mean the hope of another sunrise has no power for the Christian. In fact, the hope of another sunrise, the resurrection of the dead in Christ, has great power to comfort and help us to go on.

The point here is that there is a period of darkness between sunset and sunrise. Jesus was in the tomb on Friday and the stone was rolled away on Sunday. Though, as Christians, we are sometimes overwhelmed by sorrow and grief, we know that it is not the final word. It is not the final feeling. There is, thank God, another life ahead for all believers. It is an eternal life with our Lord.

A church-school superintendent and his wife had just lost their child, an only child, and the next Sunday was Easter Sunday. The superintendent went through his duties as usual but not as usual, for there was a note of triumph and victory about it all. As the pupils walked home that day, one boy said very suddenly to his mother, “They really believe it, don’t they?”

“Believe what?” asked the mother.

“Why, the resurrection and all that?”

“Of course; we all believe it.”

“Yes,” said the boy, very thoughtfully, “but not that way; they really believe it.” [iii]


[i] E. Stanley Jones, Christ and Human Suffering  (New York, NY: The Abingdon Press, 1933), 19

[ii] Ibid., 89

[iii] Ibid., 229