Where is God in our tragedies?

Two thousand years ago, this same question was brought to Jesus by His disciples, in light of two local tragedies, recorded in Luke’s Gospel (Luke 13:1-5). Some of the devout Galileans while offering sacrifices and worshiping in the temple, the cruel Roman governor of Judea, Pontius Pilate, viciously and maliciously desecrated the temple by sending his troops and slaughters these people, and mixed their blood with the blood of the animal, sacrifices on the altar. And another incident, where the tower of Siloam fell over, and killed 18 people. These people were presumably, walking down the street, minding their own business, and the tower fell on their heads, and they were crushed.

The people who came to Jesus were troubled about these things and asked Him how God could have allowed it to happen to His chosen people. Jesus answered their question with a question: “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans because they suffered this way? Or those eighteen who died when the tower in Siloam fell on them? Do you think they were worse offenders than all the others living in Jerusalem?” The answer given by Jesus to His disciples is a very Frightening warning to all of us: He said, “Unless you repent, you too will all likewise perish.”

Those who were killed by the Roman troops and those who died when the tower fell may have been upstanding citizens. But in the vertical dimension, in our relationship to God, none of them was innocent, none of them were righteous, and the same is true for us. Jesus was reminding all of us that there is ultimately no such thing as an innocent person. Every human being is guilty of trespassing God’s holy law.

The Bible makes this point very clearly. It shows that the wicked sometimes prosper and the righteous sometimes suffer deeply. Suffering and death came into this world in the first place because of sin, but Jesus is saying that we cannot jump to the conclusion that all people suffer in direct proportion to their degree of sin. His answer to the disciples was, “Unless you repent, you too will all perish.” Christ commands us to repent.

Disciples were asking the wrong question, and so were we. Instead of asking why these tragedies happened to other people, we should be asking why that tower didn’t fall on me. How on earth can a Holy and righteous God, who knows what I thought yesterday, who knows what I did yesterday, and who knows what I said yesterday, not kill me in my sleep last night? Why am I still alive here, why was I not sloughed yesterday, why? Why does He still tolerate us, as we continue our work of sin and destruction upon His planet that He created for His own glory?

It’s grace! The spotless, sinless Lamb of God, was crushed, rejected, and killed to pay the debt that I owe. Now, God commands all to come to faith. He does not delight in sending people to hell. Yet, He sends some. Paul reminds us that “Today is the day of salvation.” The days of ignorance are over, and now, God commands all men everywhere to repent, because He has fixed a day, by which He will judge the whole world in righteousness, and He has already appointed a judge who is the resurrected Christ.

We should consider the sudden removals of others, violent deaths of others as warnings to ourselves. When anything painful, sorrowful, or grievous befalls us, it is never an act of injustice on God’s part, because God does not owe us freedom from tragedies. He does not owe us protection from falling towers. We are debtors to God and never be able to repay. He could snuff our lives out at any moment, and He would be perfectly just in doing so. But He has given us life, and time, and gospel opportunity, to repent and make things right. While there is time, while there is opportunity, while there is the knowledge of the truth, we should be swift to turn back to God. Our only hope to avoid perishing at the hands of God is repentance. Through Jesus Christ, the Son of God, He has provided a plan to deliver us from the ultimate catastrophe -the collapse of the tower of His final judgment on our heads.

For a Christian, ultimately there are no tragedies. That does not deny the reality of tragedies that enter into our lives. But every tragedy that befalls on us God turns into a blessing. Romans 8:28-30 says, “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.” This text does not say all things that happen to God’s elect (believers) is good. Bad things do happen to believers. God calls us to participate in the humiliation of Jesus and bear the affliction that Jesus Christ endures, and He makes them work together for our good. 1 Corinthians 2:9 says “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love him.”

Current death rate is 100%, and one day we all will die. If you had put your trust in Jesus for your salvation, you have a 100% guarantee that you won’t perish. Know that the judgment is coming, but the mercy awaits. We must also not forget that in His treasury of unfathomable power, God has stored terror far more greater than we could imagine, for those who do not trust HIM.

Dr. John McArthur, Dr. R.C. Sproul, Dr. Voddie Baucham