On an almost daily basis we are confronted with tragedy. Some events, like the capsizing of the Costa Concordia, hit the headlines and become part of a national or even international consciousness. Other events are less newsworthy, though no less distressing for the individuals concerned. In both sets of circumstances, any of us may be called upon to give support and compassion to those affected, and it is often what we do rather than what we say that makes the difference.
Tragedies like this raise many questions, for example why does God allow bad things happen to otherwise innocent victims? There is an unwritten assumption behind this that some people may deserve bad things to happen to them. That was certainly a commonly held idea in first century Judea; an idea that Jesus himself tackled head on in Luke 13 when he spoke about the Tower of Siloam that fell killing 18 people. Jesus’ comment seems to suggest that tragedy is neither deserved nor undeserved; in fact that is the wrong question. Rather than worrying about the whys and wherefores of tragedy in this life he focuses upon our need to repent in order to avoid a greater tragedy in the next life.
How does this answer help us respond to tragedy now? Much will depend on how close we are to those going through the experience. The closer we are, the more love and tenderness will be required from us, in our prayers and through practical support. For all of us who are left behind however a tragedy can be a spur to make sure that our eternal destiny is secure. None of us knows the day when we will draw our final breath; the day when it will be too late to make our peace with God. So, when you hear of another tragedy, rather than pondering “where was God?” it is better to ask yourself “am I ready?”
This blog post featured in the February 2012 edition of Hook Focus