“Is there meaning in tragedy?”When tragedy strikes, it is common for people to ask, “What does this mean?” When we witness some disaster or mass murder, there is a natural feeling that what has happened should not have happened. This innate sense of “wrongness” is a clue to meaning in these events. When we look to find meaning in tragedy, we must have the right perspective. We need to approach the question in a way that allows for a coherent answer, and this is only possible through a Christian worldview. Because God instills meaning into every moment and event in history, through Him we can begin to find meaning in suffering. The nature of this world lends itself to tragic events. Fortunately, God speaks to us, so that we can find not only meaning, but salvation and relief from the sufferings of the world.When studying physical motion, it is crucial to understand perspective. Speed and acceleration are only meaningful in relation to some other object; this object is the reference point. The way in which the reference point moves affects our perception. The same is true in our sense of right and wrong. For concepts of good, bad, right, wrong, or tragedy to be meaningful, they have to be anchored to a reference point that does not change or move. The only valid reference point for these issues is God. The very fact that we consider a mass murder wrong strongly supports the idea of God as the reference point for our sense of good and evil. Without God, even the events we consider the most tragic are no more meaningful than anything else. We have to understand the nature of this world and our relationship to God in order to draw any meaning at all from the things we see.God infuses every moment and every event with meaning and gives us confidence that He understands what we are going through. When Jesus instituted communion, He tied the past, present, and future together.
1Corinthians 11:26 says, “For every time you eat this bread and drink this cup, (the present) you are announcing the Lord’s death (the past) until he comes again (the future)”.
God’s knowledge of all events means nothing is insignificant to Him. If God knows when a sparrow falls, He certainly knows when we face tragedy
Matthew 10:29-31. What is the price of two sparrows—one copper coin? But not a single sparrow can fall to the ground without your Father knowing it. And the very hairs on your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are more valuable to God than a whole flock of sparrows.
In fact, God assured us that we would face trouble in this world
John 16:33I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.”
and that He has experienced our struggles personally
Hebrews 2:14-18 Because God’s children are human beings—made of flesh and blood—the Son also became flesh and blood. For only as a human being could he die, and only by dying could he break the power of the devil, who had the power of death. Only in this way could he set free all who have lived their lives as slaves to the fear of dying. We also know that the Son did not come to help angels; he came to help the descendants of Abraham. Therefore, it was necessary for him to be made in every respect like us, his brothers and sisters, so that he could be our merciful and faithful High Priest before God. Then he could offer a sacrifice that would take away the sins of the people. Since he himself has gone through suffering and testing, he is able to help us when we are being tested.
Hebrews 4:15.This High Priest of ours understands our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same testings we do, yet he did not sin.While we understand that God has sovereign control over all things, it is important to remember that God is not the source of tragedy. The vast majority of human suffering is caused by sin, all too often the sin of other people.
For instance, a mass murder is the fault of the murderer disobeying the moral law of God
Exodus 20:13“You must not murder.
Romans 1:18-21But God shows his anger from heaven against all sinful, wicked people who suppress the truth by their wickedness.They know the truth about God because he has made it obvious to them. For ever since the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky. Through everything God made, they can clearly see his invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature. So they have no excuse for not knowing God.Yes, they knew God, but they wouldn’t worship him as God or even give him thanks. And they began to think up foolish ideas of what God was like. As a result, their minds became dark and confused.
When we look to find meaning in such an event, we have to understand why this world is the way it is. The hardship of this world was originally caused by mankind’s sin
Romans 5:12When Adam sinned, sin entered the world. Adam’s sin brought death, so death spread to everyone, for everyone sinned.
Sin is always a matter of choice
1 Corinthians 10:13The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you can endure.
While God is perfectly capable of stopping tragedies before they begin, sometimes He chooses not to. While we may not know why, we do know that He is perfect, just, and holy, and so is His will. Also, the suffering we experience in this world does three things.
It leads us to seek God, It develops our spiritual strength, and it increases our desire for heaven
Romans 8:18-25Yet what we suffer now is nothing compared to the glory he will reveal to us later. For all creation is waiting eagerly for that future day when God will reveal who his children really are. Against its will, all creation was subjected to God’s curse. But with eager hope, the creation looks forward to the day when it will join God’s children in glorious freedom from death and decay. For we know that all creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time.And we believers also groan, even though we have the Holy Spirit within us as a foretaste of future glory, for we long for our bodies to be released from sin and suffering. We, too, wait with eager hope for the day when God will give us our full rights as his adopted children, including the new bodies he has promised us. We were given this hope when we were saved. (If we already have something, we don’t need to hope for it.But if we look forward to something we don’t yet have, we must wait patiently and confidently.)
James 1:2-3Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy.For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow.
Titus 2:13while we look forward with hope to that wonderful day when the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, will be revealed.
1 Peter 1:7These trials will show that your faith is genuine. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold—though your faith is far more precious than mere gold. So when your faith remains strong through many trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world.In the garden of Eden, God spoke to Adam and communicated in clear and direct ways, not in abstract concepts. God speaks to us today in the same way. In some ways, this is the most important meaning to be found in any tragedy. Tragic events demonstrate much of their meaning in the way we react to them.
C.S. Lewis said, “God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains. It is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”
This does not mean that God causes tragedy, but that He uses our reaction to tragedy to speak to us. Tragic events remind us not only that we live in an imperfect and fallen world, but that there is a God who loves us and wants something better for us than the world has to offer.