God’s Grace in the Midst of Tragedy & Heartache

“Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.”  I Corinthians 15:58


It is beautiful to see God’s people respond to tragedy and heartache with love and compassion and generosity.  It is proof of the Savior’s work in thousands of our neighbors’ lives – He has redeemed and is forming His children.  Is it not a grace to see His hand in so many expressions of sympathy and care?

The impact of God, manifest in His diverse flock, is so powerful, and has been so in America for so long, that even those who do not confess Christ act like Christians in such emergencies: they pray, they refer to heaven, to God, they give richly, they are filled with compassion.  Is this not also a grace to be noticed, and for which to give thanks?

All of us have read of moments of terror and courage during last week’s rampage.  In those brief minutes the best and worst of human nature lies open to observation.  There were not two species of human present; just one.  However one might classify the sick and well, the abnormal and normal, we must yet own our common potential and common fall.  If we recoil at what a young man can become in so few years, we can also recognize what we might become in many years, but for the grace of God.  This, too, is a mercy.  We should look, and repent, and give thanks if indeed we are more inclined to love than to destroy.

God’s people are given the eyes to examine, the ears to hear, and the internal peace with which to listen to our Father’s voice.  Is there something He wishes us to know from this?  He allowed this to happen, and we affirm that, in the words of the Westminster Catechism, that “God’s works of providence are his most holy, wise, and powerful preserving and governing all his creatures and all their actions.”  Nothing escapes his governance: this shooting, the sad, sad funerals we’re about to attend, the long recoveries the injured are just beginning – all occur under His holy and wise providence.

Here may be one answer.  Do you recall when Paul and his co-laborers faced severe trials?  The apostle said in 2 Corinthians 1:8, “For we do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, of our trouble which came to us in Asia: that we were burdened beyond measure, above strength, so that we despaired even of life.”  The trials were so bad they thought they would die.

Paul continues, “Yes, we had the sentence of death in ourselves.”  But why?  Why the hardship, the despair, the expectation of death?  Verse 9: “that we should not trust in ourselves but in God who raises the dead.”

This, at least, is a start as we process the awfulness of last week’s crimes.  That we should not trust in ourselves but in God.

  • Where have we been trusting in ourselves?
  • Where do we need to repent of being independent of God, of going on without Him?
  • In our government?
  • In our schools?
  • Our families?
  • Our churches even?

This strong reminder is also a grace. (See Nehemiah 1 or the  Book of Job for other times when God brought His people to closer communion after calamity).

Let us continue to go before Him listening and praying for the hurting, while trusting in ourselves much less and in Him much, much more.  And then? To abound in the work of the Lord steadfastly.