Where is God when tragedy strikes?

This past weekend at a country music festival in Nevada, over 59 people were killed and over 500 injured by a gunmen shooting at the crowd from the 32nd floor of a neighboring hotel. In recent months many people have been displaced from their homes as a result of earthquakes and hurricanes. In the midst of these catastrophes over 100 have died. When tragedy strikes we often ask, where is God?

Was he not paying attention? Was he just gone? Is God there at all? Similarly, people ask why did God allow this to happen?

It would be wrong of me (and it is wrong of anyone) to claim to know why God allows a specific bad thing to happen.

We can say that bad things happen because we live in a fallen world and in this world things are not as they should be. We can say that all of creation is longing for redemption from evil, suffering, and death. We can say that as Christians we believe God will eventually make all things new. But we cannot say that God allowed this specific thing to happen for this specific reason. We cannot say that God “caused” this to happen for a specific reason.

God does not do evil. But when evil occurs God is there.

God is grieved by great evil. Genesis 6:6 reads: “The LORD was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart.” In context he is grieved because people are carrying on in wickedness like it is normal human behavior.

In our own day and age, God is grieved when people inflict harm on others. I believe he is grieved significantly when great harm is inflicted.

All people are created in God’s image and as such, all lives are valuable to God. When people are killed by acts of evil or by natural disasters, those people (broken as we all are) are still his creatures. They are created in his image and they were created for life.

God is there. He hurts, he comforts, and in time he heals those who survive. Healing does not entail forgetting. It does not negate missing loved ones lost. It means he helps people keep going in spite of their losses.

God listens to our anger. He listens to our frustration. He reveals to us areas of hurt we did not know existed. He moves with us through the stages of grief. He stands beside us on the other side. He gives us compassion for those who face similar circumstances.

Some wrongly go on television or into the media claiming that God brings about or allows these events because those people needed judgment. While all people are sinners, God is slow to judge and abounding in mercy. He is patient with people giving them time to trust him and recognize his existence and place in the universe. He may allow evil things to happen, but make no mistake evil actions and tragic events grieve God’s heart.

It is not that he can’t stop these things, or that he chooses to be absent, but that he chooses to let things happen naturally. Even in Scripture God allows consequences to happen. By consequences here I simply mean that he allows things to play out in their natural order. This makes room for tragedy but it does not negate the goodness of God. It simply points to the fact that we all long for a renewal of all things. We long for a renewal of the human person, we long for a renewal of the natural order of weather patterns and the climate, we long for a renewal of the cosmos. We long for justice.

God is bringing justice about in his time, but he is not blind to the unjust acts we witness today.

This week, please pray for the families of those involved in the shooting. Please pray for those whose homes have been destroyed. If you can, do more than pray. Use your gifts to make yourself available to help heal hurt, restore property, give wise counsel, share encouragement, or to simply just be there to serve.

This week, show compassion for those effected by tragedy.

  1. Renea McKenzie
  2. Dr. Scott Shiffer