In the last few weeks, I have heard news of several personal tragedies in the area that we live. Suicide, overdose, cancer, betrayal, and more that cannot even be described with a single adjective. It casts a cloud of sadness over life. It is a reminder of the abject brokenness of the world, and the effect it has on the human soul and body.
I was watching a show called House on TV a few nights ago. In this episode, a series of events culminated in one of the doctors being stabbed with a scalpel and almost dying. An investigation ensued in an attempt to figure out who was to blame. That is the natural tendency of us, humans, we want to assign blame. In the face of something terrible, there is some comfort in hunting for the culprit in the whole mess.
One version of this is when good meaning Christians determine that a person befallen with a tragedy must have deserved it through some wrong they did. It forms itself in a question. “What did you do to make God so mad?” Now, to be fair, there is plenty of Old Testament scripture to support this thought process. Over and over again we are told by the prophets how God will wipe out his people for their disobedience. In fact, they do get wiped out on several occasions. God reveals in pretty graphic terms what their sins were, and what He was going to do because of it. We learn in these scriptures that God does not get mad at a specific incident of one man or within one event, so much as a decline in the faith of his people over time, or a movement away from Him and into sin. God sees all time and space, and His perspective is impossible for us to see when we are in the forest, so to speak.
I tell my kids all the time that disaster usually does not strike based on a single decision. A person can usually think back to realize that there were 5 or more decisions down a road of destruction that led to the disaster that befell them. I tell them that each decision they make to move away from God, or morality, or even common sense, is the beginning of a journey that will end in disaster. It is really hard to see when you are in the trees. It is also true that sometimes disaster strikes for no discernible reason at all, but that is really hard for us humans to accept.
In the case of the tragic events that have happened recently, I have tried to develop, or surmise, some understanding of the bigger picture events that may have led to the specific tragedy. I confess that this looks a lot like pop psychology. I try to pull in events of the larger story to provide an understanding of the circumstance. I look to see if the underlying problem might be the brokenness of a broken upbringing, or a behavior adopted. A bad habit passed on from parent to child, or a good behavior not passed on. I realize that I am doing this to relieve myself of the burden of carrying the sadness that besets me when learning about a tragedy. Often in these cases, I know just enough to make me dangerous. I am probably right about the cause and effect of some things, but I think I only go about one or two layers deep in the diagnosis. The reality is that there is a whole lot more going on than I realize. There is just no way to know it all, and there is certainly no way to explain it all.
Take the story of Job as an example. In the story, Job is just trying to mind his own business when he gets stricken and afflicted and seemingly punished for no good reason. God is behind it, making a point to the devil, but this is impossible to see from the ground. Job is befuddled about what he has done, but the story tells us his friends are right there to suggest a few things. In the end, God restores Job, but not before telling Job how little his story is, and how big God is. There was a whole lot more going on than Job or his friends could possibly imagine. As for his friends, they had spent much more time trying to run some pop psychology on him to determine his fault, than they did just sitting with him and mourning with him.
I confess Lord that I spend more time trying to assign blame, and come up with explanations, than in praying to you for understanding. I spend more time diagnosing than just feeling the sadness of it and letting you work in that. I am sorry. I don’t need to understand everything. I want to live more in faith. I need to live more in an understanding that I just cannot understand some things. I believe you are in control, but in that knowledge, it is not helpful for me to then blame you when I can’t blame anyone else.
Every morning I turn left on Bluebonnet heading towards Broadway, taking my daughter to school at 6:25 in the morning. It is dark and cold, and it is hard to be cheerful that early. But last week, there in front of us was a very bright full moon. Spectacular and surprising in a breath catching kind of way. I can’t imagine how humans have managed to get to that glowing ball, but that is nothing compared to how that glowing ball got there in the first place. God says to me, “that is not even scratching the surface of things I have done that you can’t understand.” In the darkness of the car, I blush in embarrassment.