Suffering and a Few Insights
November 14, 2021
By Dr. Hal Brady
Have you ever been watching television and the announcer suddenly interrupts and says, “We interrupt this program to bring you an important announcement.” Sure, you have. We’ve all experienced this kind of interruption. Occasionally, the interruption will be good news such as the collapse of the Berlin Wall. But most of the time when we hear that interruption we have to white-knuckle the arms of our chairs. We know it means trouble, storms, disaster, pandemics, and more trouble. For the most part, we remember exactly where we were when news of the 911 attack on the United States occurred. During that interruption, I was attending a church staff meeting in Columbus, Georgia.
So how do we handle bad news? How do we handle life-shattering tragedies? Jesus had just interrupted his disciple’s program with a very grave announcement. He had informed them that their fellowship was about to be broken. Jesus told them of his impending crucifixion and death. Oh, yes, he had also told them about his resurrection, but in their despair they missed that part of the message. They only knew that the One who had actually revealed God to them was leaving. To put it bluntly, the disciple’s world was falling apart. It was in such troubling times that Jesus spoke these comforting words, “Let not your hearts be troubled: believe in God, believe also in me” (John 14:1). Jesus is telling us to believe in God – not a generic “god,” but the “Father” to whom he leads us. Believe means “to trust. And trust is the capacity to hold on, to keep steady, to have an underlying trust in God even when the way is not clear and the issues involved are beyond our understanding and grasp.
Now, in the light of Jesus’ admonition to trust God, let me focus for a moment on the tragedies of life.
First, God does not send the tragedies of life! One thing we people of faith need to get clear is that human tragedy is not the will of God. As someone put it, “tragedy happens because life happens.” Some tragedies are caused by bad luck, some are caused by bad people, some are simply the inevitable consequences of our being mortal and living in a world of very inflexible natural laws, and some are mysteries. “Why do good people suffer?” is the age-old question. However, there is an equally age-old observation. The children of God have always been able to come through suffering triumphantly.
Second, God is with us in our tragedy! Some years ago, the popular biblical scholar, William Barclay, faced a great tragedy. His 21-year-old daughter and her husband to be were both drowned in a tragic yachting accident. Just a few weeks before they were scheduled to be married, they were both killed. Later, in his “Spiritual Autobiography,” Barclay wrote, “God did not stop the accident at sea, but He did still the storm in my own heart, so that somehow my wife and I came through that terrible time on our two feet.” He continued, “The day my daughter was lost at sea, there was sorrow in the heart of God.” As Isaiah expressed it on behalf of God, “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you” (Isaiah 43:2).
Dr. Hal Brady is a retired pastor who continues to present the Good News of Jesus Christ and offer encouragement in a fresh and vital way though Hal Brady Ministries (halbradyministries.com).