Last week I wrote about the song “Live Like You Were Dying“. I wrote about how fleeting life can be. I suggested that we can’t wait to get right with the Lord. This past week those words rang prophetic in my very neighborhood. At the entrance to my subdivision there was a horrible accident involving an automobile and a motorcycle. The person driving the car was one of my neighbors. I must admit I do not know any of the details of the accident yet, except that the young 20 year old man driving the motorcycle died.
When tragedy strikes like this, human emotions sink to great depths. There is unbearable loss, deep sorrow and many tears. No doubt the family of the deceased young man had their world rocked to the core, and the person driving the car and their familyare left with incredible sorrow and pain at the tragic loss of life. Often at a time like this, tears are the only things that make sense.
“How can a caring God let this happen?” Aren’t those the words uttered after most tragedies? Whether it was the 9-11 attack on the World Trade Center, the Tsunami in the Indian Ocean, the Fort Hood shooting, this particular car accident or any other headline that occupies our newspaper, we are left asking why and how this could happen. In fact, it does not take a terrorist attack or major calamity to ask the profound question, “How can God allow this”. We may very well ask this every time a death occurs in our family or circle of friends or anytime something bad happens to someone we know. After the news of loss or tragedy, it is the tears that linger.
Why tears? Why do we even have them? What do they mean? Some scientists believe that only humans produce tears and we do so in response to emotional states. One widely accepted theory is the notion that tears are a form of social signaling that evolved from mammalian distress calls – a clear visual signal in other words that someone is in pain or danger and needs help. American physician and neuroscientists Paul D. MacLean suggested that the vocal part of crying was used first as a “separation cry” to help reunite parents and offspring. Perhaps when confronted with death and tragedy, it is a feeling of separation from God and our distress call to Him that causes us to cry.
So we are left with two questions:
- Why does God allow bad things to happen?
- Why are tears the natural response?
Why do we cry? I would suggest we cry because we are made in God’s image and Jesus cried. Genesis 1:27tells us: “God created mankind in his image; in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.” Because we are created in God’s image we should not be surprised when in John 11:35we read: “And Jesus wept.” This powerful little phrase is often referred to as the shortest verse in the Bible but it is packed with depth and complexity. So the next time when we cry, we should take stock in the fact that we are created in God’s image and that like Jesus we too, cry.
Death and sorrow and human tragedies were not a part of God’s initial design for humankind in the Garden of Eden. Death came into the world as a result of the sin of Adam and Eve. From the time of Adam and Eve, death had taken almost every human being God had created, except Elijah (2 Kings 2:11) and Enoch (Genesis 5:24) and now death had taken Jesus’ friend Lazarus, and He wept. Did He weep because Lazarus had died? Clearly, Jesus out of compassion for the pain of Martha and Mary may have wept. Remember however, Jesus knew in just a few minutes everyone’s weeping would be turned to joy and laughter because He knew He would raise His friend from the dead. Perhaps Jesus’ tears resulted instead from Him knowing that the sin of mankind had brought death and sorrow into this world, and He knew it would take His death to defeat sin. Jesus knew at the time of Lazarus’s death that the cross was not far away.
When Jesus heard of the news of the death of John the Baptist, He again was also full of sorrow. John had been placed in a tomb and his friends came and told Jesus the sad news. What did Jesus do this time? Jesus went alone to a quiet place to pray and mourn John’s death. Jesus knew that at a time like this, His help and strength could only come from His heavenly father.
There is no doubt that death and evil will persist in our world as long as sin is in this world. We know that Jesus came into this world to redeem us from sin, to conquer death and to open for us the doors of everlasting life where there will be no more tears.
We also know that God can bring about good from all tragedies. He can turn all evil and suffering into good. Romans 8:28says: “We know that all things work for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.”
This past week, a dear friend of mine introduced me to a song I had never heard before. It is sung by the Gaither Vocal Band and is called “When I Cry“. Please click this link to listen to this song and see a very moving video. Please it only takes a couple minutes. CLICK HERE. Here are the words from the refrain:
When I cry, You cry
When I hurt, You hurt
When I’ve lost someone
It takes a piece of You, too
And when I fall on my face
You fill me with grace
‘Cause nothin’ breaks Your heart
Or tears You apart
Like when I cry
Saint Paul comforts us with these words from Romans 5: 3-5“Not only that, but we even boast of our afflictions, knowing that affliction produces endurance, and endurance, proven character, and proven character, hope, and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out into our hearts through the holy Spirit that has been given to us.”
Our human minds are not capable of fully grasping why bad things happen, but they do happen. When they do and when they happen to us we must remember Paul’s words. Our God loves us and pain and sorrow are not what He wanted for us, and when we hurt, He hurts and when we cry, He cries. God can transform us though our suffering if we but let Him. Until we are with our Lord in heaven, we can only unite our suffering to Christ’s suffering on the cross.
One day our time will come to an end and one day this world will come to an end. Until then, we find our joy in this passage from Revelations 21:4:”He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there shall be no more death or mourning, wailing or pain, [for] the old order has passed away.”
Dear Heavenly Father when pain and sorrow, suffering and death and inexplicable tragedies come our way, please comfort us as you comforted Martha and Mary at the death of their brother and your friend Lazarus. Calm our hearts and give us peace Lord. We ask this in the name of Jesus our Lord and savior Amen!