Barnabas Network International | Online Resources for Churches

Life Issues

 

Becoming Bitter or Better?  

 

People respond in many ways to tragedy. In the lives of some people tragedy produces the negative responses of bitterness and cynicism. However, in the lives of others where a tragic event might be expected to make them bitter, in actual fact, that tragedy brings forth in their lives positive qualities and responses.  

 

The staggering news about the bushfires across Victoria has quickly spread around the nation and almost as quickly around the world. Stories of lives lost, homes destroyed and property consumed continue to emerge every day. Horrific stories. It is not possible for those who have passed through such an inferno to remain the same. They will be changed by their experience. But will the change be for better or for worse?  

 

Some of those people will turn away from God. Yet others who passed through that same tragedy will turn to God. The same inferno will produce two different responses. So, what makes the difference?   As I have watched the faces of those who have stood in the wreckage of what was their home, it is as though I am watching them re-evaluate their whole priority and value system. What was so important yesterday has lost its value and importance overnight. The fire has not only destroyed their homes, it has purged and refined their values. As they rebuild their physical lives, I sense with some that they are rebuilding their inner world on an entirely different foundation to that which existed before tragedy struck.  

 

Yet strangely, the same tragedy will have the reverse or opposite effect on others. They will turn away from God. They will be unable to come to terms with the enormity of their loss. No amount of explanation or argument will be able to penetrate their pain. God will no longer be part of life's equation for them. Their concept of God (whatever that may have been) will be irreconcilable with the tragedy they have endured. They can't deny the tragedy so they must deny God.  

 

Same tragedy. Two opposing responses. Bitter or better. Why is it so?  

 

Job and his wife both endured the same devastating loss. Job turned to God. His wife turned away. Having lost all his possessions and his children and eventually his health, Job said  

 

"The LORD gave me everything I had, and the LORD has taken it away. Praise the name of the LORD!" (1/21) "Should we accept only good things from the hand of God and never anything bad?" (2:10)  

 

Yet the response of his wife was,

 

"Are you still trying to maintain your integrity? Curse God and die." (Job 2:9)

 

Presumably cursing God was her response   Same tragedy. Two opposing responses. Bitter or better. Why is it so?  

 

I don't know.  

 

(I am suddenly aware that I so much want to conclude this article with a neat and concise explanation of this dilemma. Maybe there is no neat and tidy explanation. It's just the way things are in the midst of tragedy. Yet, even so, I choose to believe that God still works through tragedy to achieve His purposes. He has in the past. He does now. He will in the future.)  

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