In the wake of tragic and senseless loss of life, it is common to hear questions such as,
· Where was God?
· Could he not have prevented this?
· Why do bad things happen to good people?
While scripture doesn't tell us everything, it does provide much that can help us understand why these types of things happen.
1. Scripture tells us that all people have sinned.
As it is written, there is none righteous, no, not one: There is none that understands, there is none that seeks after God. They are all gone out of the way; they are together become unprofitable; there is none that does good, no, not one.
Their throat is an open sepulcher; with their tongues they have used deceit; the poison of asps is under their lips: Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness: Their feet are swift to shed blood: Destruction and misery are in their ways:
For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God. (Romans 3:10-23)
2. Scripture tells us that the wages of sin is death. (Romans 6:23). Those wages must be paid. That's why there can be no remission of sin without the shedding of blood, which is saying there can be no forgiveness of sin without death. (Heb 9:22). To overlook sin and allow it to go unpunished would be unjust. But God is a just God and therefore He cannot overlook sin. If God were unjust, he would be denying himself, something the Bible says he cannot do (2 Tim 2:13).
3. Given that all have sinned and that the wages of sin is death, the real wonder is why any of us are still alive! We all deserve to die. The fact that some people have died and we did not is only the mere grace of God in extending the life of those who deserve to die. The fact that God allows some to live into their 80’s, or 90’s or even their 100’s while others only live to 1 or 2 years of age does not make God unjust. If it is pure justice we want, no one would be alive. Praise God for his grace and mercy! He is patient and slow to anger.
The LORD descended in the cloud and stood with him there, and proclaimed the name of the LORD. The LORD passed before him and proclaimed, "The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children's children, to the third and the fourth generation." Exodus 34:5-7
4. In times of affliction, God is present just as much as at other times. When Jesus suffered, it was the hand of God that bruised him. God did not merely "stand by" or "look away" while Jesus suffered on the cross. At the cross God himself poured out his own wrath on his one and only Son. Jesus bore the wrath of God on the cross, not the wrath of Satan or the Jews.
Surely he hath borne our grief, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.
All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned everyone to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he opened not his mouth. He was taken from prison and from judgment: and who shall declare his generation? For he was cut off out of the land of the living: for the transgression of my people was he stricken. And he made his grave with the wicked and with the rich in his death; because he had done no violence, neither was any deceit in his mouth.
Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise him; he hath put him to grief: when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the LORD shall prosper in his hand. Isaiah 53:4-10
Isaiah says that Jesus is smitten of God and that the Lord laid on Jesus our iniquity and the punishment for it.
But also note that it pleased God to bruise Christ.
5. To rightly understand the depth of the love of God, it is important to understand that Christ's crucifixion was not an accident that God never intended or hoped would not happen. Neither was it merely permitted by God. It was ordained by God. God decreed the death of his Son because He so loved the world that he sent his only begotten son that whosoever believes on him should not perish. The fact that God ordained the cross does nothing to relieve the responsibility of the wicked people who crucified an innocent man.
Ye men of Israel, hear these words; Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved of God among you by miracles and wonders and signs, which God did by him in the midst of you, as ye yourselves also know: Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain: Acts 2:22-23
This is the counsel of God which determines all things. As Paul described it to the Ephesians (Eph 1:11) In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who works all things after the counsel of his own will:
for truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, Acts 4:27-28
6. The great wonder of it all is that this death was what we deserved. For those who are Christ's, He bore the wrath of God in our place. At the cross, Christ's blood was poured out as a vicarious substitute for our blood to appease (or propitiate as Rom 3:25 says) the wrath of God. At the cross we see the justice of God in demanding an atoning sacrifice for our sin and the grace of God in providing the spotless Lamb for the sacrifice. The only person that has a right to complain about God's justice for taking a life is his Son, Jesus Christ. But Christ willingly went to the cross. He voluntarily offered himself as a sacrifice.
And walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet smelling savor. Ephesians 5:2
Who needs not daily, as those high priests, to offer up sacrifice, first for his own sins, and then for the people's: for this he did once, when he offered up himself. Hebrews 7:27
For then must he often have suffered since the foundation of the world: but now once in the end of the world hath he appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself. Hebrews 9:26
Therefore doth my Father love me, because I lay down my life, that I might take it again. No man takes it from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This commandment have I received of my Father.
7. But even though Christ has satisfied the wrath of God for our sin so that we are no longer under condemnation for it, we are still not yet yet perfectly holy. We still have sin dwelling in us. Trials and tribulations are one means through which the Holy Spirit works patience so that we become more and more conformed to his image. But our trials and tribulations are chastening done in his love. They are not the wrath of God which was fully satisfied on the cross.
And ye have forgotten the exhortation which speaks unto you as unto children, my son, do not despise the chastening of the Lord nor faint when thou art rebuked of him: For whom the Lord loves he chastens, and scourges every son whom he receives. Hebrews 12:5-6
8. For those in Christ, even the sting of death is gone. Those who die in Christ are said to be blessed.
Paul said for me to live is Christ and die is gain. ... I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better.
In Revelation 14 John tells us, "Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on."
Those who experience persecution for Christ's sake are to rejoice for exceedingly great is their reward.
The real tragedy is those who die outside of Christ. Their trials are a foretaste of God's wrath; their death the end of his grace and patience. But even in this, God is just. Abraham expressed this faith in God's character as God was about to destroy Sodom saying, "Shall not the Judge of the entire word do what is just?" Great tragedies may lead some to ask, like Habakkuk did (Hab 1:13), how God can use a more wicked person to execute his wrath on less wicked people. God's answer to him was that the just shall live by faith (Hab 2:4).
Death is a solemn reminder of the reality of our sin and the reality of God's wrath that is upon it. When God takes the life of an unborn baby, it is a reminder that no one is innocent. As Jesus reminded a questioner, "Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone.” Mar 10:18
For a nation that has mocked God’s law, scorned his kindness, banned his name from their schools except if used in vain, and his remembrance from the public square, and used his gifts to persecute his bride and kill children, it is the height of arrogance to ask why God has forsaken them. What right do they have to be insulted or surprised when God replies in his fury and destroys their children in his indignation?