We live in a world and time where devastating disasters occur with alarming frequency and intensity. Some of these are natural disasters, such as hurricanes, earthquakes or tsunamis. Others are human-caused disasters, such as a violent school shooting, or a destructive terrorist attack.
In a world where we are intimately exposed, through media coverage, to each of these horrific events in turn, we are no longer affected only by disasters that affect us personally. We feel the devastation of families and individuals living thousands of miles away. Even from the safety and comfort of our own well-stocked homes, we might watch the destruction, empathize with the victims, and share in their tearful questions: “Why?”; “How could a loving God allow this terrible thing to happen?”; “Where was God, when this horrific tragedy occurred?”; “Does He even exist at all?”
Such wrenching questions are as old as humanity itself. In the face of devastating circumstances, such questions are natural, even inevitable. We tend to ask our deepest, darkest questions as we pass through the deepest, darkest circumstances of our lives. More often than not, we can find answers to those questions that can strengthen our resolve, expand our faith, and bring even deeper assurance that we are not alone.
Many individuals face these kinds of questions in the midst of devastating personal circumstances. The destructive experience of childhood sexual abuse, the devastation of watching a cherished marriage blow up, the news of a life-threatening illness found within yourself or a loved one, the loss of someone dear to you, or the early end to a pregnancy. Such a wide range of devastating personal events can bring up these hard questions as we face those most wrenching circumstances of our personal lives.
Nowadays, it is no longer just our own devastations that can impact us. In the face of someone else’s tragedy or someone else’s trauma we sit watchful on our living room couches and pray, and grieve from the sidelines of someone else’s pain. Their trauma launches our questions with almost as much ferocity as if it was our own tragedy we were facing. Because these big questions affect all of us whether in the best or worst circumstances of our personal life journeys.
When tragedy strikes, when trauma occurs, or when devastating circumstances arise, for us or someone else — how can we make sense of these experiences, hold on to our faith, and move forward with hope in our lives?
“When I was a little girl, I used to think that faith meant, 'If I was a good person, God would keep bad things from happening to me. Now, after passing through this trial, I have a new definition of faith. If I keep looking to Him, no matter what, He can absolutely sustain me, through whatever life throws at me.' That’s a very different definition of faith that has been able to sustain me — even through the very worst of times.”