“Tragedy is sometimes a circumstantial method by which God gains our attention.”

Psalm 119:28

Recently while strolling through the beautiful Riverfront Park in the center of Spokane, Washington I came upon a monument dedicated to fallen astronaut Col. Mike Anderson. Col. Mike was part of the fateful Columbia spaceship disaster in 2003. It reminded me of how we should look at tragedy and loss.

During the past few years it seems that our country has experienced more than its share of tragedy. The geo-political distractions, social unrest, unstable economy, un-settled weather, and our continued moral decline have produced some fear and uncertainty with many.

In understanding how we might better cope with the overwhelming events that have come upon us I’m reminded of the Israelites during their journey to Moab. Numbers 21:4–7 describes some events that happened to the Israelites:

Then they journeyed from Mount Hor by the Way of the Red Sea, to go around the land of Edom; and the soul of the people became very discouraged on the way. And the people spoke against God and against Moses: “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no food and no water, and our soul loathes this worthless bread.” So the LORD sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people; and many of the people of Israel died. Therefore the people came to Moses, and said, “We have sinned, for we have spoken against the LORD and against you; pray to the LORD that He take away the serpents from us.” So Moses prayed for the people.

We can’t always view tragedy in a person’s life or the history of a great country as a sign of God’s disapproval, but we should look at every tragic situation through a spiritual filter. Though that is a difficult assignment, Col. Mike Anderson, only the second African American astronaut, looked at life with a unique spiritual insight. Col. Anderson was from Spokane and attended a little Baptist church. We have heard a great deal about this man’s rich spiritual heritage and abiding faith.

When his pastor once asked him if the Colonel was ever frightened about venturing into outer space, Mike said, “If something were to happen in space I’m just that much closer to God.” “Instead of coming down,” he stated, “I’ll just be going up to my home in Glory”. That is the kind of attitude and assurance God wants us to have.

God has already used Mike’s story to touch thousands of lives in our area. His monument continues to remind people about using their faith to comfort others.

Scripture reminds us, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God… Now if we are afflicted, it is for your consolation and salvation, which is effective for enduring the same sufferings, which we also suffer. Or if we are comforted, it is for your consolation and salvation.” – 2nd Corinthians 1:3–4, 6

God allows tragedy to interrupt our lives so that He can comfort us. Once we have dealt with our hurt, He will bring someone across our path with whom we can identify and therefore comfort. This is part of God’s strategy in maturing us. God is in the business of developing comforters. And the best comforter is one who has struggled with pain or sorrow of some sort and has emerged from that experience victorious. It is a very poor comforter who has never needed comforting.

Personal Application

Who is God putting in your life that needs to be encouraged or comforted? How can you teach them or model God’s mercy and love?