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

For many, this past year was filled with many tragedies. I see it in the frontlines of our city as a volunteer chaplain with the fire and police departments. The number of young people dying from opioids and suicide is perplexing. Cancer and heart attacks are claiming too many people before they accomplish all their personal goals. Numerous people are dealing with loneliness, despair, divorce, and anger.

Our nation is still losing too many young men and women who daily fight for freedom in far-away places. Freak storms and natural disasters have also taken lives and destroyed much property this past year. And my heart still aches for those whose lives are taken by terrorists at home and abroad.

In understanding how we might better cope with the overwhelming events that have come upon our nation, 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. We should look at every tragic situation through a spiritual filter.

A few years ago, we lost some great men and women when the Columbia Space Shuttle vaporized on its reentry from space. One of those individuals was Col. Mike Anderson, the second African-American astronaut. He looked at life with a unique spiritual insight. Col. Anderson was from Spokane, Washington and attended a little local Baptist church not far from our home.

Since his death, we have heard a great deal about this man’s rich spiritual heritage and abiding faith. When his pastor asked him if he 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.” He went on to say, “Instead of coming down, 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 used Mike’s story and the lives of those recently departed Christian friends to touch thousands of lives in our region. It is during times of loss that we feel the comfort of prayers and acts of kindness from loving fellow believers.

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.” 2 Cor 1:3–4, 6

God allows tragedy to interrupt our lives so that He can comfort us. 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 and has emerged from that experience victorious. It is a very poor comforter who has never needed comforting.

Let’s go out and comfort those who do not yet know of our loving and merciful God.

Personal Application:

As we begin a New Year, let’s pause from all the stress and business associated with the recent holidays to look around and think about the plight of people who need to know God’s love.

Maybe a simple phone call or encouraging word from you would help someone along their journey with tragedy.

How about sending someone this devotional to inspire them in facing disaster or a personal struggle?

Why not begin the year by committing to pass along our Weekly Devotionals to at least one person in your database? God’s word never comes back void.

Jim Grassi, D. Min.