May 22

When Tragedy Strikes

When Tragedy Strikes


I create the light and make the darkness. I send good times and bad times. I, the LORD, am the one who does these things.                                                                                                                  Isaiah 45:7 NLT


The verse above, especially as translated in the King James Version (“I make peace, and create evil”), has created a great deal of concern for many people. Does God really cause moral evil in the world? No, he does not. The rest of the Bible is very clear on that issue. Moral evil is in the world because of our first mother and father’s choice, and it continues to be because all of their children choose to do it. But, the possibility of making a choice for evil is in the world solely because Yahweh permits it. We must never say that evil is caused by Satan. To do that is to set Satan up as the equal of Yahweh. That is never the case. There is one God alone, and all things exist as they are because of him alone. Satan may tempt us to do evil, but he can only do that because God permits him to do so.

So what is this verse actually saying? When tragedy strikes, we have to avoid two extremes. On the one hand God never chooses a family, for instance, and says, “Those folks have had it too good for too long. I believe I’ll send them a tragedy just to even things out.” Never! But on the other hand, neither does he say, “Oh, I wish I could prevent Satan from putting that tragedy on those good people, but this time he is just too strong for me. I’ll get you next time, Satan!” Again, never! Whatever happens to us comes through the hand of God alone.

In this regard it is important to think about levels of causation. Yahweh is the ultimate cause of all things; so if bad things are in the world it is because of God (“bad” is a better English equivalent of the Hebrew word, since that word covers everything from moral evil to misfortune). But, God is not the immediate cause of bad things. That is, he does not choose to bring bad things into our lives.

So this is what we may know. Yahweh is Sovereign in the world, and if tragedy comes my way as a result of the fallen-ness of the world, it will not come without his knowledge or his permission. He did not send it, but he did permit it. That means that since he allowed it, he is Lord over it, and can work through it – or because of it – or in spite of it – for my greater good. He is Lord!  In that confidence we can face whatever comes, not somehow, but triumphantly.

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