“Where is God in the midst of tragedy and suffering?”
Last night our family joined the masses that packed theaters across America to watch Kirk Cameron’s latest project Unstoppable. With the story of the Sandgren family woven into the documentary style movie, it deals with the question “why?” from the viewpoint of experience. But not just experience alone. The film addresses how we are molded by tragic experiences when they are discerned through an understanding of the Word of God.
Like us, the Sandgrens buried their son. Like us, they served God before and they serve God after. In the wake of death their faith has become Unstoppable. I get it. And here’s why I believe I have become Unstoppable too.
I don’t blame God.
When I get back to basic principles of faith, there are truths that I have always recognized but I didn’t know how important they were until I lost my son. One of those truths is the simple fact that God is good. God created this world to be good. The first page of his word says:
Then God looked over all he had made, and he saw that it was very good! Gen. 1:31
“Very Good.” There wasn’t sickness, disease, SIDS or even sin in these early days in Eden. It was just good. All of it was good. But that goodness came with a warning.
The Lord God warned him, “You may freely eat the fruit of every tree in the garden— except the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. If you eat its fruit, you are sure to die.” Gen. 2:16-17
God didn’t create death. He tried to prevent it. But that truth is coupled with another. This crazy God I serve doesn’t force a relationship with him. He doesn’t force allegiance to him. He doesn’t even force obedience to him. He gives freedom and choice. And just like all choices, that one comes with consequences. The choice to eat the forbidden fruit came with the consequence of death.
When Adam sinned, sin entered the world. Adam’s sin brought death, so death spread to everyone, for everyone sinned. Rom. 5:12
“Everyone sinned.” Everyone is responsible for death except for the guy who gets the most blame for it. Remember? God is good. God’s creation was good. We are the ones who sinned. We invited death into his good creation. And we are still reaping the consequences.
I still believe God is love.
He’s not just good at it or full of it. He IS it. He is so full of love it spills out of himself onto us.
Understand, therefore, that the Lord your God is indeed God. He is the faithful God who keeps his covenant for a thousand generations and lavishes his unfailing love on those who love him and obey his commands. Dt. 7:9
The love he pours out is persistent, unrelenting, unchanging and infallible. God IS love.
I understand that even though we ushered in death, he tasted it to save us.
The unfailing love of God was on display when we needed it the most. God knew what our choices would mean. God knew what death would bring. God knew what rescuing us from it would entail.
Even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes… Once you were dead because of your disobedience and your many sins… But God is so rich in mercy, and he loved us so much, that even though we were dead because of our sins, he gave us life when he raised Christ from the dead. (It is only by God’s grace that you have been saved!) Eph 1:4; 2:1, 4-5
He raised Christ from the dead. But he had to be dead first. Do you see? The wages of sin IS death (Rom 6:23).
For without the shedding of blood, there is no forgiveness (Heb 9:22). There had to be a death to overcome death. BUT… He is writing the most beautiful part of this story with mercy’s pen. We are the guilty ones but he offered the atonement.
I can’t even write those words without tears. It is my fault there is death. I know I didn’t kill my son with my own hands. But my sin did. If God turned his back on me now I would be lost in a pit of swirling death.
When we were utterly helpless, Christ came at just the right time and died for us sinners … since we have been made right in God’s sight by the blood of Christ, he will certainly save us from God’s condemnation. For since our friendship with God was restored by the death of his Son while we were still his enemies, we will certainly be saved through the life of his Son. (Rom. 5).
I believe he works glory and triumph in darkness and loss.
I see that there is pain. I see that there is darkness. But I echo the words of Joseph, “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive (Gen. 50:20).
Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat is planted in the soil and dies, it remains alone. But its death will produce many new kernels—a plentiful harvest of new lives” (John 12:24).
We may be tempted to think death is the end. We may think death is our worst case scenario. But Jesus says, “if you let your life go, you will save it” (Luke 17:33). He let go of his and saved the world. His grave echos, “I am the light of the world. If you follow me, you won’t have to walk in darkness, because you will have the light that leads to life” (John 8:12).
I am a sinner. I deserve death. But what he said is, “I’ll take it.” And now I am offered a divine gift.
Salvation. “God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God” (Eph 2:8).
Friendship. “So now we can rejoice in our wonderful new relationship with God because our Lord Jesus Christ has made us friends of God” (Rom. 5:11).
Life. “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Rom. 6:23).
I believe my son’s death bears spiritual fruit.
Indeed, the seed must die to produce a harvest. We are still reaping the harvest of my son’s death. His short life declared God”s goodness. His death drew us into the arms of an unyielding God. We are serving Jesus with more tenacity, with more passion and without apprehension.
We have seen a ministry spring up (He Lives For Kids) from the hearts of our children. We have opened our hearts to adoption. We have planted the seeds of the gospel into the hearts of men who responded. We have received an outpouring of love and prayers from God’s people.
Today I am a mother who grieves to the core for her son. But eclipsing that grief, is a God who is alive. Today I am Unstoppable because HE IS UNSTOPPABLE.