April 19, 1995. Twenty years ago today, a senseless act of evil took the live of 168 people as a bomb ripped through the Murrah federal building in Oklahoma City. Many cried out “Why?” And even today we cry out “Why, God?” when tragedy strikes our own lives. Why does God allow tragedy in our lives?
Reflect on some of the key points that Billy Graham made in answer to this question when he spoke at a statewide prayer service twenty years ago.
I appreciate reverend Graham’s honesty is first saying, “I don’t know ‘why’. I only know there are lessons to learn.” One of those lessons is that life is a mystery. We don’t understand all things. Job didn’t understand why he lost his wife and family, his good health, and all his possessions. His wife’s advice to him was “Curse God and die!” But in the face of tragedy and intense ongoing pain, Job remained faithful. He believed that despite his circumstances that God was a loving and good God.
Another lesson of tragedy is a reminder that evil remains in the world – for a time. It is the essence of the dEVIL’s name. In the face of evil, you and I have two choices: 1) We can become bitter and angry at God or 2) We can turn to Him in trust Him, even when we don’t have the answer to all our questions. It is the essence of our faith, to believe when we cannot see clearly.
A third lesson of suffering is that it brings together the real community of God. Job missed this. Maybe you’ve missed this as your own tragic circumstances have left you isolated. But suffering produces an environment that invites community to flourish. It invites each of us to BE that community. We saw this as a nation, if if only short-lived, following the Oklahoma City bombing and 9/11. We see it today in community-wide disasters. People come together, not because they can solve a problem, but as a reminder that God cares for us. He promises that those who mourn will be comforted. His compassions never fail. His mercies are new every morning.
We should be comforted that even Jesus asked, “Why?” He cried out in agony, “Why, God have you forsaken me?” And His answer was quick in coming. The message of Easter is that hope follows tragedy. There is hope for your suffering, hope for your pain, and hope for your despair. We are minded in tragedy that life is brief and uncertain. None of us know which moment will be our last. But the hope remains for those who love God that His comfort, compassion, love, and forgiveness are available to us today even in the face of tragedy.
If you haven’t surrendered the control of your life to Jesus, what better time than today – while time remains?
Watch the 8 minute video of Billy Graham’s 1995 message here: