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Your Questions About Misfortune, Tragedy, And Trauma
Question 2: Is There A Connection Between Sin, Obedience, And Misfortune?

In searching for answers and meanings about misfortune, tragedy, and trauma, the easiest answers come to us when the causes of tragedy and trauma are clearly related to human sin. At least we would all like to have easy answers when it comes to sin as a cause of tragedies. However, Jesus noted that misfortune, pain, and suffering come to both the righteous and unrighteous.

Matthew 5:45 He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. (NIV)

Why would God have created a system like this? Wouldn't it be more fair for the bad people to always "get theirs". When we look at how Christ instructs us to live, then we see that His teachings have a "love only" foundation. God has created conditions for our relationship to Him based solely upon our loving Him. We must love the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit for who He is, what He is, and we must be willing to throw off our sinfulness in loving Him.

If God were to construct a reality of ultimate fairness, where only the good are spared adversity, then everyone would be good. Not a bad idea you say. On the surface, we would all want a system where misfortune falls only on the bad. In this system, you would think everyone would be good. However, they would be good not because they love God with all their heart and with all their might. They would be good only because they did not want adversity in their lives and they would leave God out of the picture. In many ways, we do operate on a system created by God where acts of good are rewarded and acts of evil are punished. Yet, people still do acts of evil. In this reality of ultimate fairness, if persons included God in the picture, most persons would worship and honor God only to avoid adversity, pain, and suffering. In this system of supposed ultimate fairness, we could even question whether people would love God at all. For if we are shielded from adversity only by how we act, our hearts could remain full of sin yet our exterior behavior could seem to be righteous. In this kind of reality, no one would ever have a need to change their lives or repent of their sins because the good people and the evil people all get the same reward for acting good. There would be no visible difference between the good person and the evil person.

Indeed, in our world and in our present reality, misfortune falls on everyone at some point. However, in our present reality there is a cost to sin. Conversely, there is a benefit to living a right or righteous life. In our world, those persons who live in sin bring more misfortune upon themselves than do those who maintain a life of righteousness or right living. The wages of sin is not only death in the body but also death in the soul. Sin brings trauma in person's lives. No matter how much the sinners of the world want to cover up this fact or paper over it, sin has a cost. The terrible tragedy of the cost of sin is that the cost of sin reaches out and hurts or destroys persons who may not have committed a particular sin. A father or mother who commit adultery while still married hurt his or her spouse and children in the marriage. When we look at who is hurt in this instance, the lives of the children are damaged by someone else's sin. In addition, the non-offending spouse is hurt by the sin of the other person.

What we must remember in cases where sin causes trauma is that God hates sin yet loves the sinner. God is grieved by sin, and God is more grieved when the sin of one person hurts others who do not deserve to be hurt.

Are misfortunes and terrible things more likely to happen to people who lead lives of sin or lives of obedience to God?

The unequivocal answer to this question, more than any other question about misfortune is "Yes, misfortunes and terrible things are more likely to happen to people who lead lives of sin". A person who robs a convenience store and kills the clerk is likely to have bad things happen to him or her. While someone who goes to church and devoutly worships the Lord is not as likely to experience tragedy and trauma. If both of these persons live in the same city and the city is destroyed in an earthquake, both of their lives will be impacted. We might say that the murderer's life might be impacted less by the earthquake because the murderer probably cares less about other persons, cares less about property that is destroyed, and cares less about life in general. In our sense of justice, this aspect of leading a sinful life as a murderer is not fair because we would want the murderer to suffer more in a disaster than would a devout worshiper of God.

Imbedded in our questions about sin, obedience, and misfortune are hidden questions we want to ask about justice. In our thinking, we all want justice to be done. We want the murderer to get justice or a proper "reward" for the crime and we want the devout worshiper to get a reward for being godly and devout. Our difficulty in understanding tragedy and trauma is that in this world there is never proper justice. There is never a proper punishment for the sinner, especially the sinner who hurts others, nor is there a total protective blessing for the devout worshiper. If we could get what we call justice, the worshiper would never have misfortune. The worshiper, if justice is served as we want, would never get sick, never go to a nursing home, never lose money in a depression, or never have to face any kind of adversity. As we move forward in our justice scene, we can begin to see that if we all had our way we would give heaven to the worshiper and hell to the murderer. In some respects, this is the justice that God gives after we die. However, God does give out justice haphazardly and without love. For God is a being of love and calls upon both the murderer and worshiper to repent of their sins and accept Christ as Savior and Lord. If the murderer and worshiper both repent, then they may both see Jesus face to face. Because we are not pure beings of pure love, we would not want the murderer to ever see Jesus. However, Christ is a pure being of pure love and is willing to erase the murderer's crime if the murderer repents and accepts Christ as Savior.

In our little justice scene, we have left out a party to this scenario of the murderer and the worshiper. We have left out the family and friends of the store clerk. What kind of answer can we give to the people who are doubled over in grief?

What would we say if the family and friends of the store clerk ask why the clerk had to lose his or her life? We would and could exclaim that the loss of life was due to the sin in the life of the murderer. This would be a true answer. Yet, the answer does not answer enough. The answer about sin in the heart of the murderer does not give meaning to the grief of the store clerk's family and friends. The answer does not help assuage the hurt. The answer does not give purpose to anyone's life. There is no healing for the clerk's survivors and friends in an answer about sin.

This is the point in tragedy and trauma where we are left alone on a very desolate road. If the store clerk's family and friends are Christian believers, they have a friend in Jesus. They have a resource in whom they can trust and to whom they can carry every burden. However, they are still quite alone in the world in which we live. They hurt. They weep. They try to cope. For them, there may never be any sense to be made out of this tragedy in their lives. For them and so many others like them, they will likely come to accept that there will never be adequate answers to all these questions about tragedy and trauma.

If you are strong in your faith and tragedy comes, you must always go to Christ. You may never get the answers that plague your heart and soul but in Christ, you will find His love and compassion. When you find your rest in the heart of God then answers will come. Most importantly, these answers help you over the many painful rivers you must cross. What most illumines our hurting souls is that Christ waits for us to join Him. Christ has prepared a place for us where there will never ever be pain, tragedy or trauma again. You rest in His hands each day. When pain assails you, He calls out to you to come home to Him and find rest in Him. Answers may be elusive, but healing through Christ's love is certain.

2 Corinthians 1:3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, 4 who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God. (NIV)



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Scripture quotations marked (NIV) are taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®. NIV®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House. All rights reserved.

Scripture quotations marked (RSV) are taken from the HOLY BIBLE, Revised Standard Version of the Bible, Copyright © 1952 [2nd edition, 1971] by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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Shepherd's Care Ministries author and webmaster, Rev. Patrick Kelly, is affiliated through ministerial ordination with Church of God Ministries, Anderson IN 46018