In the wake of tragedy, two words torture our souls. IF. ONLY.
If only ….we could have waited a second before we left, gone with our first plan, or paid attention to that sixth sense. There clearly is something we could have done to avert the horrible tragedy that transpired. The feeling of guilt is overwhelming. Somehow, it’s easy to believe that it is all because we missed a cue that this awful thing took place. Our hearts ache, we feel despair and then the agonizing reality that we should have done something.
Love hurts. It brings about pain and heartache that we could never imagine. In the midst of trauma, we wonder why we ever dared live our lives in a normal way. We decide that we should not ever take normalcy for granted. But, in reality, it would be too intense to expect trauma and crisis every moment. We are not designed to live that way.
It’s hard to understand why tragedies happen. Why does God protects us in the most incredible ways at certain times and then others, He allows crisis to take place? Why is there so much evil around us? We are oblivious to what we are protected from.
There are times when God strongly nudges us to pray for someone and we have a sense something will happen. It’s natural for me to feel that if I obey and pray, that person will be protected. Sometimes that is not the case, and tragedy still takes place. Bad things still happen. Where is God? Why did He alert us to pray and then not offer the protection that He is capable of? Those are questions I ask.
Violence took place despite my prayers
My heart is aching. Recently, the safety of a young woman has been on my heart. I kept praying for her protection. I even talked to her about it and she assured me all was well. The premonition continued. I kept praying. Then in the very moments I was most burdened, I tried to contact her. We communicated for a little while that night, and then she went silent. The concern deepened and so I continued to pray. Then hours later, I discovered that she stopped responding because she was the victim of a horrific violence. She was badly hurt. In the days that followed, I kept thinking, “if only”… I couldn’t help but wonder why God would alert me and yet seem to not protect her. There were only questions and no answers.
As I’ve thought through this, I realize that walking with God does not mean we won’t meet evil in this fallen world. The darkness will permeate our world. Bad things will happen regardless of how much we pray and seek after God. He will walk with us. He will carry us through the darkest of days.
God’s love is deeper
It’s not about us. I have no idea what God protected this young woman from. I can only see the damage, but I don’t know the bigger picture. God can take this awful evil that she met and use it for His glory. I marvel at her spirit. She is raw, vulnerable, but trusting in Jesus in a way that humbles me to the core. She’s resting in Him, she’s loving Him and He is loving her. It doesn’t make the wrongs right. God is bigger than all the horror and tragedies we could meet. “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33
I’m reminded this week of Holocaust survivor, Corrie Ten Boom’s words, “there is no pit so deep that God’s love is not deeper still.”
The real question is “now what?”
Guilt and remorse won’t get us anywhere. We can say “if only” as much as we like. It won’t change our reality. The real question we need to ask in the wake of the most horribly dark days and difficult tragedies is “now what?” God is waiting to take our hand and lead us through the darkest places. He sees what we do not see.
He. cares. deeply.