Whenever there is a tragedy, such as a natural disaster or a bombing or a plane crash, we all do our best to make sense of things. This happens in different ways for different people, depending on our beliefs and the personal experiences we bring to the table. This is natural. It’s a healthy part of the grieving process to make an attempt to understand how or why such things occur.
I know that we all work through things in our own ways, and I do not want to take away from whatever helps someone else find a light in the dark. But I think we have to be careful when we do this that we aren’t trashing someone else’s grief, even unintentionally.
One thing I see so often is a number of people who offer up thanks that “God spared them” from death/disease/injury/whatever. That God was looking out for them, and that the prayers of others kept them safe. That they were preserved for a holy purpose, some part of God’s plan.
The difficulty here is that it’s so easy to glibly say these things. It’s so easy for a lot of Christians to believe them, for ourselves or on behalf of others. The problem is, there are three underlying statements that usually go unacknowledged. If one person was spared intentionally by God, then one of three possibilities exist for those who were not spared:
1. God intentionally brought ill on a person. God caused something to happen that would allow that person to die, be injured, or become ill. It was God’s intent that this person should have something tragic befall him or her.
2. God allowed something to happen to a person as part of His larger plan. He didn’t necessarily orchestrate it in the sense of making it happen, but He allowed it because that person was the fallout of His divine will.
3. God failed to answer someone else’s prayer, or ignored that person’s prayer. God wasn’t allowing something as part of His plan, but He was either not paying attention or choosing not to listen to prayers.
I recognize that there is a possibility, perhaps, that any of those things could be true. But what I see is often that people jump so easily to being inspired by miraculous stories, while avoiding the flip side.
I’m not here to tell anyone to stop believing in miracles. But I think in the wake of tragedies that affect many individuals and families, we need to be very careful how we express ourselves in the aftermath. We need to be sure that claims of “God saved my life!” don’t leave other victims’ families saying, “Wasn’t my loved one good enough for God to spare?”
A healthier response would be to thank God for the life we have, for the blessings we have, and to find out how we can serve others out of those blessings. Don’t write elaborate blog posts detailing the miracle of how you were spared; don’t make YouTube videos expressing your gratitude that God heard your prayers; don’t share those things on social media when you come across them.
Just give thanks and give to others.