June 5, 2012
I don’t know what your memory is like but mine tends to be fairly strong… well, about some things. Every now and then I’ll hear about an event that occurred in my lifetime and I think to myself “How can I not have remembered that?!” I was reading a book recently regarding information concerning the family of Martin Luther King, Jr. Of course anyone alive in 1968 who was old enough to remember can recall the tragic circumstances of his assassination on the balcony of a motel in Memphis, Tennessee. It was the second of the “trilogy of assassinations” that occurred in the restless decade of the 1960’s. First was John Kennedy in 1963, then Martin in April of 1968 and last was Bobby Kennedy only 3 months later. Again, I remember all of those things quite well.
We all know about the tragedy surrounding the Kennedy family. What I didn’t remember was the tragedy surrounding the King family. Do you recall that Martin Luther King, Jr.’s younger brother Alfred Daniel Williams King drowned in a swimming pool a little over a year after the assassination of his big brother? And then in June of 1974, while sitting at the organ of the Ebenezer Baptist Church, Alberta King, the mother of Martin and Alfred was shot and killed by a deranged gunman. He had gone to church to kill the pastor, her husband.
Why do some people and families face tragedy and grief over and over again, and others seem to cruise through life with little if any misfortune or heartache? Some folks seem all too familiar with accidents, cancer, heart conditions, childhood issues, strokes and any number of strange and unpredictable occurrences. There is much that can be said about this that I will not address in this short little essay. So rather than tackle the difficult and complex subject of “why bad things happen to good people,” let me simply suggest how Christians might deal with tragedies. And let me be quite honest here and say that this is coming from someone who has experienced little pain in his life.
Philip Yancey in one of his many excellent books says that “people need to develop strong faith in the good times that will carry them through the bad times.” If we wait to call on God until the bombs of life start dropping, it is likely we will struggle to draw close to Him in the midst of tragedy. I can’t tell you how many people over the years have complained to me about the presence (or lack thereof) of God when they called upon Him in the middle of a crisis. Keep in mind that these were folks who had not darkened the door of a church in decades and only used the Lord’s name as a curse word. And yet they wonder why they are not able to see Him at work. Again, until we recognize the Lord’s voice in our relatively calm daily walk we will struggle to hear Him in the middle of war.
Take a minute to flip through the Psalms. It won’t take long to find one where the author is crying out to God because of something bad that has happened in their lives. Almost ½ of the Psalms are like this. But notice how those Psalms end? In every case but one of these types of Psalms, the author says something like, “But I will trust in God anyway,” or “But I’ll worship God anyway.” Do you get that? It doesn’t make any sense from the world’s perspective but we are called to a place in our faith where total and complete trust in God is the order of the day… NO MATTER WHAT.
I have been stunned on many occasions by the faith that some folks show in the midst of the most painful and tragic of circumstances. I admire them and am so grateful that they have modeled for me the faith to which we are all called. None of us look forward to or ask for calamity in our lives. But I hope and pray that if and when it comes, I will express the faith and trust in my Lord that has been shown to me by so many saints of the church.