Did you hear the comment made by the mayor of one of the cities hit hard by the recent typhoon in the Philippines? Concerning this devastating event, he suggested, “God must have been someplace else.”
Logically and theologically, we recognize there are problems with that statement. We know that the God revealed in the Bible is present everywhere and is aware of all that goes on in this world.
However, I think the mayor was speaking less from his head and more from his heart, expressing the question so many others have asked in the aftermath of tragic events — “How could a great and loving God have allowed such a thing to happen?”
In other words, if a good and powerful God had been there, He would’ve stopped it — therefore He must have been someplace else.
A few examples the Bible gives us of others who experienced difficult, life-changing events might shed a little light on this subject. There was Joseph, sold into slavery and later wrongfully imprisoned. Yet many years afterwards he looked back and said to his brothers who instigated it all, “You meant evil against me, but God meant it for good” (Genesis 50:20).
I’m not saying everything that happens to us is a good thing. I’m not suggesting that there are not bad events or tragedies. I don’t believe we can call it a good thing for several thousand people to lose their lives in a typhoon.
But often we may be able to look back and see how God brought something good out of those bad events. We believe He is working to make that new path we’re being forced to travel on a good one and a blessing in our lives.
Sometimes we can’t see any good in such a tragedy, which takes us to the example of Job. He lost everything in a short time and had no idea why. Although he struggled with it, from the outset Job declared his continued faith in God. He said, “The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord” (Job 1:21).
Along with Job, we can affirm that no matter what comes our way, we know God is in control and we can trust Him. We may not see any good coming out of it, nor understand why it happened, but we keep trusting the God who loves us and who knows what He’s doing.
Another example could be the disciples immediately after Jesus’ crucifixion. Certainly, they didn’t understand why God allowed Jesus to be put to death on the cross. But they soon found out His death was all part of God’s plan to bring salvation to mankind.
That’s the other factor we need to keep in mind about such events in our lives. God tells us, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways, says the Lord; for as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:8-9).
Sometimes in those tough events which come into our lives, God is working out His greater plans and purposes — things we can’t understand simply because we can’t see the whole picture as God does. At those moments, we simply need to have faith that God is fulfilling His purposes through it all.
So no matter what difficulties we may have to face, let’s not despair and think God must have been someplace else. Instead let’s affirm our trust in Him and declare “Blessed be the name of the Lord.”
The Rev. Tony W. Elder is pastor of Wesley Community Fellowship Church. He can be reached at 770-483-3405 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.