1 Thessalonians 5:18 (NKJV) – “in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”
“Knowing the future, even the future of human decisions, is part of what it means to be God.” – John Piper (2017)
Romans 8:28 (NKJV) – “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.”
By Pamela K. Orgeron, M.A., Ed.S., BCCC, ACLC
We all have those defining moments, both good and bad, that can change our lives either for the good or the bad. Turning points, or defining moments that we commonly consider good are high school graduations, wedding days, and the birth of a child. However, these are not always good. If you don’t believe me, ask the couple who ended up in divorce court six months after the ceremony. In the same respect, what we consider bad is not always bad. Sometimes when we think a closed door or a tragedy that we presume to be bad is often “a blessing in disguise.”
My “blink of the eye” moments on a positive note include my high school and college graduations: my decisions to relocate to Nashville, Tennessee twice; and, the moment I said, “I do” to my husband and life partner, Milton. For most people, graduations, relocation, and marriage are common place events that require one to leave the past behind and move forward to a more positive future that will stimulate more personal growth and development.
What about those hurtful events that come upon us suddenly in the blink of an eye? We all have them. No one is immune, not even Christians (Acts 14:22). Mine include a rape, witnessing an attempted rape and murder, falling down a flight of stairs, and the unexpected death of a loved one. Others may have experienced car wrecks, unexpected job losses , lost homes through natural disasters, etc.. Oftentimes we are unprepared and lack direction when these occurrences happen.
How does one make sense out of the aforementioned “in the blink of an eye” critical, and often tragic moments?
When we look to find meaning in tragedy, we must have the right perspective. We need to approach the question in a way that allows for a coherent answer, and this is only possible through a Christian worldview. Because God instills meaning into every moment and event in history, through Him we can begin to find meaning in suffering. The nature of this world lends itself to tragic events. Fortunately, God speaks to us, so that we can find not only meaning, but salvation and relief from the sufferings of the world. (Got Questions Ministries, 2018, Answer section, ¶ 1)
“Christians still suffer as we wait for Jesus to return, but none of our suffering is random or without purpose.” (Scheumann, 2013) What are some of God’s purposes in suffering? Here are the ones that came to mind or that I found in literature:
- To teach us that our decisions have consequences – “You reap what you sow.” (Galatians 6:7-9)
- For the sake of righteousness (2 Timothy 3:12)
- For learning (Psalm 119:71)
- To prepare us for a special ministry (2 Corinthians 1:3-4). “Setbacks are often setups for special ministries.” I’ll never forget hearing that statement from a radio minister years ago when I was facing trials. Nor will I ever forget the wise advice given to me by then Singles Minister of Two Rivers Baptist Church, Seton Tomyn, when I asked him why God had allowed my crushed left ankle and its aftermath. He directed me to read 2 Corinthians, Chapter 1. Since reading and realizing the truths of that Scripture and seeing how the truth lived out in my own life later, it’s not hard to find peace in any situation I face.
- The 5 R’s of suffering (Piper, 2018)
- Repentance – Suffering may be a call for repentance (Luke 13:4-5)
- Reliance – to teach us to rely more on God rather than ourselves (2 Corinthians 1:8-9)
- Righteousness – For discipline, that we may share in His righteousness. (Hebrews 12:6, 10-11)
- Reward – “Suffering is working for us a great reward in heaven that will make up for every loss here a thousandfold.” (Piper, ¶ 8) (2 Corinthians 4:17-18)
- Reminder – to remind us of Christ’s suffering on the Cross that we may share in His suffering (Philippians 3:10)
“While we understand that God has sovereign control over all things, it is important to remember that God is not the source of tragedy. The vast majority of human suffering is caused by sin, all too often the sin of other people.” (Got Questions Ministries, Answer section, ¶ 4) Such examples would include the suffering of victims of rape or assault.
No doubt, where there is suffering, there is spiritual warfare. “The book of Job shows us there can be two ways to respond to suffering: one that curses God because of suffering and one that praises God, even in the midst of suffering (Job 2:9–10). In other words, “A crisis will either make a person bitter or better. You make the choice.” My former pastor Jerry Sutton said this to me in a counseling session following the accident down the flight of stairs that left me with the crushed ankle mentioned previously. I chose the “better” route rather than becoming bitter to live a life of misery, which I have known many others to do. Do you have stories of where you were blindsided by one of those “in the blink of an eye” moments? Feel free to share them with us.
On a closing note, there is one future “blink of an eye” moment that I and other Christians anticipate:
1 Corinthians 15:52 – “in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.“
Are you ready? I am. My husband and I hope you’ll want to go too.
Got Questions Ministries (2018). Is there meaning in tragedy? Retrieved January 20, 2018 from https://www.gotquestions.org/meaning-in-tragedy.html
Piper, J. (2017, March 3). Ask Pastor John: Is God Ever Surprised? [Interview]. Retrieved January 19, 2018 from https://www.desiringgod.org/interviews/is-god-ever-surprised
Piper, J. (2018, January 31). Five purposes for suffering. Retrieved January 20, 2018 from https://www.desiringgod.org/articles/five-purposes-for-suffering
Scheumann, J. (2013). Five truths about Christian suffering. Retrieved January 20, 2018 from https://www.desiringgod.org/articles/five-truths-about-christian-suffering