Sound theology–a clear understanding of God and His Word–are bedrock foundations that answer every significant question of human existence. However, that does not mean that when tragedy strikes we should tell someone to “take two verses and call me in the morning.”
If you look at the circumstances of suffering Job in the Bible, the best thing his friends did after calamity struck and his life was in shambles was to sit and be silent with him for 7 days. After that they opened their mouths and began to ponder what secret sin he had committed for God to punish him as they presumed He had. Oh if only they had never stayed after day 7!!
Ideally, God has designed for us to read His word, pray, grow close to Him in obedience to what He shows us, and for ministers of the Gospel to instruct us in sound theology so that we can have a firm foundation when tragedy strikes. Unfortunately, many who claim to be Christians in America have lost all of that and therefore are very confused and unprepared when it happens. Worse yet, even regularly-attending church-goers fall into godless superstitions, omens, and cliches–even though they are far too churched to call it for what it is in such pagan terms.
This is why every person who considers himself to be a Christian should be reading their Bible. How can we claim to know God and ignore the only Book he has given us?! Everything we need is in it, and yet we ignore it. Crazy!
If we read it, we would know for instance that in Jesus said, “In this world you will have tribulation, but be of good cheer for I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33) Or that God inspired Peter to write to suffering Christians that “though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials” (1 Peter 1:7) and those trials are to strengthen their faith in trusting God (1 Peter 1:8). Just there we see “if necessary”–so we know that God controls everything and if He deems it necessary, He will allow (not cause, but allow) trials and hardships in our lives. But we can rest in the other things the Bible teaches us about the love and tender mercy of God to put it all together and trust Him who, in His sovereignty, allows these things.
Don’t forget, all the knowledge in the world is useless if you don’t apply it there in the dark valley. Now is the time to pray with Habakkuk,
“Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the LORD; I will take joy in the God of my salvation” (Hab 3:17,18).
Cultivate this attitude now and ask the Lord to remind you of it when you need it most.
It’s hard not to say to someone “Well, see, the Bible says…” right when tragedy strikes. We mean well, but unless they ask, it isn’t the time. The Bible has much to say about suffering and trials–that we go through them also just so that we can learn to comfort others (2 Corinthians 1), for another example. There is great comfort in the Scriptures (yikes! just read the Psalms–lots of comfort there); but again we have to be sensitive to the person not just the theological facts…and that is where praying with someone or visiting with them and listening in silent, deep empathy to their heart’s lament can be powerful means of grace to love and care for them in their hour of crushing need.
To provide some questions for personal examination, let me ask: How are you doing with immersing yourself in God’s Word to prepare for the inevitable dark days? How are you preparing yourself for the tribulations of life promised by the Savior? How are you fortifying your family? If you are a pastor, deacon, or Sunday school teacher, how are you nurturing your Master’s flock?