From Pastor Ryun Chang: Currently, our world is undergoing a crisis of enormous proportion and the worst is yet to come. Where is God in all this? I plan to offer a biblical response that may rattle many in our world (including Christians) who worship a God made in our image, that is, based on our own desires and preferences. But before doing that, I am reprinting my blog, first posted on October 31, 2014, that underscores the need of the church to be always compassionate toward those who have suffered, including many throughout the world who have already succumbed to novel coronavirus disease.
Devotional Thoughts for This Morning
[Bildad replied]: “The lamp of the wicked is snuffed out; the flame of this fire stops burning.”
“[Herod] had James, the brother of John, put to death with the sword.”
After arriving in Guatemala City in 2004, and another 3 hours of driving and then a boat ride, I reached my destination where I was to train missionary candidates. I stayed at the house of the hosting pastor who, though small in stature, was a dynamic yet polite leader overseeing a growing church. Eager to network with the hope of introducing my courses in the future, I spent time getting to know him. But something the pastor said over lunch made me stop: He said, “I’m having the most difficult time right now. My wife and two boys, on their way to join me at our annual conference, died in a bus accident.”
That kind of tragedy is supposed to happen to the wicked, according to Job’s friend Bildad, but the pastor’s wife was not any more wicked than you nor me; yet, her lamp was snuffed out as if she were! I wonder whether Bildad would have said that to Mrs. Zebedee when her son James, a top disciple of Jesus, was killed even before reaching his prime.
Following a moment of silence, I shared something with him, but it wasn’t like what the disciples asked Jesus after seeing a man blind from birth: “Who sinned, this man or his parents” (Jn. 9:2). I simply expressed how devastating it must be, how sorry I felt as a husband and father myself, and how grateful I was to witness such grace flowing from him despite the unfathomable pain. That was my heart being compassionate toward this devasted father and husband, however clumsily I expressed it.
As for Christ’s response to his men, he said, “This happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life” (9:3). While I’m unsure whether this is the reason behind the pastor’s tragedy, it does show what Jesus said about our world: “In this world you will have trouble” (Jn. 16:33).
So, we take precautions and pray for God’s protection, fully knowing that undesired events may still happen. So we live one day at a time (Matt. 6:34), thanking God for what He already has done in Christ, and doing our best to serve him. So let us be compassionate, particularly to those who have suffered. “Today” is always a good time to start!
Heavenly Father, I exalt You and praise You this morning for being a firm anchor in my life. In this tumultuous world in which we live, it is so comforting to know that I am always in the hands of my creator, provider, and sustainer. Ultimately, You are my redeemer and for that I am eternally grateful.
Bible Reading for Today: Isaiah 44
Lunch Break Study
Read Luke 13:1-5 (NIV): “Now there were some present at that time who told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices. 2 Jesus answered, ‘Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans because they suffered this way? 3 I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish. 4 Or those eighteen who died when the tower in Siloam fell on them—do you think they were more guilty than all the others living in Jerusalem? 5 I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish.’”
Rom. 12:15: “Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.”
John 11:33-6: “When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled. 34 ‘Where have you laid him?’ he asked.‘Come and see, Lord,’ they replied. 35 Jesus wept. 36 Then the Jews said, ‘See how he loved him!’”
Question to Consider
- When the people informed Jesus about what Pilate had done against certain Jews, what were these people thinking?
- What does Jesus’ reply truly reveal?
- How should we respond to people who have suffered from life’s travails?
- They thought that those whom Pilate slaughtered were, somehow, worse sinners than they and that was why that tragedy came upon them. In that sense, they were being no different than the disciples who wondered aloud why the blind man was born that way.
- The default position for all humanity is to suffer, whether through a tyrant or an accident (like the tower that fell on the people at Siloam) because the place in which we live is a fallen world. It is only by God’s grace and mercy that we are still alive. This calls for our repentance out of gratitude.
- I once witnessed an older woman rebuking a grieving mother, who just lost her son, to stop crying because that showed no faith. The elder woman got it all wrong. Our faith does not dehumanize us; we mourn with those who mourn, like Jesus did when his friend Lazarus died.
Do you know anyone who is grieving today? Would you say a prayer for them? As you conclude this day, thank God for the life that you presently enjoy. Worry about tomorrow, tomorrow.