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Dr Cliff Robertson, Jr

Tragedy – How do we begin to understand

ashes - remain

Let me begin by saying that my heartfelt sympathy goes out to the family of God at Emmanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina. We grieve with you.

I was asked by a friend to comment on this after she had read a response from a leading evangelist. I have to say that words are always hard to come by at times like this. Having been through the tragic loss of loved ones, I do have a grasp for what that looks and feels like – there is such a gut wrenching pain that is hard to imagine. Part of you is physically removed with a loss like this but it’s the tearing of the heart that leaves the deepest wounds. I know because I still bear those scars myself.

On the day that I lost my wife, I cried so hard that I didn’t think I would ever stop. I didn’t know how it all began or how to stop. Then a week later, the injuries from the same accident claimed my little girl. There are no words that adequately express it. Our language simply cannot do it justice and I have come to find that is really ok. I feel that if it could, then it would somehow lessen the gravity of it all. I find that true as we look upon the senseless loss of life in South Carolina.

So when I say I understand tragic loss – I truly do. But how do we, as Christians, reconcile this with a “good” God? Tough question, but one I think we are called to grapple with. If we look back over time and history, tragedy is not new. From the original fall, this world became a broken place. Not long after the original sin came the first human loss of life by murder. Could God have stopped it? If He could then why didn’t He?

It is my belief that we live in a broken world and we are told that broken things will continue to happen until Christ returns in Glory! It is then, and not until then, that every tear will be wiped away. Till we get there, God stores up our tears in a bottle.

In Isaiah 61:1, we are told that the Anointed One (Jesus Christ) will “bind up the broken-hearted….” This must mean that broken things are going to happen to break beauty-for-ashesour hearts. But why does it have to be that way – we ask??? When God gave man free-will, to choose His way or his own way, to love Him or to forsake Him, we become victims of a world that is hell-bent at killing themselves. The enemy, Satan, plants seeds and drives evil of every kind but man still has a choice. God says that when people reject Him, He gives them over to their own ways and it gets bad…. Like what happened in Charleston, South Carolina bad.

We cannot look to God and ask – Why did you do this???? with clinched fists because He didn’t do it. Man did – fallen man. Of course we can try to blame Him. Let me know how that works for you.

What we can trust is that God can take the worst of the worst and use it for good. God can use this situation to bring people to His throne of grace. I don’t know how He is going to do it but let me tell you a story. There was a young man in our church. He was an active and athletic boy that was into everything. Well one day he began to struggle and his parents took him to the doctor and they found out he had cancer. They did everything they could for him. If there was a medical option, it was explored – even the experimental stuff.

The young man continued to get worse but he didn’t seem to care because he knew where he was headed – heaven. You see, he had given his heart to Christ and heaven was his home. The witness of this young man to so many, including his own father, led them to salvation. But it didn’t stop there. When the young man finally passed away and the funeral was held, there were people who had never been to church that came to pay their last respects to this courageous young man. At this service his story was told and there wasn’t a dry eye in the place. Because of a funeral and the example of the man who was being laid to rest, many came to know Christ.

So you ask – how can God bring good out of a tragedy like cancer or this senseless murder of 9 people(I believe that number is right)? How can good come from something so horribly broken? I don’t know but I trust that God was not surprised by this and that He has a plan to bring beauty from these ashes. He has a history of doing exactly that and He will do it again.

If you are facing a personal tragedy or doubts – maybe this and other incident’s have shaken your faith to its very core – I want you to pray. I want you to ask God to help you see how He “works all things together for the good for those that love God and are called according to His purpose.” (Romans 8:28) He will, if you ask in faith and trust Him.

This post may anger some and others may not understand. That’s ok. I respect how you feel. I pray that you will consider these words and listen to this song –


Transformed by the Grace of God. Writer, Preacher, Teacher, Father, Servant and Child of the Most High! Currently Writing - The Transformation Project. It's my story of how God leaned into my pit and changed my life.

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