Justice in Tragedy

That’s not fair! We have heard these words and we have all said these words. We as human beings put a high value on fairness. When we see injustice, it makes us very angry. One of the most difficult things to understand is why?

Jesus tells his disciples, “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world, you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33) Jesus knew that life is not fair. We will experience difficult times and we may never get the answers this side of eternity.

How should we as believers respond in these situations? I was reading an article shared on Facebook regarding the atrocities people face. What came up in the comments, as does inevitably, was the response that “everything happens for a reason” and that “it is all part of God’s plan.” It was met with some strong disapproval and I found myself cringing.

While I can understand the heart behind these sayings, and yes, in the grand scheme of things God is sovereign and in control, this is not always the most helpful response to tragedy. One writer explains that, “Sometimes bad things happen [because] we are human beings having a human experience. Pain, heartache, grief, loss, disease and death are inevitable parts of the human experience.” The apostle Paul reminds us that while we are new creations and we have been made alive in Christ, that we are still confined to dying bodies. (Romans 7:24) We are still citizens of a broken world.

Telling someone who has experienced tragedy that everything happens for a reason is not necessarily the best comfort. Too often it is said as a catch-all statement when we don’t know what else to say. Especially when we do not know that reason. God does know the reason, and we may know it in time or maybe never. Instead of trying to fix our friend’s tragedy we focus on being there with them. We cannot fix everyone’s hurt, only the Holy Spirit can do that, but we can acknowledge their pain and be there WITH them in their time of need.