Element of acceptance #2: The willingness to tolerate tragedy (in both a global and personal sense) without trying to pinpoint its source
Can I believe that God loves me even when it seems that we’re not going to get something that we desperately want (and something that is legitimately good, at that!)? That is the challenge. Brittany and I have had to wrestle deeply with this question over the past few years.
So often people try to take this a few steps further, saying things like: God has something better in mind. God isn’t giving you things because of your sin. God has his own timing and he’s teaching you patience. God’s withholding something from you so that your testimony will be better later.
I don’t particularly care for any of those explanations because they’re all suggesting the same thing: Things happen because God is either 1. Rewarding us 2. Punishing us or 3. Teaching us (and the “teaching” in this case usually involves some kind of withholding that feels an awful lot like punishment). The book of Job strikes down all three of these possibilities, but they still circulate widely because us humans are silly dumb-dumb’s who take a while to learn difficult things.
Faith, we falsely believe, should give us a framework for understanding. It simply does not and cannot do that because faith is not primarily about us. Faith is about God. Explanations are about our anxiety, not about God’s activity. Acceptance demands that we go beyond pat answers. It asks us to consider that tragedy happens in the world, and it happens often, and it may have nothing to do with our sin and it may have nothing to do with God’s desire to punish, reward, or teach. Sometimes it just happens because the world is a chaotic kind of place to live.
We do not know the source of tragedy. We can tolerate the fact that tragedy happens without trying to pretend that tragedy is already redeemed. There’s plenty of redemption ahead. Not all of it is here just yet. Tolerating tragedy means living in tension. Sometimes, that’s just what we’re called to do.