Every year, there are wildfires around the world. In 2012, and again in 2013, several fires devastated commercial and residential areas in the state of Colorado. Thousands of people were forced to evacuate their homes, and hundreds of people later learned their homes had burned. In times like these, it can be emotionally overwhelming and difficult to understand. But the Bible tells us our God is powerful; His love and faithfulness never change, even when tragedy strikes. Proverbs 3:5-6 is a great comfort: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.”
As human beings, we are limited in our understanding of God. He always has and will exist, He is all-knowing, He is everywhere at once, and He is all-powerful. Because we don’t share those qualities with God, we can never understand all about what He is doing. But Romans 8:28 says, “We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” We can’t see the bigger picture of how God is doing that—it’s difficult for us to see any good coming from a wildfire, for example. Sometimes God plainly reveals how He has used a tragedy to bless His people or glorify His name, but other times it seems like we’ll never see how He is working for our good. Just as Job responded with faith in the Lord, we, too, can say, “Though he slay me, I will hope in him” (Job 13:15), and, “The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised” (Job 1:21). Because we know God is good, we know that He is trustworthy, even when the devastation comes. God gives meaning to every moment, even when we are unaware of that meaning.
Some people wonder why God would let bad things happen to good people. Surely no person deserves to lose his or her house in a fire, we say. While God loves us and is merciful, we must remember that none of us are actually “good,” compared to God’s perfection. According to Romans 3:23, we all have sinned and fallen short of God’s glory. The punishment for sin is death, which is eternal separation from God in hell. The remedy for this separation from God is the substitutionary death of Jesus on the cross. Jesus took the penalty of our sins upon Himself and reconciled us to God (Ephesians 2:16). Faith in Jesus frees us from the punishment for our sins. Romans 3:24 says we “are justified freely by [God’s] grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.” If we argue that we are “good” and don’t deserve tragedy, then we are forgetting that we are sinners living in a world affected by the sin of everyone else. We can receive personal forgiveness and salvation, but we remain in an imperfect world full of pain and sadness until Jesus returns (John 16:33; Romans 8:18-25; Titus 2:13).
There are many ways God may choose to work through a tragedy such as a fire. God may be testing our trust in Him, bringing someone to saving faith in Jesus, growing our relationship with Him, increasing our ability to reflect His love, or preparing us for future service. God might have more work to do in us before He is ready to do work through us. Read these verses for more thoughts on suffering and tragedy: Hebrews 12:4-13; James 1:2-3; 1 Peter 1:7; Genesis 50:19-21; and 1 Thessalonians 4:3-7.
God truly cares when we face tragedy. Matthew 10:29-31 tells us that He knows when a sparrow falls; if He cares for the birds, then we can be certain He cares for us! Jesus, the Son of God, experienced humanity (Hebrews 2:14) and understands our weaknesses and temptations (Hebrews 4:15), so we can be sure that God feels the ache of our tragedies and wants to sustain us through them. Second Corinthians 1:4-5 says that the Lord “comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also abounds through Christ.” We can find comfort in the Lord and share that solace with others who also face tragedy, as we are able.