Triumphing Over Tragedy

Published by DonDavidson on

Jeremiah 17:7-8 says:

Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord,
And whose trust is the Lord.
For he will be like a tree planted by the water
That extends its roots by a stream,
And does not fear when the heat comes;
But its leaves will be green,
And it will not be anxious in a year of drought,
Nor cease to yield fruit.

So those who trust in the Lord are like a tree whose leaves are always green and which is constantly bearing fruit. Is Jeremiah saying that life is always wonderful for God’s people?

No, Jeremiah knew better. He had a tough life. He was still quite young when God called him to be a prophet. (Jeremiah 1:7) Unlike Isaiah, Jeremiah didn’t volunteer for this position. God didn’t give him a choice, for Jeremiah 1:5 says that God chose him for this mission before he was even born.

Jeremiah was a prophet for about 40 years, from the last 18 years of the reign of Josiah, the last good king of Judah, until the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple in about 586 B.C.

Jeremiah’s very first prophecy foretold that the Babylonians would besiege and destroy Jerusalem, and take the people into exile in Babylon, all because of the people’s persistent wickedness, idolatry, and rebellion against the Lord.

Jeremiah was witness to at least three deportations of Israelites to Babylon: the first in about 605 B.C., which included King Jehoiakim and many children of wealthy Jews, including Daniel the prophet; another in about 597 B.C. when 10,000 more people were taken to Babylon; and the last in about 586 B.C., when Jerusalem and the Temple were destroyed and most of the remaining Israelites were deported.

Because Jeremiah’s message from the Lord was unpopular, he was often regarded as a traitor. He was arrested, beaten, and imprisoned. On one occasion, he was lowered into a muddy cistern where he certainly would have died but for the efforts of an Ethiopian eunuch who rescued him.

If we revisit Jeremiah 17:8, quoted above, we see that the “tree planted by the water” is not protected from the fierce heat and drought—but it is prepared for it. In the same way, the person who trusts in the Lord is not exempt from tragedy, but we are ready for it. We can weather the storm because we have our faith to fall back on. We have our Lord to lean on for strength.

In a letter to a friend who had just been diagnosed with a serious illness, C.S. Lewis gave four suggestions for dealing with tragedy:

1.      Be honest with people. That way they can give you the support you need and you can face the tragedy together. And I would add, be honest with yourself and with God.

2.      Live one day at a time. This is what Jesus said in Matthew 6:34: “So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”

3.      Don’t think of it as something sent by God. God allows bad things to happen, but he rarely sends them. And you certainly should not think of a tragedy as being punishment from God. That is Jesus’ point in Luke 13:1-4.

4.      Reach out to others.  You’re not the only one tragedy has ever impacted. So reach out to others for mutual support.  

And I will add one of my own: constantly remind yourself that we have something else to fall back on—hope. No matter what may happen to us or to those we love, we have hope that this life is not all there is. Hope that we will be welcomed in Heaven by a Father who loves us and a Friend who gave his life to get us in the door.

When we get to Heaven, these earthly tragedies will be forgotten. And that gives us hope to triumph over any tragedy in this life.


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