Not only should we lay aside or put off sin, but we also should read our Bibles carefully in order to hear from God. Once we hear from God, we want to obey what the Bible teaches us in the midst of or after our suffering. In this way, we position ourselves to become Christlike through the suffering – which is one of God’s purposes in it.
All of us go through times of tragedy. Hard. Shocking. Life-changing. Miserable. Devastating. Tragedy strikes all of us. The question is what about After tragedy strikes?
What about after tragedy? When tragedy hits, how do you handle it? What do you do?
In Part One, we considered the context of tragedy. In that article, we helped set up the tragedy of first century Christians who initially lived in Jerusalem. These Christians, under persecution, waited frustratingly upon the return of Jesus Christ. The angel had promised. Everything seemed to have been going so well until Peter and John had been imprisoned twice and Stephen martyred. After this, all the Christians began running for their lives. They wander about in very small groups. They have very little money or food. Rich people are abusing them in various ways as they try to make enough money to live.
Although it is beyond the scope of this two-part article to give you every way you should respond to tragedy, please allow me now in Part Two to help you get in the right position to handle it. Maintaining your spiritual stability in the midst of tragedy and after tragedy strikes is critical for your overall response to it.
The Dilemma After Tragedy Strikes
As we explained, the first Christians, to whom Pastor James writes who are scattered across the near ancient Middle East, needed help responding to their personal tragedy. With life upended, these followers of Christ were not responding well to their tragedy. Some were angry at the rich people who oppressed them. Others were confused, discontent, and suffering under the relentless burden of disappointment in their circumstances. Some were angry at God and accusing Him for tempting them to sin, or worse yet, causing them to sin. In many ways, they were hopeless.
These first century Christians were much like today’s Christians whenever we work our way through a tragedy. They each suffered on their own pathway consisting of a variety of intermixed responses. Confusion. Disappointment. Discontentment. Disillusionment. Anger. Blame shifting. Hopeless.
How does their loving pastor help them respond? What position does he put them in in order to respond well? How does he help them to overcome their tragedy rather than be overcome by it? How does he position them for victory in the midst of and after tragedy?
The Strongest Position to Handle Tragedy
Pastor James explains the purpose of suffering, how to identify our own sin in the midst of it, and the strongest position to handle it. In an abbreviated way, let me summarize the first two issues and explain in some detail the strongest position to handle tragedy.
Regarding the purpose of suffering, James explains that God never allows suffering providentially in our lives without purpose in it. Although there may be many things God accomplishes through our suffering, we can know for sure that He intends through our suffering for us to grow in our spiritual maturity. The pressure of suffering functions to develop us toward Christlikeness (cf., James 1:2-5, 17-18). As followers of Jesus undergo various pressured-filled situations, God uses the totality of that process to help us become complete or mature as disciples of Jesus. As we go through the pressure, one of the purposes of the suffering is spiritual growth.
Knowing that we often do not respond perfectly in the midst of suffering, Pastor James provides an explanation for our sinning while we undergo various pressures. He explains that we respond sinfully to our pressure whenever something we desire in the midst of the pressure controls our hearts in the suffering more than honoring God through the suffering. In other words, we sin because something we want possesses functional control over our inner man as we bear the weight of our suffering (cf., James 1:13-18).
With these things in mind, Pastor James then addresses our strongest position to handle our personal trials and tragedies well. He highlights four strategies or steps to maintain the strongest position to respond well in and through suffering.
Your Anger Only Produces More Suffering
Pastor James initially addresses our whole-person response of judgment to our pressure or tragedy – our anger.