Pastor Keith Williams,
High Prairie Bethel Baptist Church
In his book Trusting God Jerry Bridges writes:
“At 9:15 a.m., just after the children had settled into their first lesson on the morning of Oct. 21, 1966, a waste tip from a South Wales [coal mine] slid into the quiet mining community of Aberfan. Of all the heart-rending tragedies of that day, none was worse than the fate of the village junior school. The black slime slithered down the man-made hillside and oozed its way into the classrooms. Unable to escape, five teachers and 109 children died.
“A clergyman being interviewed by a BBC reporter at the time of [the tragedy, in response] … to the inevitable question about God [said], ‘Well … I suppose we have to admit that this is one of those occasions when the Almighty made a mistake.’
“True Christians will be appalled at the clergyman’s flippant and blasphemous statement about God. But do we not sometimes wonder, when calamity of some kind strikes us, if God has not made a mistake in our lives?”
Everyone must face the questions that come with tragedy. The predictable questions which always come: Why? Where is God? Could He have prevented this?
For the true Christian, the questions are not doubting in our confidence in God’s existence. They reflect a desire to know that God cares, that He sympathizes and even empathizes with us.
It is also true the case that we desire and need a Christ of compassion, a Christ who not only knows our pain but who feels it as well?
Matthew 9:36 offers an insight into the character of Christ: “When He saw the crowds, He had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.”
Harassed and helpless are words of despair. What Jesus saw was sheep unattended, unprotected, ravaged by wolves. They had no shepherd to guide them. They were alone, adrift. They were bleeding and half dead.
As Jesus looked around, He saw single parents, widows, widowers, orphans, the diseased, people broken, bloodied and torn by the tragedies of life. The effect upon Jesus was huge. The depth of His feeling is seen in the word compassion. It means literally “to suffer together!”
The original Bible word describes the deep inner pangs of emotion experienced in times of great grief and sorrow. A literal translation would look something like this: “Seeing the multitudes, His bowels were moved within Him.” In the Gospels this word is used only of Jesus.
Christ’s majesty must never cover over His feelings for the tragedies of our lives. Actually, it is those very intense feelings which makes His majesty worthy of our praise. The hope of every Christian is that this majestic, compassionate Christ will Himself one day wipe away every tear from the eyes of each of His own.
Hold the line.