When Joy Becomes Tragedy


God Dwells In Our Deepest Pain

by Eric Elkin

Oh, that I could know how to find him—come to his dwelling place; I would lay out my case before him, fill my mouth with arguments,
— Job 23:3ff

It was supposed to be a day of celebration. A close-knit group of family and friends were coming together to celebrate a birthday. The birthday girl, Amy, and her husband, Axel, planned a trip to a popular brewery in Cooperstown, NY. The rolling foothills of upstate New York are magical this time of year, full of beautiful fall colors.

The roads through these foothills can be challenging to navigate. So Amy and Axel rented a limo to provide safe travel. The limo would allow everyone in the group to enjoy the brewery. All the best-laid plans and the promise of celebration turned tragic in the blink of an eye.

The oversized limo carrying the group approached an intersection known to be dangerous to local residents. The limo driver failed to stop the vehicle. It struck another car and two pedestrians. The limo went crashing through a guardrail before coming to a halt in a shallow ravine. The hope of a joy-filled day turned into one of the deadliest road accidents in U.S. history.

The victims in this accident were friends, brothers, sisters, husbands, and wives. They were parents of children and children of parents. Their deaths will leave a lifelong wound in the hearts of the surviving family and friends. Their loss will be felt in schools, workplaces, and communities for years to come.

We usually talk about God as the all-powerful, almighty God on whom we depend completely. But God wanted to become the all-powerless, all-vulnerable God who completely depends on us. How can we be afraid of a God who wants to be “God-with-us” and needs us to become “Us-with-God”?
— Henri Nouwen

Pending an investigation into the driver, the victims were all blameless. They took the necessary precautions. Planned out the details to make sure the day was safe and fun. When the results of the inquiries into the accident are complete, what will happen with the results?

Where do these wounded families go to plead their case? Who will hear their arguments to restore their lives back to the joy they once knew? No human court can compensate for this kind of grief. I imagine, like Job, the surviving loved ones will want to argue this case with God. Why would God punish them so?

The problem is God is often hard to find and all too often silent. It is at times like this we begin to see Job is more a part of our life than we ever imagined. He is the personification of every wounded soul who feels wrongly struck by tragedy. His words give voice to the pain of those who feel abandoned by God.

However, Job also helps us see Jesus in a different light. Not the Jesus of popular culture, but the one who took the pain of the world on to a cross and was abandoned there. Abandoned so God would understand the depth of human suffering and in the silence of that event turn death into life.

The wounded do not need to look for God’s dwelling place because God dwells in our grief. Listening to our anger, wiping away our tears and speaking words of hope into even the most wounded hearts. The hope we receive is that tragedy is not the final story, nor is death the final outcome. There is life and new life to be shared. 

Click to read Job 23: 1-17

Reflection Questions:

  • When have you felt abandoned by God?

  • Where have you been surprised by the presence of God?

  • How can the cross of Christ help you find hope in the midst of tragedy? 

  • When have you experienced new life?

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