Monday, September 12, 2016

Responding to a Tradegy - Learning from Tim Keller

The same tragedy that happened to different people can bring forth two opposite respond. One is an anger against God and people with the harboring of bitterness and hatred through life. The other is an awakening and a greater sensitiveness to God's grace and love. One brings forth greater suffering and the other a restoration and a new hope. It all depends on how we interpret and handle the tragedy. The sermon titled "Truth, Tears, Anger, and Grace" preached by Tim Keller shows us how.  Here is my learning from his sermon.
Shock, Fear, Tears and Anger

A typical reaction to a tragedy is shocked - how could it happen? Is it true? When we know it indeed happened, we are filled we fear --- what should we do? and tears --- there isn't much we can do! How? After some time, we will go into "Why". Why did it happen? Whose fault is this? Could not God prevent it? If God is so loving and powerful, how could He let this happen? We form our own story to try to explain such a tragedy so that we can manage it. How we formulate this story determines the long-term effect on our life. Tim Keller's "Truth, Tears, Anger, and Grace"  will help you. There is nothing wrong with our feeling of anger, but we must know how to channel and manage it. Direct it not at the persons but at the sickness and the destruction. Keller pointed out that John 11:33, the word G5015 translated as troubled is actually has a much stronger meaning of raged and anger. Here are some Bible translations that get it correct:

  • (CEV)  When Jesus saw that Mary and the people with her were crying, he was terribly upset
  • (ERV)  When Jesus saw Mary crying and the people with her crying too, he was very upset and deeply troubled. 
  • (JUB)  When Jesus therefore saw her weeping and the Jews also weeping who came with her, he became enraged in the Spirit and stirred himself up 
  • (Murdock)  And when Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews weeping who came with her, he was moved in spirit, and was agitated
  • (John 11:33) 耶穌見其哭、又見偕來之猶太人亦哭、心而傷、
  • 恚 anger, enraged.

The Wrong Formulations:

The following three formulations are wrong.
  1. Blame God and blame people for their lack of help. Don't be trapped in this thinking.
  2. God is punishing me for my sins.
    Keller tells us that we should not judge God's anger by the outcomes we encountered. We should judge that base purely on the Bible teaching. If we do what God says, God will be pleased and if we disobey God, God will angry. In the case of the famous suffering of Jobs, God was not angry with Jobs to send him the suffering. God was in fact rather please with Jobs that He 'boasted' to the devil. Jobs' suffering was his maturing and his testimony for God ---- he truly loves God for who God is and not because of the wealth, health, and good life. So, we must carefully reflect and re-examine our lives. If there by truly any sins of ours, then repent and change with God's enabling grace and forgiveness. If not, and we understand not, put our faith in God no matter what. In John 11, Jesus waited for Lazarus to died first before raising him up again. But His raising of Lazarus, he also sealed his death by the religious authority then.
  3. We are right and they are wrong and evil. If we have this thinking, we will let hatred takes over us and blinds our eyes to see the truth. Looking at the issues from others viewpoints and facing the objective facts may help us see better. We may need others to help us in this process. Keller cited  a quote which I requote the fuller version below:

    “Forgiveness flounders because I exclude the enemy from the community of humans even as I exclude myself from the community of sinners. But no one can be in the presence of the God of the crucified Messiah for long without overcoming this double exclusion — without transposing the enemy from the sphere of the monstrous… into the sphere of shared humanity and herself from the sphere of proud innocence into the sphere of common sinfulness. When one knows [as the cross demonstrates] that the torturer will not eternally triumph over the victim, one is free to rediscover that person’s humanity and imitate God’s love for him. And when one knows [as the cross demonstrates] that God’s love is greater than all sin, one is free to see oneself in the light of God’s justice and so rediscover one’s own sinfulness.” ― Miroslav Volf
The Grace and Truth of God:

We must put our faith in God that He will transform any tragedy to a blessing. Even Steve Jobs said that getting fired from Apple was the best thing that happened to him. We can only connect the dots of life backward. Until then, we have a faithful God who we can trust. Seek Him to get His comfort and guidance. Jesus said that the blindness was not whose faults but for the glory of God.

Below are further quotes from the sermon:
  • In the last book of The Lord of the Rings, Sam Gamgee wakes up, thinking everything is lost, and discovering instead that all his friends were around him. He cries out, “Gandalf! I thought you were dead! But then I thought I was dead! Is everything sad going to come untrue?” The answer is Yes. And the answer of the Bible is Yes. If the resurrection is true, then the answer is yes. Everything sad is going to come untrue.
  • Listen to how Dostoevsky puts it in Brothers Karamazov: “I believe like a child that suffering will be healed and made up for, that all the humiliating absurdity of human contradictions will vanish like a pitiful mirage, like the despicable fabrication of the impotent and infinitely small Euclidean mind of man, that in the world’s finale, at the moment of eternal harmony, something so precious will come to pass that it will suffice for all hearts, for the comforting of all resentments, of the atonement of all the crimes of humanity, of all the blood that they’ve shed; and it will make it not only possible to forgive but to justify what has happened.”
Be not overcome by any tragedy into bitterness and hatred but overcome any tragedy with faith in God and let Him transform it to a blessing for you and your family.

Lim Liat (c) 13 Sep 2016