Experiencing God’s Goodness In The Midst Of Tragedy

Experiencing God’s Goodness In The Midst Of Tragedy

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 I live outside of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Favelas surround us. Favelas are areas controlled by drug lords, where even the police are often afraid to enter.

The last few weeks have felt like we were in the middle of a war. We often hear of people dying. We and several neighbors have had bullets enter our houses. Our family has been threatened. These trials have brought a renewed focus on certain thoughts and scriptures. I have been challenged to grow in the Lord, and I plan to share some more about these things in the upcoming weeks.

 Losing A Child To Kidnapping and Murder

 A few months ago I met a large family who runs a snack bar a few blocks away from our house. A few people were healed there, and we became friends. I’ve gone back several times to hang out and drink their delicious soup, and the Lord has healed more family members on those visits.

Two weeks ago I stopped by again. They told me the horrible news. A little girl in their family had been kidnapped, and had just died the day before in the hospital from a bullet wound. There were no tears, just sadness.

I was a bit shocked. We hear of such things quite regularly in Rio De Janeiro, but this was my friends! I didn’t know what to say. My friend agreed. There were no words. And I knew that they had already lost other family members in traumatic ways.

In the last few years I’ve experienced so much stress and difficulty that sometimes I just have to keep going. I think my friends felt the same way. It hurt to lose a child. But they have just been struggling for survival for so long, that it felt like there was little time for tears. We just have to keep going…


 In the past, I faced times of great personal difficulty and loss and I found that laying hands on the sick and seeing them healed helped me tremendously. Seeing what the Holy Spirit did gave me joy and kept me from falling into despair and self-pity. And so I learned very well that no matter what happens, the Holy Spirit is always working. He is always looking for ways to express his love to people.

So as I was leaving the snack bar, I saw a young lady with a knee brace. She had a cyst in her knee and lots of pain. I spoke, and all the pain left. She was quite surprised. The cyst was smaller, and I told her that I expected it to soon be completely gone. The next week, when I visited the snack bar again, my friend told me of the girl’s healing. I hadn’t realized it, but she was also another extended family member.

God’s Perspective

I have seen the way that many people react in the face of such pain. Others might feel that it would be almost disrespectful to think of laying hands on someone’s knee after hearing such horrible news. How could I…?

Others would be too overwhelmed by the pain to even think of ministering healing to someone. But the Father is always working. Tragedy breaks His heart as well. God is looking for ways to express his love, and he is looking for us to partner with him in loving people.

Experiences like this have shown me how different God’s perspective is sometimes than ours. There have been times that I was so focused on my troubles and so introspective that I wasn’t even considering what the Father wanted to do. When I saw from God’s perspective, I was surprised.

Our View Of God In Tragedy

 Many people have their view of God shattered in tragedies. They have trouble believing and understanding the Heavenly Father’s love.

“The Shack” is a book that has helped many people to understand the fact that God is not the author of evil, but that the Holy Spirit is constantly working redemptively. Evil is the result of men’s choices, not of God’s doing. C.S. Lewis wrote the following:

God created things which had free will. That means creatures which can go either wrong or right. Some people think they can imagine a creature which was free but had no possibility of going wrong; I cannot. If a thing is free to be good it is also free to be bad. And free will is what has made evil possible. Why, then, did God give them free will? Because free will, though it makes evil possible, is also the only thing that makes possible any love or goodness or joy worth having. A world of automata—of creatures that worked like machines—would hardly be worth creating. The happiness which God designs for His higher creatures is the happiness of being freely, voluntarily united to Him and to each other in an ecstasy of love and delight compared with which the most rapturous love between a man and a woman on this earth is mere milk and water. And for that they must be free. [1]

Listen to Jesus words:

Luke 12:6-7 (NRSV) Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten in God’s sight. But even the hairs of your head are all counted. Do not be afraid; you are of more value than many sparrows.

God continues to care about the smallest details of our lives. We must not let tragedy rob us of understanding the Father’s love. God the Father had nothing to do with the kidnapping of the little girl, and he still cared about healing the cyst on the young lady’s knee.

In The Hiding Place Corrie Ten Boom wrote of miracles that showed the Father’s love and care in even little things, while they were in a concentration camp. There was suffering all around, caused by men’s evil. And yet the Lord multiplied vitamin drops for them so that they didn’t run out! Just as Corrie and Betsie Ten Boom did, we can learn to rejoice when we see the Lord’s hand even in things that might seem little, and in the face of great suffering.

I once saw a lady in a wheelchair who received ministry. She was not healed at that time. Now, I am still assured that Father’s will was to heal her, since Jesus healed all who came to him. (Matthew 4:23) We as the church are growing in learning to partner with what the Father is doing. As Hebrews says, all things have been placed under our feet. Yet when we don’t see all things under our feet, we continue to look to Jesus. (Hebrews 2:6-9)

Even though this woman was still in a wheelchair, some fillings in her teeth turned to gold! This was a gift that showed the Father’s love for her. She was weeping, so touched by the Lord’s goodness! God’s care for us is intimate and personal. He has time for us. He isn’t bothered by even the smallest of our requests.

You may have experienced some things that you still cannot understand. Yet I have learned that even if there are things that we do not yet understand, we cannot let them keep us from understanding the Father’s love for us. I pray that the Holy Spirit would open the eyes of your heart so that you would begin to comprehend the love of God. His presence and His goodness is a constant!

Romans 8:35-39 (NRSV) Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?  As it is written,

“For your sake we are being killed all day long;
    we are accounted as sheep to be slaughtered.”

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers,  nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

[1] C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity (1952; Harper Collins: 2001) 47-48

If you liked this post, you may want to check out my Heaven Now book trilogy. It contains many similar insights into understanding simple gospel truths and exercising heaven’s dominion on earth. It’s also filled with testimonies of what happened when I put these truths into practice. I’m sure these books will encourage you and help you learn to walk as a heavenly person. Not only that, but your purchase supports our missionary work in Brazil and in every other place we go!

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2 comments on “Experiencing God’s Goodness In The Midst Of Tragedy
  1. Ben Nelson says:

    Good word Jonathan. This truth struck me a few years back when i was ministering to someone who had been through some really bad stuff. The temptation was to say “Where was God?” and the answer came to me, he was there being persecuted and crushed this my friend – not abandoning him. Jesus says to Paul – why do you persecute me – not why do you persecute Stephen. Jesus say in Matt 25, when you do it to the least of these, you do it to Me. I wrote about it here – http://anotherredletterday.com/2013/07/31/where-was-jesus-in-your-worst-moment/


    • Jonathan says:

      Thanks Ben, good point. Jesus came in the flesh-as once of us. Stephen as he was being stoned looked into heaven and saw the glory of God so that his face was radiant. May we come to have such an awareness of God’s glory that even in hard times, our faces will become radiant with the glory of the Lord.