When God lets terrible things happen (1 Samuel 22)

In my very last semester of college, the entire campus came together in support of one girl.

She was in the hospital, fighting a fierce battle with lupus.

There were banners, special prayer services, Facebook posts, and most of all, hope.

I remember feeling confident. This young woman was one of the sweetest, brightest people on campus. Of course God would save her. And how amazing would it be for an entire campus to see its prayer answered? Our faith in God would only get stronger.

For sure, a miracle was about to happen.

And then one Saturday morning we woke up to the news that the girl had passed away.

God had not done what we had asked Him. He had dropped the ball. He had allowed something terrible to happen.

And we were all left with the question: why?

A bloodbath

1 Samuel 22 details another tragic event.

While David is making do in the wilderness, hidden from the man who wants to kill him, that same man paces his palace, paranoid and furious.

He has just found out that his son is more loyal to David than to his own father. He has no idea where David is or when he might strike next. He’s scared.

So when one of his servants reports to him that David visited a priest and received supplies, kindness, and prayer, Saul loses his mind.

And the results are fatal. He has every single priest killed, and their wives, and their children. Eighty-five people die because of one paranoid man.

Imagine the shock, the sorrow, the fear over what the king might do next.

Imagine the confusion. Why didn’t God step in? Why didn’t God stop Saul? Why didn’t He protect the priests, of all people?


The evidence of things not seen

We don’t get any insight into what the Israelite nation went through after this tragedy.

We don’t hear their conversations, the questions they asked God, or the answers He gave them.

What we do see is the aftermath. We see a restoration.

The person who suffered the most in all this, who lost the most, and who endured the most is a man named Abiathar. He was one of the survivors.

And after seeing his loved ones brutally slaughtered, he ran to David in the wilderness, because he knew he’d be safe there.

You’d think Abiathar would turn into a vigilante, thirsty for revenge. Or maybe he would sink into a deep depression, and not come out for weeks, months.

Maybe some of those things happened. Maybe none of those things happened. But one thing happened for sure – Abiathar put his trust back in God. He went on to serve God as priest, first alongside David the fugitive, and then alongside David the king.

Why? Why did Abiathar forgive God? Why wasn’t he angrier? Why didn’t he let go of his faith forever?

I wish we could hear it from Abiathar himself, but the best conclusion I can come up with is that there must be something about the God he served. There must have been something strong, beautiful, everlasting that rooted Abiathar’s heart to God’s.

And if it was there then, then it must be here now.

“I will be with you during tragedy.”

When that young woman passed away from lupus, I remember one of my friends texting me angrily. He was furious with God for letting it happen. He didn’t understand why He couldn’t have done one simple thing: let her see another day.

I didn’t know what to say to him. What I did say might have been more harmful than helpful. But the one thing I knew for sure to do was pray that God would be with him, and the sister of the girl who died, and her father, and all of us.

Because even when mourning hearts cannot understand and feeble words cannot bring comfort, our all-powerful, all-loving Savior can bring peace. One of my favorite verses says “I the Lord…will hold thine hand”. God will hold us and cry with us and listen to our anger and hear our confusion. We may not know why God allows terrible things to happen, but we can always know that He won’t leave us alone during them.

It is probably not comfort enough. The questions still linger. The anger still fights at the back of our mind. And yet, God is still here in the midst of it. And He always will be.

What do you think? What do you do when terrible things happen?

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