Evangelist Steve Hill was at heaven’s doorstep after years of fighting incurable melanoma. Those closest to him were making funeral arrangements and securing a burial plot after doctors told them he had three days to live. Yet as Hill faced eternity, the man known worldwide for his fiery preaching at the Brownsville Revival in Pensacola, Fla., made a deathbed deal with God.
“Jesus,” he prayed, “they just told me that I’m going to die, and to die is gain. You and I are madly in love with each other, Jesus. You’ve been my best friend for decades. Now they say it’s over. If it’s over, that’s fine ... but You’re hard-pressed for evangelists, Jesus. There are very few evangelists out there that do what I do, and You know that. If You’ll let me live, I will win another million people to You, Lord.”
It would be impossible, in just one message, to go into all the reasons for suffering and for why God allows tragedy. Instead I want to focus on five ways that we should respond to tragedy.
I Need to Release My Grief
When you go through a tragedy, which is inevitably going to happen, the first thing you need to do is release your grief. Why? Because tragedy always creates strong emotions.
Did you feel any emotions this week? We don’t always know what to do with our feelings. If you don’t deal with them, but instead stuff them deep, your recovery from a crisis always takes far longer than it should. See some people are stuffers.
It is the single word ground into the bloody soil of every battlefield in the world.
It is buried in the rubble of every civilization, state and neighborhood that has been devastated by a natural disaster.
It lies in the ashes of the burned-up dreams of a family that just lost everything.
It can be heard in the quiet, nighttime sobbing of a little girl whose mother just succumbed to cancer.
Consider this quote:
“The greatest single cause of atheism in the world today is Christians who acknowledge Jesus with their lips, and walk out the door and deny Him by their lifestyle. That is what an unbelieving world simply finds unbelievable.”
In making this statement, I believe author and former Franciscan priest Brennan Manning hit the nail squarely on the head.
Whether by commission or omission, the church has allowed godlessness to permeate our society. We have allowed our “nation under God” to bury the Presence of God under a mountain of misinterpreted laws and legal catchphrases.
When you read the Scriptures, passion for God oozes out. Moses sought God every day. Job followed Him through the most devastating circumstances. Esther relied on Him at the risk of her own life. David chased after God, and his passion bleeds through the Psalms. The prophets craved hearing the voice of the Almighty, and the apostles joyfully followed Him to the grave.
These men and women were great leaders, yet modern influencers often overlook this trait. Too many build up their heads without minding their hearts. They read books on better business practices and attend marketing conferences, but spiritual development is often ignored. According to our research, only 11 percent of Christian leaders say “passion for God” is the leadership trait that best describes them. And yet, my experiences with Christian leaders who are most successful today tell me that spiritual ardor is integral, rather than accessory, to leading well.