Dr Thomas John Bernardo is a name that you might recognise through his brilliant work. Back in the mid to late 1880s, he established homes and education for the poor, underprivileged children, the work that still is carried on today around the world. Bernardo had a dream of becoming a Protestant medical missionary in China. From the age of 16, Bernardo moved to London to commence his medical studies. And while he was studying at the London hospital, he became aware of the poor conditions that people were living in during the Victorian era and the effects that this was having people lying and dying on the streets.
Extremely overcrowded conditions, unemployment, people dying from diseases like cholera. But life took a tragic toll for Dr Thomas Bernardo when his nine year old son, Herbert, died from diphtheria back in 1885.
You can imagine ill health and disease was common in England in those days, but it was a terribly sad time for Bernardo and his family. The history books record him saying:
“this loss has only intensified my desire to continue that work of child rescue committed to my care. And as my dear little boy lay dying in my arms and I gazed at his cold face, hundreds of other child faces appear to me through his and I resolved a fresh to consecrate myself and you to the blessed task of rescuing helpless little ones from the miseries of a neglected and sinful life.”
How interesting is this? This compassionate man did not hold a grudge against God or anybody else because of something that happened to his child, the death of his little boy. In fact, it spurred him under greater acts of selfless work for Children living in these miserable conditions.
And it’s prompted me to think when tragedy strikes or when chaos reigns, calamity turns life upside down. People ask questions, and in their anger and their grief, some of the most common questions are about God, even from people who otherwise would ignore or claim to disbelieve in God. Why does God let these bad things happen? They say if God is supposed to be loving and fair, why does he allow the hateful, unfair things to happen to good people? So In some cases, they’re blaming God for the tragedy.
Maybe you’ve heard of a small piece called ‘The Winds of Fate.’ One ship drives east, the other drives west with the self-same winds that blow. It’s the set of the sails and not the gales that tells them the way to go. And like the winds of the sea, the winds of fate as we voyage along through life, it’s the set of the soul that decides its goal and not the disaster or the strife. That was written by Ella Wheeler Wilcox.
How can we resist the urge to blame God for everything that goes wrong?
The existence of suffering in our world has occupied the minds of many people down through the centuries. Why does God allow terrible things to happen? It’s amazing how God gets blamed for every bad thing, but he’s ignored for every good thing. For example, thousands of planes fly safely every day and no one thanks God for all the planes that carried safely through the skies. One plane crashes and everyone screams at God.
People do not blame God for the good things that happen only when things go wrong. So this word ‘blame’ means to find fault. Blaming goes beyond acknowledging God’s sovereignty. It implies that “God, hey, you messed up” and there’s a fault to be found in him. When we blame God, we make ourselves his judge and jury. But mere human beings have no right to pass judgement on the Almighty God. We are his creation. He is not ours. Instead of blaming God, those who love him can face tragedy with the assurance that nothing can harm them.
God is the God of love. And yes, he allows difficult things, even suffering and death for his own higher purposes. When we desire God’s will for our lives, giving it priority over other things, he, that is God wastes nothing. No suffering, heartache, loss or pain is wasted in the lives of God’s people. He transforms our grief and loss into a platform for something better. He uses the difficulties of each day to strengthen us.
Now we acknowledge that God can intervene in any situation, and when he does not intervene in the tragedy, we should stop short of blaming him for wrongdoing.
Heavenly Father, I do realise there’s really no need to blame you when things go wrong. It’s a natural thing to do, but you have a higher purpose. Lord, may I understand what your purpose is for me today? Amen.