The tragedy of encountering God

by You Have My Word

Perhaps encountering the presence of God should be treated as a tragedy.

It should halt us and humble us, it should hold our awe-filled, near mournful attention as we come to revelation of the power of the experience. The tragedy is not that we encountered God but more so that something profound that lives within us has to die before we can fully accept the life that God offers. The “God-tragedy” does not sound like such a terrible thing but because we are intrinsically selfish and our nature is inwardly focused, it is something to mourn – and later rejoice in – when we have to lay a part of ourselves into the grave (so to speak).

Grace: the sting of death to my bare skin because I let the wrecking power of getting what I don’t deserve in. Grace: that flash of light and life before my eyes because for my sake the Saviour died – cried out while his arms stretched wide – the grip of the law was satisfied.

It is by grace that I am saved. So they say. But that can’t be right, right?

It doesn’t feel like it when in fact I ache because it’s grace that sent me to the grave – death to all-consuming self because only Jesus can make a way. I don’t want to take credit from a man that gave his life for my debt to be paid simply by saying it’s by grace that I am saved. So I will boast all the more gladly in the grave of His grace because to live is Christ and to die is gain.

So Death, give me all you’ve got! Give me flesh-eating maggots and bones that start to rot underground. Spirit nowhere to be found. Hushed tones at funerals and mourners gathered around a six foot deep tribute to the life that I lived. They raise a memory of me but the coffin goes down. Like a flag hoisted on a pole so they drop my box-shrouded body into this soon-to-be covered and tomb-stoned hole.

Grace, through faith – saved. Stop trying to make your own way. Look around. Allow your life to shake. Pray.

Tragedy makes way for new triumph. It should shake us so profoundly we cannot continue. If and when we do eventually continue, we should rise to walk forward changed – in sombre consideration of what was witnessed and experienced. We cannot leave without wanting to talk about it. We cannot leave without others seeing the impact it has had on our immediate lives. We cannot leave without thinking on it often. We cannot leave without marking this divine tragedy to look back on for years to come – to honour, to pay tribute to, to learn from, to rejoice in. Despite the devastation we confront when faced with dire tragedy, there is always an inkling of hope. When absolutely everything is destroyed, there is space to build.

Take the crucifixion of Jesus as example: absolute, all-consuming, numbing tragedy. Here, the Son of God stripped, beaten, mocked, hung on a cross to bleed out for the chosen nation to see. He died. There had to be death before there could be life – resurrection, the possibility of redemption and salvation.

There can be no more destruction if everything is destroyed (as obvious as that sounds). There can only be growth and development and life and restoration. This is hope: that when our seemingly deepest securities are shredded before us, that we would deem the horrendous hollowing out of our heart’s as an occasion and opportunity to slowly stitch what the spirit would have into ourselves. When our security is no longer in the self, we find strength. When we fully realise that we are only sustained by the Spirit of God, we relinquish easier our selfish demands.

What God-tragedy are you facing? How is it breaking and shaping you? What hope have you found to build?