Tragedy and Faith

Every tragedy is like a defibrillator to faith, something that shocks my system and leaves me needing to work out the circuits all over again, to try to reconnect and return to a healthy rhythm.  It resurrects the same doubts and questions about good and evil, faith and fear, that humankind has battled for all of time. 

Tragedy is a jolt out of apathy that slingshots me right back into the complex myre: What do I believe?  Do I believe?  How now shall I live? 

I wrestle and squirm a while until I’m once more preoccupied with and consumed by my own small life, abandoning the big and unanswerable questions until the next time something shocks me out of my complacency, and again I question.

God?

God?! 

God! 

God.

Sometimes I never get past the question.  Sometimes I advance to unbelief and then fall back into the arms of grace.  Sometimes I slip from belief to hate to disbelief to mercy to love and back again to hate, over and over.  And all of it is okay because there is a wrestling, because there is a questioning.  What is faith without doubt?  What is hope without the unseen?  What is there to believe if the truth is always right in front of me, within my reach and easy to grasp? 

Tragedy is a defibrillator that scares up the same fears and doubts so that we can be honest about our uncertainties.  It is an opportunity to see God, who is and will always be mysterious and out of reach and yet makes himself accessible and intimate in these moments. Or maybe he doesn’t.  Maybe he is silent and we have to wrestle with that, too.  Maybe we just don’t see him because we don’t know how to see, or maybe we’re blind for this time and unable to see past grief, or anger, or pain. 

Mercy is the time given for us to process and to run and to yell and to heal and finally, to turn and keep walking.

Published by Sarah M. Wells

Sarah M. Wells is the author of Between the Heron and the Moss (2020), The Family Bible Devotional: Stories from the Bible to Help Kids and Parents Engage and Love Scripture (2018), Pruning Burning Bushes (2012), and a chapbook of poems, Acquiesce, winner of the 2008 Starting Gate Award through Finishing Line Press (2009). My memoir, American Honey: A Field Guide to Resisting Temptation, and the second volume of devotionals, The Family Bible Devotional: Stories from the Gospels to Help Kids and Parents Love God and Love Others, will be released in 2022. Sarah's work has been honored with four Pushcart Prize nominations, and her essays have appeared in the notable essays list in the Best American Essays 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2017, and 2018. Sarah is the recipient of a 2018 Individual Excellence Award from the Ohio Arts Council. She resides in Ashland, Ohio with her husband and three children.

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