This is the message I shared at the church about the 12 football team and their coach trapped in Tham Luang Cave. I shared this message on the first of July, the eighth day that the team hadn’t found yet. Everyone was sad and expecting the worst. Somehow, deep in my heart I believed that they were still alive and safe inside the cave. As you already know, they had been found on the next day and eventually successfully rescued.
Last Sunday, we woke up with the news about the 12 children and their coach trapped inside Tham Luang Cave. The rescue efforts have been going on for several days now. We are amazed on how many people, organizations and companies who are willing to help. Tragedy likes this draws the best from the people. It also shows that in doing good we have unity. We hope and pray that all the children are alive and safe.
Perhaps some of us personally know some of the children. We happen to know one of the boys from Mae Sai Grace Church and three of our children are classmates and friends to four of them.
We are praying and hoping that they can be rescued sooner than later. We pray for the family of the children and we pray for the people who are doing the rescue.
As a believer, how do we deal with tragedy like this?
What can we learn from tragedy?
We learn that God is in control
Perhaps I should say here that we are reminded that God is in control.
There are times when we are outside and a strong wind blows, the clouds get dark, lightning and thunders roar, and heavy rain falls. What is the first thing that we normally do? We get inside into some shelter. We go inside our homes, we closed all the windows and we sit back, watch TV or we go to bed and take a nap that you get to take when it’s raining outside.
However, what happens when the storm is so strong that destroys our house? The storm is so strong that it rips the roof off and the rain get inside our house? Then we come to realize that the shelter we think can protect us is not so safe after all.
We see, there is a shelter that we can find refuge that can withstand any storm we face, not built by human and is not made with bricks and cement. We can read in Psalm 46 verse 1-7 that:
1 God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. 2 Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, 3 though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging. 7 The LORD Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.
Here we learn that God alone is the shelter that we should find refuge during the storms of life. No matter what we face in life, we can be assured that God is in control. When we are facing tragedy or when we are worried that someone close to us is facing tragedy, we can pray with confidence and trust God completely because He is in control.
We learn just how important a relationship with God is!
When tragedy happens, we will see two groups of people.
One group of people are those who try to rescue people. They worked hard and sacrifice themselves to save others. We appreciate what these people are doing. They are good people.
Second there are group of people will take advantage of the situation and would try to gain something for themselves. In fact, the police announced that there are people who are asking for donations and giving their bank accounts. But the police warned that nobody should give cash donations. These people are not doing good.
We are reminded here that Satan can use people to do bad things. At the same time, God can use people to do good things this time of tragedy. But I believe that what is important is that every people, good and bad, need Jesus Christ.
In Luke chapter 13, Jesus used a tragedy to make this point. A tower in Siloam collapsed and 18 people had died. Many people thought that those who died are bigger sinners than everyone else and that God was punishing them.
Jesus taught that it doesn’t matter how small or big their sins. They were all equally guilty and that if the people don’t repent they are going to die too. He reminds them that in the midst of tragedy we are all going to face death someday and we need to repent and turn our lives to God.
We don’t know when tragedy will happen to us, but I believe the most important truth that will help us to get through suffering and tragedy is that we know and have a personal relationship with our Lord Jesus Christ.
We learn that we will really never know “Why?”
When tragedy happens, the first question we ask is “why?” In this life, we may never know the “whys” of everything, especially what happened to the 12 boys and their coach. If we will have a chance to talk with people who are ask, why did God let this happen? Why these 13 people have to suffer? We can honestly tell them that we don’t always know the answer to the question “why?”
But there is one important truth that we know. We can encourage them that God is our shelter that will be with them during and will bring them through tragedy. We live in imperfect world, sickness and accidents happen. This isn’t heaven and we cannot expect that our lives here will be like heaven.
One thing we do know is that bad things happen in this fallen world. In a world full of sin, bad things are going to happen. That’s why we must hold on so desperately to the only one that can rescue us from sin. That is Jesus Christ.
The worst tragedy has nothing to do in this world. The greatest tragedy is that many people in this world has no relationship with God. We know how to help them, yet many times we don’t do anything about it.
If anybody of us is given a chance to meet these children, we hope we can let them know about God and how God loves them that His son died on the cross for their sins. We hope we can still have a chance to pray for them and love them when all this is over.
What can we do in tragedy?
In Nehemiah chapter 1 verses 3 to 4:
3 They said to me, “Those who survived the exile and are back in the province are in great trouble and disgrace. The wall of Jerusalem is broken down, and its gates have been burned with fire. “4 When I heard these things, I sat down and wept. For some days I mourned and fasted and prayed before the God of heaven.
If we will read further, we see this wonderful prayer of Nehemiah, which deserves more and closer study than we can give it this morning. We don’t have the time to study about Nehemiah’s prayer here, but we know for sure that he sat down, wept and prayed for those people who were experiencing tragedy. What can we do in tragedy?
The first thing that we must do is pray.
As Christian, we neglect our duty when we fail to pray to pray for the people who are hurting and suffering. This was Nehemiah’s first and most natural response to the tragedy he was facing. He went to prayer. When people are facing tragedy, when we ourselves are facing tragedy, we must pray. Why?
Remember that first point we said a while ago, that we learn from tragedy that God is in control. We can pray and trust God because he is in control.
I know everyone wants to go to Tham Luang and volunteer to help. We want to do something. But at this point in time, the best help that we can do is not to go there and be a distraction and hindrance to the people who are doing their best to help rescue the children.
However, we can continue to pray that God that although they haven’t been found yet, pray that God will sustain the children, that they are still alive and safe. We can also continue praying for the children, their family and the people who sacrifice to save the children.
The second thing we can do is give
When a tragedy happens, there will always people who will be in need. We can do it individually or we can give through the church. I know some of us have already given. As I think about this tragedy, the 13 people are not the only one who are in need right now. There are many people who are sacrificing their time and work to help. They also need help.
We praise the Lord that the Christian community and churches in Mae Sai are doing their part to help. But we give not to attract attention to ourselves, we give because people are in need.
The third thing we can do is help
There are people facing personal tragedy around us all the time. It is just that their tragedy doesn’t make the news. They may have lost a loved one or are in need of food or clothing. Some lost their job, or their spouse left them. We personally know stories like this.
There are people hurting all around us every single day, yet we get so busy and don’t realize it. During times of tragedy, our heart opens up to people who are hurting. Especially now that we know some people who now are in tragedy. Now we suddenly get unselfish and we start wanting to help.
We are praying that this tragedy will be over. And when it is over, we hope that as a church we can continue to help these 13 people and their families. Not only through giving them material things but to help them overcome their bad experience by helping them emotionally, psychologically and I believe the most important is that we may be able to help them spiritually.
As I said, there are people around us who have personal tragedy that do not make the news. They may be our neighbors, our friends, maybe even in our family, and maybe in our church.
This a challenge for us, let us help people who are experiencing difficulties in their lives.