One year ago, the lives of five families went into chaos. The people who loved, raised and cherished Austin Anderson, Stephen Luth, Garrett Coble, Luke Sheets and my own Hannah were shaken to the very core when we learned that the five of them had been in a plane crash in Kansas.
After discovering that Hannah was the sole survivor and that the four other men who loved God had perished, life for me began to get more complex. Through all the months of Hannah’s recovery—the operations and physical therapy and adjusting to her new world—the question that persists and is still not answered is “Why?”
Why would God allow such a seemingly senseless tragedy? Why would He allow these four young men, who were passionate about serving Him, to die? Why would He allow my daughter to endure such pain physically, emotionally and mentally?
Why do bad things happen to good people?
We’re not alone in that question. Every day, day after day, year after year, many good people experience tragedies. Trying to resolve that question initially, and presently, has led to a few discoveries that I want to share with you today.
First of all, instead of focusing on what I don’t know (“I don’t know why this happened, it doesn’t make sense to me, I don’t like it”), I focus on what I do know: I know God is good. I know He loves me. I know He sent His son Jesus to die. I know Jesus rose again, and I know Jesus is coming back again one day.
Somehow, focusing on what I do know assuages the lingering pain of what I don’t know.
Second, God is a mystery. We certainly understand a lot, since He sent His Son, Jesus, to show us what He’s like. We have His Word that describes His nature. But we still “see through a glass dimly.” We don’t understand everything. God is not a formula. God is not completely figured out by any one person.
I realize that in spite of the fact that these circumstances violated some of my theology, I enjoy the fact that there’s a mysterious side of God, because I know His underlying nature.
Third, I discovered a lot more dependence on Jesus. I leaned on Him when I did not know what to say to Hannah during the hard times of her recovery, when I did not know what to say to these families, as I tried to bring them some resolution and peace about this tragedy.
Finally, I discovered all over again that we’re not alone. It seems as though senseless tragedies have happened since the beginning of our Christian faith, from the time when Christians were being lit on fire by Nero, to those who were thrown to the lions in the stadiums, to those even today who are martyred for their faith as they go to share the gospel in a jungle somewhere, like Jim Elliot. It seems that, whether heroic or accidental or the result of persecution, good people perish. We still don’t understand why, but we’re in good company.
I know that a lot of people will try to offer explanations, with good intentions and theology. I understand wanting desperately to find the good in such a terrible situation. But I know that there are a lot of people who experience tragedy and may never understand why. Still, they stand strong in their faith. So must we.