When I heard the news of the tragic death of Justin Ayers last week, the question “Why Lord?” was a natural one. Justin was hit by a stray bullet in his house while celebrating the birth of his three-day-old daughter. Many Northstar people knew Justin as a Christian and as a musician.
His death seemed so random, senseless. And I am sure it raised the question in many people who knew Justin: “Where is God in all this?” It would be easy to respond with the traditional Christian stiff upper lip by reminding everyone that everything happens for a reason and that God will work it out and take solace in the fact that it will be okay in the long run. But, in the moment when people are suffering, when their lives have been turned upside down, words can fail.
When something seemingly unnecessary like this happens, we as Christians search for explanations. Searching for practical answers usually creates tension. Tension leads us to look for someone to blame. In the book of Job we see this dynamic. Job is suffering for no visible reason and he is thoroughly confused. God tells us it was Satan, Job tells us it was God. Job’s friends tell him it is his own fault. What we have always wanted to know when tragedy strikes is why.
Some days, our minds have a difficult time understanding God’s plan. We want so desperately to “get it” to see the big picture, to see God’s plan for the future. To understand how all the pieces fit together and how it is all going to work out right here in Panama City. In this year. Or this week. Or this second. Ot at least with this tragedy.
But God has plainly told us that is not possible. “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” – Isaiah 55:9. Job 38:35-36 teals us “Can you send forth lightnings, that they may go and say to you, ‘Here we are’? Who has put wisdom in the inward parts or given understanding to the mind?
Though it is human nature to make a valiant attempt to gain knowledge, we simply must concede that so much of life is a mystery, as is the way God moves and redeems. How can we possibly fathom it all? We don’t always get the answer to why this side of heaven, so we need to accept that and trust God.
But there are many things we do know that we can cling to: God is impossibly loving. He loves us. He loves our families. God restores things; all of history points to a God who makes sad things right. In our darkest moment, Jesus is standing by our side. Jesus wept over death and grieved and shed tears. He told us hundreds of times to comfort each other, making sure we are cared for.
Here is the bottom line to this article. There are many things that we will never know. But, there are things we do know that can comfort us in times of tragedy. So while we cannot give those who grieve the answers to their questions, we can help them rebuild their lives.
Nehemiah 2:17 says, “But now I told them, “You know full well the tragedy of our city; it lies in ruins and its gates are burned. Let us rebuild the wall of Jerusalem and rid ourselves of this disgrace!”
To help people rebuild their lives, we must help them understand this: we care. It could be as simple as reaching across the table, clasping hands, and weeping together. We are a church family and we need to share their grief and pray for those who are suffering or have suffered loss.