I woke up this morning to news that a bus carrying fourteen senior adults from First Baptist Church of New Braunfels collided with a pickup yesterday afternoon. Thirteen bus passengers were killed. One passenger was hospitalized in critical condition; the pickup driver was hospitalized in stable condition.
The senior adults were returning from a three-day retreat at a Baptist encampment.
So far this morning, authorities have not determined the cause of the crash. No matter who or what caused the crash, the passengers were not at fault. Yet all but one were killed.
Tragedies like this bring us to the most difficult challenge Christians face theologically. We believe that God is all-knowing, all-loving, and all-powerful. No other religion affirms these tenets about a personal God as fully as we do.
Since God is omniscient and not bound by time, he knew that the crash would happen before it did (Psalm 139:4; 1 John 3:20). Since he is love (1 John 4:8), he would seemingly not want such a tragedy to come to his children. Since he is omnipotent (Matthew 19:26), he could have prevented the crash from occurring. The Lord who stilled the storms and raised the dead could have stopped a bus and a pickup truck from colliding.
Yet he did not.
Today there are families grieving the sudden loss of their parents and grandparents. A pastor is trying to help his congregation come to terms with a tragedy their church will obviously never forget. The rest of us will watch with sorrow for those who are suffering.
Many wonder why the God these senior adults worshiped didn’t prevent their deaths. So do I.
I often note that God redeems all he forgives. I’m confident that our Father will redeem for greater good even this terrible tragedy (Romans 8:18). But future hope doesn’t explain present suffering. We grieve, and we should. We ask hard questions, and we should.
But here’s what we should not do.
We need not wonder if the Christians who died yesterday share our grief or our questions. We need not wonder if God was able to redeem their suffering. One moment after they died, they stepped into heaven. When they took their last breath here, they took their first breath there. They moved instantly from our fallen world into God’s perfect paradise. Now they are more alive than we are in a world where “death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away” (Revelation 21:4).
In the face of tragedy, we have two options.
We can decide that God is not who he says he is. We can let our questions keep us from experiencing his transforming love and sustaining grace. We can trust our doubts more than we trust our Creator.
Or we can decide to have faith in our Father even when we don’t understand him. The harder it is to trust God, the more we need to trust God.
Which option do you choose today?
NOTE: Tonight at 6:30 PM I am teaching a class at Dallas Baptist University on engaging the culture for Christ. The class is full, so we will be on Facebook Live to stream the event for those who were unable to register or who live outside our area. Please click here to access our Facebook page. The video will be archived on our Facebook page as well.
Jim Denison, Ph.D., speaks and writes on cultural and contemporary issues. He produces a daily column which is distributed to more than 113,000 subscribers in 203 countries. He also writes for The Dallas Morning News, The Christian Post, Common Call, and other publications.