That question again…

The older I get, the smaller the world becomes. Nothing new, I know. When I was a child, I used to be amazed at the number of people who knew my parents. No matter where we were in Southern California, it seemed, we could run into people who knew them. Now, of course, I know people all over the world because of work, friends moving away, and the ordinary course of life. Thus I find myself connected to recent horrifying events: an unstable student killing so many professors and fellow students at Virginia Tech earlier this year; the collapse of the 35W bridge over the Mississippi in Minneapolis on Wednesday.

God, in His mercy, did not choose to take home any of my friends in the Twin Cities area who live and work by, drive over, and cycle under the 35W bridge, or my friend from high school who now teaches at VT.

Yet… He did choose to take home the teenage son of a missionary sent out from our church. Joshua died while he and his mom, Shelly, a paramedic by training, were teaching a search and rescue class. Shelly attempted to revive Joshua for over 3 hours. My friend Danny wrote a moving post about Joshua here.

Why did God choose to take Joshua home? To allow so many to perish as a result of the collapse of the 35W bridge, or at the hands of a deranged gunman at VT? Do we have the right to demand an explanation from God for these tragedies? How could He possibly allow these things to happen?

I believe that the short answer is this: He allowed these things to happen for His glory. This is a hard truth, even for those not directly affected by these horrible events. It is a troubling, even scary thought. On the other hand, it is a thought that is addressed by the Bible.

Job is the guy one thinks of when one thinks of calamities recorded in the Bible. Here was a guy who did everything right – and he got slammed! But in the end, what was his conclusion? That he needed to repent! How crazy is that? After a lot of nonsense from his “friends” in previous chapters, and even some pretty-good sounding words from Job, God spoke and gave Job some perspective. And Job’s response was to acknowledge that God is sovereign, and that He can turn even evil events around for His good purpose… For some such events, we may never know His full plan this side of heaven. Like I said – it’s a hard truth.

Postscript: Here’s how one pastor reassured his daughter when putting her to bed Wednesday night. (Note the part about the fact that the word “bridge” does not appear in the Bible. Overlay that with the fact that pontiff means “bridge builder”…)

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