I'm sure many of you have heard the tragic story about Whitney Cerak and Laura VanRyn. An article ran in People magazine this week giving some more of the story and referred to the blog Laura's family set up to communicate about what was happening as she recovered. Of course, now we know that it wasn't "Laura" at all.
This tragedy has inspired some fierce reactions in the news. If you read about it, some are outraged, some are sad, some are simply sick of hearing about it.
These families have been weighing heavily on my heart since this happened because it was just such a horrible thing. You'd think with all of our technology and now-how that this kind of stuff wouldn't happen. And perhaps, in my own way, it reminds me of losing a dear friend on a car accident during college at the age of 19.
But it also brings up a rather difficult question - one that we don't have an answer for.
Why did God let this happen?
This entire series of events, from the tractor-trailer driver who fell asleep at the wheel, to the mix-up of victims, was never out from under God's watchful eye. There is a subtle difference between saying God "caused" something to happen, and God "allowing" something to happen but I think it's an important distinction. I think it's the question I hear most from unbelievers: If God is good, why do bad things happen?
It's a valid question with no easy answer. People have written dozens of books trying to answer that question. I have wrestled with it myself as I have faced personal tragedies. And I think the one I always come back to is this: God knows more than I do. I cannot - at this point - bound by time and humanity - understand all that God is orchestrating in this universe. I cannot see the beginning from the end. And that is where I must trust that 1- He is good and 2 - He is in control.
There is a wonderful line in The Chronicles of Narnia when Lucy is asking Mr. Beaver about Aslan.
"Is - is he a man?" asked Lucy.
"Aslan a man!" said Mr. Beaver sternly. "Certainly not. I tell you he is king of the wood and the son of the great Emperor-beyond-the-sea. Don't you know who is the King of Beasts? Aslan is a lion - the Lion, the great Lion."
"Ohhh!" said Susan, "I'd thought he was a man. Is he - quite safe? I shall feel rather nervous about meeting a lion."
"That you will dearie, and no mistake," said Mrs. Beaver; "if there's anyone who can appear before Aslan without their knees knocking, they're either braver than most or else just silly."
"Then he isn't safe?" said Lucy.
"Safe?" said Mr. Beaver; "don't you hear what Mrs. Beaver tells you? Who said anything about safe? 'Course he isn't safe. But He's good. He's the King, I tell you."
He isn't safe - but He is good. Something about tragedy, when the rug is pulled out from underneath of us, reveals what we really think about lots of things - especially God. We live in a culture that has made God out to be some kind grandfather in the sky. Something safe. But God is anything but safe - He is the King of the Universe, much grander, much holier, much more than we can imagine. And being much more than us, we cannot grasp all of His ways. We get precious glimpses, we get Holy comfort, we get Divine guidance - but we don't always get the answers.
Someone said that tragedy can make us bitter or better. It draws us closer to the One we long to know, or it drives us away in frustration of not knowing who it is we really long for.
I guess perhaps today, I ask you to remember the VanRyns, and all of the families touched by this particular tragedy. That God may comfort them - and that they will know His presence in their sorrow. And that while God is our friend and our always present companion, He is also the King of Kings.