Oh My God! Why?

His smiling profile picture was often at the top of my message list on WhatsApp, but this was my national news app, and next to his photo was a headline denouncing the circumstances of his death. I know that awful things happen to ordinary people all the time, but he was my friend.

Media channels and newspapers make their money by reporting events like this to us every day. Even as you read this, countless families from all around the globe will be facing personal loss and communal trauma as natural disasters, disease, famine, war, crime and the actions of other people bring the lives of loved ones to an end. We all know that life is precious and that one taken ‘too soon’ is wrong, but yet it happens and we are left numbed by the shock, confused by the strangeness of the situation, and incensed by the injustice.

The optimist in me always looks for the positive. I can say that it was an honour to have known him, that my life was enriched by the opportunity that I had to work alongside him, and that the times we sat and ate and chatted together will remain with me, joyful mementos of shared experiences. The fact that he was younger than me, that he leaves his wife and young family to manage without him, I cannot reconcile.

That he knew and loved his saviour Jesus, and lived and died loving and serving others, as Jesus inspired him to each day, is a consolation to me one minute and a deep pain the next. Our shared faith tells us boldly that when our time on this earth comes to its end, we will rest in Christ awaiting the day when together we will be raised to life with him. We both knew this inspiration and encouragement promised in scripture, but what of this life and the people he has left behind? Why did he have to die so young, and why would another person choose to end his life in this way?

Perhaps some of you reading this will resonate with the emotions and ideas I have expressed. You too have lost someone, you too are looking for answers to painful questions, looking for sense in seemingly senseless circumstances. You, like me, are hoping for something that will take the pain away, that will make things right again, that will restore your faith in the goodness of this world and in the God who the Bible tells us, loves us so much. We know that in these sad times, some turn away from God altogether. He has failed us. He has not answered our prayers. He has turned away even when we have screamed out to him in our pain. And if he exists at all, then surely he must be distant and callous and not loving or good.

I do not know why my friend had to die just two days after Christmas. I have no clue as to why his family has to suffer so much. I cannot think of a ‘good’ that might come from this event or how it could be any part of a plan that God might have for the lives of those involved. But this does not mean that I do not believe that God is in this situation.

The Bible contains numerous accounts of the mistakes and mishaps of many messed-up individuals and mixed-up communities. Its pages are full of stories of life and death, of injustice, hardship, and loss. In many ways, large sections of it read just like the news app on my phone. Yet intertwined into this mess of human existence is an account of the God who created the heavens and the earth, who gave life to nature and to humankind, and who chose to reveal himself to us. Not only this, but that this God also chose to become human, in Jesus, to share our humanity, and to take our sorrows, sufferings, and guilt upon himself.

But in our post-modern world, we like to think we have most of the answers or know where we can find them. We like to believe that with science, psychology, and a better knowledge of our inner selves, we can answer life’s questions and perhaps even reason away the existence of God. But then a friend, a loved one, dies, and we are left shouting at an empty sky, “Why did you let this happen?”

But, you see, God is not human and his ways and thoughts are not our ways and thoughts. These words spoken through the Jewish prophet Isaiah remind us that God’s ways and thoughts are higher than ours, and our logic, our understanding of the world, our reason, and emotions are not sophisticated, or sufficient enough for us to be able to think or reason like God. And because of this, it is impossible for us to know anything about him, other than what he is willing to reveal to us about himself. Karl Barth called this the “unknowability of God”, and Kierkegaard spoke about the “infinite qualitative distinction” between God and humans. However we describe it, this means that when we are faced with terrible loss and irreconcilable pain, we may use our logic to question God’s heart or good intent for us, but at some point, we must simply stop and recognise that God is God, and we are only human and often in these times he gives us no answers.

If what I have said resonates with you, may I encourage you not to rush from the place of pain. Because Jesus himself says that it is those who mourn, those who cry out against injustice, us, whose eyes are red with tears will find that God is close and that there is blessing in his proximity. Because in our grief, if we hold on to him, to the one who himself wept at the loss of a friend, then in him we will begin to find healing, wholeness, and hope. One day we may find answers to some of our questions, but until then may I commend to you the God who loves you, his son who died for you, and his presence who will never leave you however dark it is today.

“The Lord gives, and the Lord takes away. Blessed be the name of the Lord”

Job 1:21

Be encouraged.

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4 thoughts on “Oh My God! Why?

  1. Thank you Charlie. Appreciate you and your teaching very much.

    1. Thanks Trisha. Your encouragement is also much appreciated! Be blessed.

  2. Charlie, this spoke to me directly today. Beautifully written and much-needed. Happy New Year to you and your family. Judy

    1. Thank you, Judy, and bless you. And a Happy New Year to you and yours too!

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