On Sunday news spread quickly that three couples from Oxford, Mississippi, had died in a plane crash. They were returning from a conference in Florida, soon to be greeted by their 11 children, soon to be no doubt preparing for the school year, the college football games, the holidays that would be approaching before too long.
Like most people, when I heard the news I felt sick to my stomach. I can't stop thinking about it...about those amazing (and they were amazing, involved individuals from what I have read) couples who died in the blink of an eye...about their children. Eleven children suddenly without parents. To lose one parent is life-changing and heart-wrenching enough. To lose two at the same time. I can't even begin to imagine. None of us can unless we've been through it ourselves. And these are young kids. They woke up one day with their mom and dad in another state, probably anxiously awaiting their return...and they woke up the next day knowing they'd never see their parents on this Earth again.
I know this for sure...everyone here (in Mississippi) is grieving for those lives lost. We are grieving for those children; we are grieving for their family members and friends. We are grieving for the small community of Oxford. We all ask the same questions...why would this happen? How could this happen? How do these families move on with their lives?
As the news spread, the tributes did too. Across social media everyone expressed their heartbreak. Stunned, we try to come up with answers. And when awful things like this happen, many people offer the same response: "everything happens for a reason," or "God has a plan, and we just don't know what that is yet." Even the publisher of the Oxford newspaper said that we must believe "that all things work together for a reason." He went on to say that "one day these children can explain to others how this tragic moment helped them find their calling in life." Y'all, I just can't accept that. I can't wrap my head around that kind of explanation, and I can't believe that the God I love would be the reason for the terrible tragedies that happen in our world every day.
And I know, I firmly believe, that everyone who talks about or writes about this tragedy has only the best intentions. I do believe that truly. But folks need to stop offering up their reasons. It doesn't help. Maybe, just maybe, there is no reason.
I've mentioned before, but one of my favorite books is When Bad Things Happen to Good People by Rabbi Harold S. Kushner. I can't recommend this book enough. It is full of so much wisdom, and Kushner, in my opinion, is an authority on the subject because he had a son who was diagnosed at a young age with a terminal, degenerative disease. Kushner states, "To say that everything works out in God's world may be comforting to the casual bystander, but it is an insult to the bereaved and the unfortunate." How perfect is that? Y'all, the clichéd sayings do no good; they honestly only cause harm. How can you tell these grieving children that their moms and dads died for a reason that we just don't understand yet? How can that do anything to them other than make them more angry than they already are? Why would anyone want a relationship with a God who masterminds great tragedies? These responses in times of despair only, I believe, push people further away from God. These responses cause resentment and bitterness...at a time when those suffering desperately need to draw closer to God.
I don't have the perfect answers, and I know that this side of Heaven none of us ever will. All we can do is try our best to understand God's word, to try our best to love and serve others. So while I in no way believe that God is the reason for our suffering, I believe with every fiber of my being that God is with us through our suffering. I believe that God weeps when we weep. I believe that God's heart is as broken as the hearts of those children in Oxford. I believe that God created community for good...for the fun, happy times in life and for the hardest, darkest times too...so we can witness people at work for one another. So we can witness people we know and people we've never met before being the hands and feet of Jesus on this Earth...arranging meals, putting together prayer vigils, sending flowers, crying with and giving hugs to those suffering...and praying, praying without ceasing.
I don't believe there is a reason for tragedy. But I do believe that the Lord is with us through it all. And I believe that He can and does bring peace, strength, renewed hope, and light when we are in the dark.
Please pray for the Farese, Perry, and Poole families.
"The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit." Psalm 34:18