Following a recent local tragedy in which a young family (husband, wife, and two daughters) were killed in a plane crash, I've been talking with people affected by the tragedy. In many ways, an accident like this has a broad ripple affect beyond even secondary and tertiary relationships. People remember when they have been in similar situations or their own fears around death (their own, of their loved ones) rise to the surface.
Inevitably the question arises, "Why did God cause this to happen?" And its corollary: "How can this be a part of God's plan?"
This is a sure-fire pastor stumper to which there is no great, comforting answer. Truthfully, I don't believe God caused this tragedy to happen and I don't think it was part of the plan. I think accidents happen because God allows us to use our free will and also allows the same of the people around us. The decisions we make (good, bad or neutral) can affect others just as their decisions affect us.
I think the harder question and my own question is, "Why didn't God stop this?"
I can understand germ theory. I get that accidents happen. I understand (mostly) laws of motion and thermodynamics. I even appreciate that God allows the natural world to work in its own way, to its own consequences- some of which we can change and some of which we can't.
Yet, I do believe that God can alter a course, if God decides to so. So why doesn't that happen more often (or at all)?
I don't know.
I do believe God has a plan, but mostly I think it is long-term. We are co-creators, stewards of the earth, caretakers of our neighbors, employing our free will in the details, but God has the big picture under control.
Things may well be swayed from God's desire for us and for creation, but we cannot change the arc of salvation, judgment or grace.
I think of Elijah, demanding an answer of God (1 Kings 18:9-18), as to whether God would allow Elijah's enemies to kill him. God comes to Elijah in silence. This makes me wonder if, when God is silent, we are either unable to hear or we are asking the wrong questions.
Nevertheless, I do not have all the answers.
This I believe: Accidents happen. Was God there? Yes. Are they with God? Yes. Did God cause this? No. Could God have stopped this? Yes, God was capable of doing so. Why didn't God stop this? I don't know.
I, myself, pray that preserves my faith until that time when it is no longer necessary. When I have answers, but the questions no longer matter.