This week past my family has been reeling from the sudden death of our brother and uncle, taken from us at far too young an age, and who leaves behind a dear wife and two children. We struggle to make sense of it. Yet, perhaps there is no making sense of it from this human perspective. We find consolation in simply trusting God’s boundless love for Jeff, and for us. And I lean on the insights of one of my favorite Christian authors and preachers, who himself suffered the loss of his father at a young age, to understand how God is present in the midst of such tragic, inexplicable circumstances:
Fredrick Buechner from his book Telling Secrets:
Events happen under their own steam as random as rain, which means that God is present in them not as their cause but as the one who even in the hardest and most hair-raising of them offers us the possibility of that new life and healing which I believe is what salvation is.
For instance, I cannot believe that a God of love and mercy in any sense willed my father’s suicide; it was my father himself who willed it as the only way available to him from a life that for various reasons he had come to find unbearable. God did not will what happened the early November morning in Essex Falls, New Jersey, but I believe God was present in what happened. I cannot guess how he was present with my father—I can guess much better how utterly abandoned by God my father must have felt if he thought about God at all—but my faith as well as my prayer is that he was and continues to be present with him in ways beyond my guessing.
I can speak with some assurance only of how God was present in that dark time for me in the sense that I was not destroyed by it but came out of it with scars that I bear to this day, to be sure, but also somehow the wiser and stronger for it. Who knows how I might have turned out if my father had lived, but through the loss of him all those years ago I think that I learned something about how even tragedy can be a means of grace that I might never have come to any other way.
As I see it, in other words, God acts in history and in your and my brief histories not as the puppeteer who sets the scene and works the strings but rather as the great director who no matter what role fate casts us in conveys to us somehow from the wings, if we have our eyes, ears, hearts open and sometimes even if we don’t, how we can play those roles in a way to enrich and ennoble and hallow the whole vast drama of things including our own small but crucial parts in it.