Just got done watching the first 15 minutes of the Today Show. The news from around the world is packed full of death. Three plane crashes. In the Ukraine a reporter pointed out the tiny shoe of a child about two-years-old. Another plane crash in Mali. Then another in Taiwan. Missiles and weather blow aircraft out of the sky.
Images from the Gaza strip–carnage, rubble, innocent children blown to bits and scattered like pieces of a puzzle.
A tornado ripped through a campground in Virginia where a couple hid in their tent only to be crushed to death by a falling tree.
Man walks into a Wellness Center. Shoots and kills one person before being shot by the doctor. What sort of world is it that when a doctor prepares to see patients he needs a stethoscope and a sidearm? Listening to a heart one moment, firing a pistol at a heart the next. Heal. Kill. It’s “all in a day’s work.”
The threat of death is a constant. It is random. Arbitrary. If a terrorist doesn’t get us the weather, or freak accident, or disease, or old age will. We can know we are alive and we can be certain that we will die. Everything in between is a bit sketchy.
The bookends of life happen with a declaration–a birth certificate, a death certificate.
A crib for the freshly born.
A hole for the freshly dead.
Put our life on a bookshelf and the ends are unmistakable–basically the same for all of us. Our stories, spelled out in the books between the bookends, are hidden inside covers. But there’s no debating the simple fact–we are born and a little later we die.
Death is everywhere. How we feel about it is determined by what we believe is going on in the space outside the bookends–the eternity before we existed and the foreverness “after” us. Paul argued that after death there would be a resurrection. Jesus was the first. The rest of us will follow. As ominous and arbitrary as death appears it has already been defeated.
We miss the dead and we often don’t understand why God allows what he allows. Under the weight of suffering the questions come to us. In fact, in a shocking utterance even Jesus cried, Why have your forsaken me?
Sometimes it feels like God has forsaken his earth and the world. We, too, groan–we ask, Why? But the question comes in a package. It admits that he exists, that he fills up the reality on either side of the bookend. We’d never have the courage to ask such an audacious question without trust–trust that he can handle the question without a flinch, and that he knows the answer, that he knows what he’s doing.
At times the best that we can do is simply ask the question. Shaking our fist at the TV, asking each other What’s going on here, as if we’re ever going to make sense of a world and earth warped by sin, will do little except leave us empty and apparently helpless. Better to complain to God. At the very least the indirect assurance inherent in the question will sustain us. Death is caught in a trap. Even when it forces our questioning, it forces us closer to God. The bully has already lost the ultimate battle.