So far no one on earth can explain what happened to the Malaysian plane that disappeared somewhere over the ocean. This horrifying occurrence may forever remain a mystery. The shocking, sudden deaths of 239 people poses a greater mystery: why would God allow this to happen? I’m writing this on the feastday of St. Julie Billiart, the spiritual mother of our community, who incessantly proclaimed, “God is good.” How could a good, all-powerful God not prevent this catastrophe and others like it? Purportedly God loves us and regards us as his children. Does a good Father stand by and let his children suffer? If you expect me to offer an answer, I’m going to disappoint you. This age-old mystery of suffering has been tackled by many people far wiser than I. But no satisfactory answer has been given. Not even in the biblical book of Job does God give us an inkling into the mystery. The innocent, suffering Job is merely told in no uncertain terms that God is in charge of the universe, so who is he to question him.
Faith-filled Christians, though, have hope when confronted with tragedies like the Malaysian plane, mudslides that bury people alive, earthquakes and the heartbreaking loss of loved ones dying unexpectedly. You see, we believe first of all that God is not the cause of evil. That would contradict who God is. But furthermore, God draws good out of evil.
Take the plane crash. What good could possibly come from that? I can think of three benefits. For one thing, we see many nations all pulling together to solve the mystery and give some sliver of peace to the bereaved. Cooperative efforts like this give witness to the fact that we inhabitants of Earth are all one, despite our wars. Secondly, the accident reveals that more needs to be done to make flying safer and rescue and recovery efforts more efficient. You can be sure that companies will be working to improve equipment and techniques. And thirdly, for a while all people hearing of the news of the plane were confronted with the fragility of life, of their own lives. How precious each moment is, how precious each encounter with our loved ones, how precious the beauty of nature, music, and all else we are privileged to enjoy in this world! We may be inspired to make the most of the time that remains to us.
Looking back over my own life, I can pinpoint events that at first looked like disasters, but then turned out to hold blessings. We can only hope in the metaphor of needlework for our lives. The underside of a piece of embroidery with its knots and crisscrossed lines looks messy. But turn it over, and you behold a lovely work of art. Likewise, our lives on earth can sometimes look pretty ugly, but later from the vantage point of heaven we will understand how all things worked together for good.
When have you experienced good flowing out of something bad?