I had just sat down to eat a bowl of cereal for breakfast when tragedy pulled up a seat next to me. She stared at me from page A3 of that morning’s paper and told me the story of a deadly bus crash in Indianapolis.
A Tragedy Indeed
Soundbites from the evening news had drifted to my ears the day it happened, but it wasn’t until I read the article in the paper that I knew the full extent of the tragedy. The bus was from a church called Colonial Hills Baptist Church and had been heading back from a week of summer camp with a bus load of kids from the congregation. They were just a mile from the church when the brakes failed and the vehicle crashed into a concrete divider.
Four people died. The church’s youth pastor who was leading the trip. His wife along with the unborn child in her belly. And a mother who came as a chaperone on the trip.
But Why These Four?
While fatal automobile crashes happen often, over 25,000 deaths in 2012, this accident left a powerful impression on me. It wasn’t just the loss of life, but the loss of these particular lives. If there’s anyone we would expect God to protect it is the ones involved in this crash.
Who could be a better role model than a youth pastor? Who is more worthy of protection than a young pregnant woman? And who is more innocent than a child in the womb? And the chaperone? Who could be more admirable than a woman who “was at camp because she has a special-needs child who wanted to go and she [the chaperone] wanted to go and make it a good week”?
Episodes like this make us wonder anew at how much more pain and brokenness this world can deliver. Words fail us and we simply mimic the psalmist in asking, “How long, O Lord?”
It’s the classic question about why suffering exists. The Bible addresses this question comprehensively in a variety of ways, but we’ll look at how one particular passage of Scripture speaks to the situation.
Everything in Subjection…
Later on in the same day I read about the bus crash in Indianapolis, I listened to an audio recording by David Wells on Hebrews 2:18. This verse speaks of the crucified and risen Jesus and says, “Now in putting everything in subjection to Him, He [God the Father] left nothing outside of His control. At present we do not yet see everything in subjection to Him.”
When Jesus Christ died on the cross He secured victory over the great enemies of humanity: sin, Satan, and death. Although He died in seeming weakness, he actually demonstrated that the road to Calvary was the path to power. The resurrected Savior has been given all authority (Mt. 28:18) and now sits at the right hand of the Father (Hb. 1:3). He currently lives and rules eternally and is gathering His chosen ones from people of every nation (Mt. 28:19). He has crushed the head of the serpent (Gen. 3:15) and conquered death. “Death is swallowed up in victory. O death where is your victory? O death where is your sting?” (1 Cor. 15:54b-55).
…But Not Yet
But if everything is in subjection to Christ , why did those four people die in that bus crash? Why so much pain and despair? Is God good? Then why didn’t He save the pastor and his pregnant wife? Is God powerful? Then why didn’t He preserve the life of the mother of the special-needs child?
Many people have asked questions like these and will continue to ask them until Christ’s return. The biblical answer as to why these people died and why tragedies happen is that God is both good and powerful, but we live in the crease between Christ’s victory and and its consummation.
The Game is Over, But Moves are Still Being Made
Dr. Wells used a helpful illustration to describe the tension between what Christ has already accomplished and what we do not yet see. He talked about a chess match between two players. One player leans back and declares that the game is over. His opponent protests that he still has a number of moves he can make. The first player says, “Yes, but no matter what move you make, the outcome is the same. I win.” We now live in the time between when Jesus has declared victory and when the last move is made.
For now, our world continues on in its broken state. People still commit crimes, natural disasters decimate whole cities, and church members still die in bus crashes. Although everything is in subjection to Christ, we do not yet see it.
But there is coming a day when every tear that tracks its way down our cheeks will be turned into triumph. A time when our groans of grief will transform into great shouts of joy. Those who believe in Christ will be free from the presence and the effects of sin. And not only will Christians live eternally liberated lives, all the suffering and sorrow this world has brought will make the elation of eternity even sweeter.
Everything in Subjection
I wish those four people were still alive. But the best I can do is offer prayers that God would comfort the family and friends of the victims. Yet as Christians we know that everything is subjected to Christ even though we do not yet see everything in subjection to Him. By faith we know Christ presently reigns from Heaven and that He will return. In that day, every knee will bow “in heaven, and on the earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Phill. 2:10-11). Maranatha. Come, Lord Jesus.