Faith, Finding Meaning in Tragedies and Superstition – Part 1

Recently I heard a terribly tragic story of a pastor and his son who died in a plane crash.  We tend to ask why in times like these.   Upon hearing the story, some believed the devil crashed the plane since he was a good man of God and one may have assumed that there was sin in his life and God punished him for it.   

Personally, I assume that he indeed was a sinner saved by grace and was in pursuit of the will of God but either he lost control of the plane in the weather or his plane failed him.  To me, either way, God is sovereign.  However, the superstition lies in the way this tragedy is discussed. 

Should we pray for safety?  Well, our life is a but a vapor, no.  On the other hand, God cares for every hair on our head therefore our safety is certainly a concern to Him, so yes.  Contradiction?  No.  Paradox?  Yes.  What’s the difference?  Well, the short answer is that God is sovereign.


Though I use the word sovereign, please do not assume that  I consider myself reformed.  Although you’d be hardpressed to find a God more sovereign than in reformed theology, I find the way reformed folks discuss God as too harsh and not loving enough.  Feel free to comment on that, don’t attack, this is my perception.

Another pastor-tragedy story came my way as I was cleaning out my desk, I read of a pastor in an African mission who was struck my lightening. If you thought that Westerners looked for signs and superstition, what about being an African watching someone preach something you’ve never heard of and get struck my lightening?  What the Annanias and Sapphria?  Let’s be honest, if someone is trying to persuade you of something (say Jesus is the way to eternal life), it does not help your faith for the messenger to be struck by lightening.  In fact, unless God was trying to be funny and use him as an exclamation point, you could make the point that God didn’t want the audience to come to heaven with this type of reasoning!

My soul wants to find meaning in this.  I want the rest of the story to wrap up and say, “And at his funeral, thousands came and believed”.  But the rest of the article didn’t say that.  Instead, it discussed the perseverance of those on the mission team.  (Which made me appreciate the article).

Listen, God in all of His power and creativity can find better ways to bring people to Himself besides striking His people down all the time.   Frankly, I don’t believe this is how God works.   What if sometimes pastors who are not skilled pilots lose control of their plane in turbulent weather and what if this God-fearing gentlemen lived above reproach but he was one of the 400 people that lightening strikes per year?  To quote Matt. 5.45 – “for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous (NASB)”.

Our reasoning becomes too shortsighted when we limit “the meaning of things” to only this world.   God does not knock planes out of the sky, instead, part of the meaning that can be found is that God’s presence can be found in such terrible and tragic moments.


Stay tuned, got more to say.



  1. Hey Tim, thanks for sharing. I wonder about this kind of stuff a lot. To build on one thing you were saying, I ask myself why pray for protection or for healing or whatever when I know he has a plan for me? Yet, I suppose we must keep in light the fact that we are God’s fellow workers (1 Corinthians 3:9, 2 Corinthians 6:1) and that as he uses us for his purpose and as do his work. Does this include our cries for help? Our cries for protection? Seriously, I’m asking. Because I’m sure the father and son prayed for a safe flight but God still ended up doing what he wanted (which is for the best, I know that) but still. Is this just God answering their prayer in a better way that will ultimately result in more people knowing him and glorifying him? Is that considered “hearing” their cry?

  2. Hey Adam

    I wonder about this kind of stuff too. When we leave to go on a long trip my wife asked me if we are going to pray. I think to myself why did we not pray when we when the local store. Statistically most accidents happen with a 5 mile radius of one house. So we should praying more for the short trips the long trips. So does the “traveling mercy” pray become a superstition? What is a traveling mercy anyway? So I do pray because God always like to hear us, but a pray thanking Him that we can go on the trip and praise Him for His goodness to us.

    But getting back the issue. I think about Lewis’ line in the Lion, Witch and the Wardrobe where Lucy ask Tumnus if Aslan is safe. Tumnus replies that he is not safe but He is Good. Should we be seeking God’s safety or God’s Goodness?

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