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25 July 2014

Hope through tragedy

Hope through tragedy

When trying to make sense from a biblical perspective of the recent spate of tragic plane crashes sparking international outrage, grief and fear, I'm overwhelmed.

We all know that last week Malaysian Flight MH17 was shot down over Ukraine and a total of 298 lives were lost –including over 20 families and as many as 80 children.

Previously, in March Malaysian Flight 370 disappeared en-route to Kuala Lumpur. The plane has still not been found and all 239 passengers and crew are presumed dead.

Just this week it has been reported that an Air Algeria plane with 116 on-board has crashed over Mali. And also a TransAsia Airways plane crashed as it flew from Taiwan to Penghu, a popular destination in the Taiwan Strait. Of the 58 people on board, 48 are known to have died.

These tragedies are devastating.

As hope-filled people, how can we possibly speak light into this darkness?

How do we reconcile with the truth of Ecclesiastes 3:1-2 which says "For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die", when innocent lives including those of children are cruelly cut short because of the heinous acts of others?

How do we respond to the justifiable fear and anxiety that results from disasters like these? In Philippians we read that we're to be anxious for nothing;in Isaiah we're told to fear nothing because God is with us;in Deuteronomy we are urged to be strong and courageous and not filled with fear or dread and in the Psalms we read how we're supposed to put our trust in God when we're afraid.

I generally find it easy to accept these verses. This is no reflection on my holiness. If I'm brutally honest it's testament to the fact I've not been in a truly scary situation. I've not stared death in the face like the passengers of MH17.

And that's often the way. It's easy to rest in challenging biblical truths when we don't have to wrestle with the reality of that truth.

These recent tragedies have caused me to take stock of my faith in God. Do I truly trust Him? How would I respond in a life or death situation? Would I put my faith in God? Would I be strong and courageous?

A particularly poignant story from the MH17 disaster was shared by Samira Calehr who lost her 11-year-old son Miguel. In the days before the plane crash he had been bombarding her with questions about death, about his soul, about God. At the airport he even asked: "What will happen if the airplane crashes?"

This is such a good reminder that God will often prompt us through His holy spirit –how important to be sensitive to this. The fact that Miguel didn't ignore these promptings, that he was asking questions makes me hopeful.

I'll never be able to make sense of these tragedies or others like it. There are many things in this world that I will never fully get my head around. And I'm OK with that. This doesn't mean that I won't question things. That I won't be consumed with grief. That I won't struggle with forgiveness. That I won't rant to God about unjust and unfair situations.

I was so encouraged by the response of Drew Ryder who lost his brother and sister-in-law in the MH17 disaster. He said that his religious beliefs have helped him endure their loss and forgive those responsible.

In difficult or confusing times I do my best to hold to the promise in Psalms that God is good, His love steadfast;in Jeremiah that says God has a plan of hope for each of us and in 2 Thessalonians that says God loves us, gives us eternal comfort and hope through grace.

Some may dismiss me as naïve. Or say I'm simply burying my head in the sand and not grappling with the world in which we live.

At the end of the day I'm a woman of faith. And in Hebrews we learn that, "faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen".

In the wake of these recent unexplainable tragedies I hold to that hopeful faith.

Amelia Abplanalp is public policy officer at the Evangelical Alliance