Dec 30, 2008

On God and Senseless Tragedies

Left: the late Drew Pearson of Port Charlotte, Florida

I learned yesterday of an especially sad and tragic story that involved a young family I have never met, but with whom I am familiar through an extended network of friends. Drew Pearson and his wife Emily should be celebrating the birth of their daughter Peyton, but instead the family is making funeral plans.

Pearson crashed his SUV into the back of a dump truck Monday morning, just hours after his wife gave birth to their baby. Some suspect that Drew might have dozed off after a lengthy delivery, but this is speculation, and really - what difference does it make?

A child is born and a father is dead.

These are the sorts of moments that cause me to raise my fist and rail toward the heavens. What possible good can come of such horror? How can a loving God permit a newborn baby to be without her father? And why do good people like Drew Pearson die so young, but heartless killers and rapists wander the streets and prey on the innocent?

I have no answers to such questions, and moments like these can drive a person crazy. I recall in my own personal struggles times when I raged at God, and I have to admit that there was never a moment of sudden insight that caused me to understand God's reasons. In fact, I remain a bit suspicious of His motives, or if He even pays attention to people like Drew, Emily, and Peyton Pearson.

I wish I had even a sliver of wisdom to pass along here, but I have none. God's Almighty Plan remains a mystery to me, and the best I can do is to shrug my shoulders and trust that someday this will make sense.

For the moment, the death of Drew Pearson remains a source of angst to people like me who are not close to the family, and an utter catastrophe for those who knew and loved Drew. The best I can do is pass along the means for others to help. You can donate to the Drew Pearson Memorial Fund at any branch of Fifth Third Bank.

Do this today, before you get sidetracked with holiday plans. Do this for a 26-year-old mother with a newborn baby and a husband to bury. Do this to assuage any guilt you might have about a long-passed wrong you committed.

And do this to keep from slipping into a rage against God. That is some unhealthy stuff, pal, and the way things are going, there is no need to piss off a God that would allow this type of tragedy. You could be next.


Anonymous said...

Hi Mike,

My sympathies to this family in Florida. What a horrible Christmas for them! I wish I could explain why such senseless tragedies occur to people who seem to deserve such fates the least.
Briefly stated, I struggled for a long time over my mom's death to a car crash. She was a devout Catholic with a white leather-bound Bible in her purse at the time of the incident, but the utter senselessness of that occurrence drove me much further away from a belief in a supernatural plan.
It's not a comforting thought for me to ponder, either, but life could very well be a purposeless, random event with no giant IBM mainframe computer in the sky recording our misdeeds.
(ie. I would like believe in something like that, but deep down I'm just afraid there isn't anything there.)
With the ridiculous number of people dying violently in traffic crashes here in the USA I think the only thing we can really do is drive as safely as possible and explain to all our family, friends, and perhaps the government what a nasty, tragic byproduct our car-dependent economy has left behind.

Anonymous said...

(Part 2)


I wrote the last post and I forgot to mention that what **really** gets under my skin is why the federal government doesn't get more involved in something like this. If the Feds just would automatically give out $500,000 to each and every family of the 40,000 US traffic fatalities each year the program would cost about $20 billion per year plus administrative costs.
Instead, the Feds figured it was more appropriate to disburse $1 trillion towards the TARP program to bail out healthy and wealthy bankers who made bad business decisions. This should begin to provide a subtle hint as to what our extremely car-dependent government and economy's true values are.
(And, no, money doesn't provide happiness or bring back the dead, but it can help devastated families get back on their feet.)

Signing my name this time,


dr-exmedic said...

Personally, I've always felt that it took a ridiculous level of hubris to believe that God is frequently directly involved in life-or-death decisions. I may not be the most humble person, but I'm humble enough to believe that any God doesn't generally mess with my day-to-day life; I'm just not that important. This keeps me from being angry at Him--He just doesn't directly have much to do with most of the bad things in the world.

Anonymous said...

Enclosed is an article that seeks to explain Jesus' resurrection and the tragedy of Drew Pearson.
Jesus' Resurrection:
When Truth Confronts our Worst Suffering
by Gary R. Habermas
Originally published in the book A Thinking Christian's Devotional, by Kelly Monroe Kullberg and Lael Arrington (Zondervan, forthcoming, 2008).
This is an electronic copy of the entire article.
Good theology is indispensable. Having strong reasons for these beliefs is even better. But being able to apply both to the worst suffering we will ever face may be the toughest task of all.
My wife and I visited the hospital in 1995 for what were described as fairly routine tests. Within minutes, however, my world changed forever. Debbie might have cancer. But I was unprepared for the final verdict: terminal stomach cancer. There was no remedy. I measured my life by the severity of the shocking news that arrived repeatedly in the days ahead. Sometimes I was unsure how to place one foot in front of the other.
I remember those days very clearly, along with the daunting questions. Debbie was only 43 years old. We had four children still at home. But four months later she died. We celebrated our 23rd anniversary while she was in bed. My dearest friend was gone. Irrevocably. The pain failed to subside. What could I tell my children? I said this was the worst pain I could experience.
During our ordeal, a graduate student asked me: "Where would you be now if Jesus hadn't been raised from the dead?" I have spent 40 years researching Jesus' resurrection and it was obviously relevant to my wife's sickness. But my investigation was devoted chiefly to the historical, theoretical aspects. God had to teach me how to apply resurrection truth to my daily life.
During my own skeptical years, I had developed a strategy called the "minimal facts method." Basically, I argued in many books and debates that the New Testament was at least a book of ancient literature. But even on this basis alone, we still have plenty of facts to show that Jesus truly had been resurrected. I even took the historical data that skeptics had good reasons to admit and used their own basis to argue the resurrection.
A quick summary shows that critical scholars seldom ever questioned Jesus' death by crucifixion. Virtually no one doubts that, afterwards, Jesus' followers at least thought they had seen the risen Jesus. Accordingly, they were willing to die, and many of them did. Further, skeptics like Jesus' brother, James, and Saul of Tarsus were even converted by their own experiences with the risen Jesus. And almost all scholars acknowledge that the resurrection message was proclaimed very early--even immediately after the crucifixion. Moreover, Jesus' tomb was found empty.
Let's look in more detail at just a couple of categories of evidence for the resurrection and the early testimony to seeing the risen Jesus. Nearly all scholars think that after Jesus' death, the disciples' had real experiences which they reported were appearances of their Master. This is a critical starting point. The most important text is 1 Corinthians 15:3-7, and is taken by scholars to be the strongest indication of the historical resurrection appearances. Most think that this testimony constituted the oral teaching of the earliest church and actually predates Paul's conversion or the New Testament.
There is little dispute that Paul is passing on this tradition that he received, probably from the apostles Peter and James the brother of Jesus during his first visit to Jerusalem, just three years after his conversion (Gal. 1:18-24). Scholars generally place Paul's reception of this material in the mid-30s A.D. Years later, Paul confirmed the nature of this Gospel proclamation with Peter, James, and John (Gal. 2:1-10). A stronger substantiation from these four best-known, earliest eyewitnesses could hardly be hoped for from an ancient historical text.
Further, the empty tomb is strongly attested. According to all four Gospel accounts, women are cited as the key witnesses. But due to the strong Jewish disinclination to recognize female testimony in decisive issues, these texts probably would not have agreed in citing the women, unless they were actually the principal witnesses. Further, the location of the tomb in Jerusalem meant it could be observed by either friend or foe. Also, critical scholars agree that the empty tomb report is attested in several of the Gospel sources.
I had concluded that the best explanation for these events was that Jesus had truly been raised from the dead and appeared to His followers. Critics seemed strangely unable to offer a more convincing explanation.
But here the facts of history touch our lives. Jesus suffered arguably the most painful death imaginable. Nothing altered His pain--it raged hour after hour. He cried out to His Father but without any physical relief. Even the Son of God learned through His sufferings (Heb. 5:8).
Then it hit home: Why should I expect less suffering? If God did not stop His Son's pain, on what grounds could I demand better treatment?
But Jesus' prayer was answered after His suffering ended, on the first Easter morning. In a similar manner, Debbie's resurrection would also be God's answer. I still do not know why she died, but I know the One who raised His Son. The fact of Jesus' resurrection trumps even our greatest suffering. As Paul states, Christians mourn for their loved ones, too, but we mourn with resurrection hope (1 Thes. 4:13-14). Death has lost its biggest sting (1 Cor. 15:53-57).

Anonymous said...

Thank you all for your thoughts and prayers. Drew was my cousin, and we miss him dearly. But that baby has brought more joy and healing to our family than anybody could've imagined. She is so cute, and she is a spitting image of him in every way possible. It will be 3 years in December, it's hard to believe the time went by so quickly. It was confirmed by the way that drew was texting while driving, the speculation of him falling asleep was false. I urge all of you to PLEASE, never ever text while you are driving. It is so dangerous and causes so much tragedy in families everywhere. God bless you all and continue to pray for Emily and Peyton <3