Some events never stop disturbing our consciousness.
After running out of fuel, a plane carrying Brazil’s Chapecoense soccer team crashed into a mountainside in Colombia. The team was on their way to face Atletico Nacional, the Colombian club team, in the South American Cup finals.
Of the 77 people on board, only six survived—three players, two crew members and one journalist.
I Want Answers
When I heard the news report on the radio, my heart sank. As I learned more about this team and what they meant to the Brazilian community, I couldn’t help but to ask, “Why?” This team was so close to reaching their dream of becoming the first Brazilian club to win the South American Cup since 2008.
They never got the opportunity to try to make their dream come true.
And for those who survived, I cannot even begin to imagine what they must be thinking or feeling. As someone who professes Christ as Lord and Savior of my life and the world, even I wondered, “God, where were You?”
This isn’t the first time a plane crash destroyed the hopes and dreams of an entire team, leaving few behind to try to pick up the pieces and carry on their legacy. A 1970 plane crash carrying the Marshall football team left behind no survivors and a school and community in despair.
Where was God in that?
So Where Was God?
God was on that plane.
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He was at the crash site.
He was with the search and rescue team.
He was at the team’s arena in Chapeco as the fans gathered together to mourn the loss.
He was in every Tweet the next morning that sent condolences from soccer players and teams and athletes from around the world.
He is in the tears. He is in the broken hearts. He promises to always be with us (Isaiah 41:10; Matthew 28:20; Romans 8:39).
But if God was there, why do these things happen? Doesn’t He care?
The Reality of Suffering in a Broken World
The reality is we live in a fallen and broken world.
There’s a misconception that God should make our lives easy. Some people think being a Christian will erase the pain and suffering from their lives.
We tend to treat God like a genie in a bottle who should bow to our every wish and command, as someone who works for us.
But that’s neither who God is nor how He works.
This me-centered perspective goes all the way back to Genesis 3. Many of us may be familiar with this story, but are we so familiar with it that we glance over the harsh ramifications of what happened and what it still means for us today?
At that time, Adam and Eve could see God face to face. They were entrusted to take care of everything God created. They were free to eat from every tree except just one. Then Satan asks them, “Did God really say…?”
The seed of doubt lodged in their minds.
Maybe God was holding out on them. It looked good, so why couldn’t they eat it?
They blatantly disobeyed God’s command, ate the fruit and sin entered the world. In that instant, not only was their relationship with God and each other broken, but the world itself was affected.
Our world became tainted.
Now, unexplainable, horrific things happen.
A God-Centered Perspective
But if we back up to Genesis chapters 1 and 2, we see that wasn’t God’s initial design.
He created a world of beauty and order. He created the sky, the water and the land, and then He created things to fill them.
In all this goodness, He wanted something that would reflect His image. He created man and woman. As we read through Scripture, we see He is in constant pursuit of humans to re-establish that broken relationship. We begin to understand God is in the process of putting things back to their original design.
It’s important to remember in the midst of tragedy: God doesn’t relish in our pain and suffering. He weeps because of death (John 11:35).
When we zero in on the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, we see God has overlaid all the injustices of the world with the most profound injustice ever imagined.
He sent His perfect Son to pay the price for our sins, so we and the world can once again be reconciled to Him. Jesus bore our sins. We received His righteousness (Isaiah 53:4-6).
God is working in this fallen and broken world, but He isn’t finished yet. Because of that, we still experience pain, suffering and injustice.
When tragedies occur, like what happened to the Brazilian soccer team, we can lose sight of His plan and His promises. But when we move from a me-centered perspective to a God-centered perspective, we trust that God is in control and knows what He’s doing, even though we may not understand what or why (Isaiah 55:8-9). We trust that He will bring about good in this situation for those who love Him (Romans 8:28).
But trusting God doesn’t always give us the answers we so desperately desire.
The writer of Hebrews reminds us,
“For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need” (4:15-16).
Trusting God gives us a place we can go to bear our souls, where we can lay out all of our emotions and know we will be heard and understood.
Although our lives aren't guaranteed to be easy, we have the assurance that in the pain and suffering, God will always be there.
God doesn’t minimize nor neglect our pain. He is walking with us and crying with us.
Much like the season of advent before Christmas, which celebrates the anticipation of Jesus’ first coming, we equally anticipate His second coming and the day everything will be restored.
“Come, Lord Jesus!”