The crash scene was eerily familiar. I looked at the images on the Internet and a multitude of thoughts and emotions ran through my mind. I thought about my sister-in-law and my husband, wondering if they were watching the news.
Last week’s plane crash on I-285 reminded me of the tragedy that struck my own family three years ago when my brother-in-law’s twin engine plane exploded after crashing near the Dalton airport. I’ll never forget my husband’s face when he hung up the phone. I’ll never forget the days and months that followed.
Knowing all too well the excruciating sorrow that assailed that North Carolina family last Friday, I closed my eyes and prayed for them. And I’ll keep praying every time I remember them for the next many weeks. I know what they’re going through. I can’t do anything about their tragedy, but I can certainly touch heaven for them as I pray for peace, comfort and strength.
I believe one of the hardest things when tragedies strike is to try to understand why God allows them. Tragedy never makes sense. Why does a newborn die? Why are hospitals filled with young children fighting cancer? Why did Donnie’s plane crash on that beautiful day in 2012? Why? We hopelessly try to wrap our minds around these tragic events in life, hoping to find meaning in the seemingly meaningless; trying to keep our faith in a God that allows them to happen.
There is one hope in the pursuit of answers to those questions, and that hope is only found if we keep on trusting God through it all. That hope is finding purpose. Many are the men and women who have started foundations to help people who suffer from the same disease that killed their loved one. Many are the people who have helped others walk through the shadows of divorce, financial loss and death because of their personal experiences in this valley. Many are those who, like me, understand the pain and sorrow of a cancer diagnosis … or the sudden death of a loved one. Because I do, I can reach out to those hurting today and tell them with confidence that their continual trust in God will take them to a place where they’ll find purpose in their trial, even if a small one.
Empathy is a beautiful thing. Humanitarian efforts would not be the same were it not for the empathy that only personal pain can bring. There is a purpose for each tragedy, if only to make us more human, more sensitive to the pain in others, encouraging them by showing that we have become living proofs that God can make something beautiful out of their ashes.
The challenge is to keep pressing on by faith, never giving up on God, trusting that he is still good, even when the worst happens. Because, at the end of the day, if we trust that our God is indeed good, then we can affirm that he will make everything work together for our good and his glory. It’ll be for our good when our lives gain new purpose because we suffered. It’ll be for his glory when others see his love reflected in the gestures of our hands and in the love that we extend to our hurting neighbors.
Pray for those who suffer. Reach out to those who are going through that all too familiar valley you have traveled before. Encourage them. There’s a reason for your paths crossing. If only so you pray with the passion of a heart that has walked that same valley, and, by God’s grace, landed safely on the other side.