Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain. (Psalm 139:6)
If you are anything like me, you’ve probably read or heard of some dreadful, tragic event and immediately said to yourself, “That just doesn’t make any sense!”
Those who knew the lovely missionary family must have thought this very thing. On March 19, 1971, Walt and Vonnie Steinkraus, a dedicated Wycliffe missionary couple serving in New Guinea, were at home resting with their young daughters, Kerry and Kathy, after attending Sunday church services. At 3:00 pm a huge section of the 300-foot mountain on the opposite side of the river from the Steinkraus’s house suddenly broke loose. With a deafening roar and incredible force, a half-mile-wide, 100-foot-deep slab plunged downward . . . scooping out sandbanks and crossing the river with lightning speed. It drove through the opposite bank and covered the village with rock, mud, and debris ten feet deep. The missionary family was buried in the landslide. Death was instantaneous; it’s possible they never even heard a sound.
Why? A sense of disbelief hung in the air over all those who knew the family, including seasoned veterans of the Wycliffe team, who had been tested by fire and hammered on the anvil of adversity and affliction. It just didn’t make any sense! Why would this happen to a family who had committed their lives to serving God? Why this particular hillside? Why did it collapse at the very time when the Steinkraus family was at home, resting from their labors in the Lord of translating the Bible into the Tifalmin tongue? Walt, Vonnie and their children were taken—not by the landslide, but by their Lord to their eternal home in heaven before they were able to finish the project. Why?!
In this case, God was gracious to supply the answer that so many of us search for. As rescue workers sifted through the debris in the aftermath of the disaster, they found an envelope with the words of Isaiah 55:9 printed on it:
For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts.
We must remember that what seems senseless to us is not the least bit senseless to our Savior. We see only in part; He sees everything in whole, from beginning to end. We see in the temporal; He sees in the eternal. When we mere mortals look for answers, we don’t have any. None of us has the mind of God, so how can we in any way make sense out of a seemingly senseless and utterly life-changing event?
Over the years, here is the best answer I have been able to come up with for those who are in the midst of a crushing set of circumstances, and I share it often with our congregation:
I don’t know what the reason is for this calamity, but I know what it cannot be. It cannot be because God doesn’t love us. The cross proves that truth!
The psalmist was right; such knowledge is simply too high for us to understand. This is where we simply must accept rather than try to explain. We know that our God is a good God and so we trust Him even when we cannot trace Him, knowing that all things will eventually work together for our good and His glory. So when circumstances seem senseless, don’t look to make sense of it, rather, look to your Savior and lean on Him, not your own understanding.
One last thought: when the veil of physical death drops and we are separated from members of the family of faith, we grieve, and rightly so. We know we will miss their presence in our lives! But we do not grieve as those who have no hope. For those who have placed their trust in Jesus Christ’s atoning death, burial, and resurrection, death does not mean “Goodbye” . . . It simply means, “I’ll see you soon!”
This is the Gospel. This is grace for your race. NEVER FORGET THAT . . . AMEN!