On Thursday, like most of us, I celebrated Thanksgiving with family and friends. In addition to great food and company, we had ample time to reflect on all the good God has placed in our lives. On Friday I attended the funeral of Tony Cervantes, my brother's 20 year old nephew. Tony was a gracious, generous, smiling young man with his whole life in front of him, or so we thought. A few days before his death, Tony suffered an asthma attack which prevented oxygen from reaching his brain for 6 minutes. Though the medical reports were initially positive, things turned for the worse and Tony died on November 19th.
On Thanksgiving night, I called my Dad and with Tony's funeral planned for the next morning, our conversation naturally turned there. My Dad wanted to know why Tony died at the beginning of a promising life. That just wasn't the way things were supposed to be. How can we make sense of senseless tragedy?
Fair questions - questions that bumper sticker slogans like "everything happens for a purpose" or "God is in control" fail to answer. It's not that God cannot act within the seeming chaos of our world to achieve His purposes, but simple statements fail to answer why the chaos exists and why it is allowed to force itself upon the people we love.
In every instance, when God created He paused and said "it is good," and when it came to man, He said "it is very good." If creation is so good, why do we daily see the effects of natural evil in disasters, disease, and death? Why do we witness constant moral evil inflicted upon innocents? Why did Tony die?
Creation was good – God created man with an intellect, emotions, and a will. In other words, God created us as persons in His own image capable of and craving relationship with each other and God Himself. Man’s will is necessary to his capacity for relationship, for choosing to live in union with others. For a time, man chose to live in face-to-face relationship with God, but then something happened.
By rebelling against God’s simple law, the first man and woman broke their relationship with God and plunged themselves, the whole human race, and all of creation into a state of separation from God. The effects of this rebellion distorted the good God had made. That’s what evil is, a distortion of good. It’s not a thing, but a condition. Not all the good is gone. We still live, love, laugh, and play. But it’s not with the same complete goodness it once had. Our lives are interrupted by disease, accidents, injury, and death, even death of those we deem good, those which had a promising life ahead of them.
Why did Tony die? Because things are not the way they’re supposed to be. Tony was ravaged by the effects of sin, of a world distorted by evil, of a body that retains only a part of the goodness God originally made. If that was the end of the story, our lives would be ground into the dust of despair. But, it’s not the end. God tells us that evil will be destroyed and goodness will be restored. Those who have embraced the Way that He has made for us will rise to an eternal new life when not only they, but all of creation will be put back to the way it is supposed to be.