Updated: Sep 29, 2021
Thursday evening, July 19, 2018, at about 7:00, my wife called me outside. The wind had started blowing violently. From where we stood in front of our house, we could see Table Rock Lake, about half a mile west. The lake was agitated and frothy, whitecaps churning right to left as we viewed the water. My wife even remarked, “I hope no one is out on the lake right now.” A few minutes later we started to hear the sirens of the emergency vehicles making their way to the site of the tragedy. Some minutes later, we began to hear the reports of lives lost, and the reality of the terror and the suffering that unfolded less than a mile from the security of our home became apparent. Seventeen people lost their lives when a sightseeing duck boat capsized in the sudden windstorm. Since that time, there have been the questions. Why?
People have been asking why as long as the earth has had people. Well, almost as long as there have been people. In the earliest times, Adam and Eve were placed in a perfect paradise and had no reason to ask why. They lived in and tended the Garden. God provided food and shelter for them, and they had no wants. No reason to ask why. We do not know how long Adam and Eve lived this idyllic life. It might have been days, or it could have been centuries. In God’s perfect creation, there was no death, no suffering, and no decay. Then, the Devil introduced the question, “Why?” “Why does God not want you to eat of the fruit of the tree in the center of the Garden? Because God knows when you do, your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good from evil.” And we know that Adam and Eve did eat the fruit of the tree in the middle of the Garden, and God’s perfect creation was forever corrupted, thereby enabling death and suffering.
We have been asking the why question ever since. Why, if God is good, and if God is sovereign, does He allow death and suffering? Why does He allow bad things to happen to good people?
The first thing we need to understand is, God is not the creator of evil, death, destruction, and suffering. God is the creator of good. For five days, God created the heavens and the earth, the seas and the firmament, the fish and animals, and at the end of each day, He declared His work to be “good”. On the sixth day, He created man, and He looked at all His creation, and this time declared it to be “very good”.
It was good. Was. Until evil was introduced by the Devil in his attempt to ruin God’s perfection. And, to an extent, the Devil succeeded in his efforts. Creation, including man, was no longer perfect. But, through the curse of imperfection, we were also given a great gift – the gift of asking why. Now that we are free to question, to ask why, we are also free to choose. We can choose to pursue good over evil, life over death, creation over destruction. Prior to the fall, there was no question to be asked, and no choice to be made. We were freed to truly experience God’s love, and to choose to love Him. Or not.
Corruption entered into God’s perfect creation, causing a form of natural evil. These are natural phenomena such as earthquakes, drought, wildfires, and windstorms that cause so much human suffering and death. Perfection became corrupted and the now cursed nature went into revolt. Genes became mutated and bodies broke down, allowing disease and death. Pain and suffering became a part of every living creature’s existence. Thorns and thistles entered what had been the Garden.
God did not create evil in the world. We did. We did when we asked why, which then created the potential for true love and true evil. By allowing us to have a free will, God created the potential for genuine goodness and genuine love, as well as the potential for evil.
Romans 8:28 tells us, “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” The verse does not say God causes evil and suffering, just that He promises to cause good to emerge. Notice that the verse does not say we all will see immediately or even in this life how God has caused good to emerge from a bad circumstance. Remember, we only see things dimly in this world (1 Corinthians 13). Notice that God does not make this promise to everyone. He makes the solemn pledge that He will take the bad circumstances that befall us and cause good to emerge if we are committed to following Him. Whatever pain, no matter how great and terrible, we may experience in this life, God has promised to draw something good from it. We may not experience that good personally; the good may benefit someone else. But, in His good purpose, some good will come from all our experiences, good or bad.
For 2000 years, we have celebrated the singular most tragic and evil event in human history, the killing of our Lord Jesus Christ. Celebrated, because from this unspeakable tragedy has sprouted the greatest benefit man could possibly acquire – Christ’s victory of perfection over evil and corruption, of life over death, and of eternal paradise in Heaven over permanent torment in Hell.
If God can turn the greatest crime in the history of the entire universe into the greatest gift ever given, can He not turn your tragedy into good? Can He not take the seemingly senseless death of 17 people on Table Rock Lake and work good from it for those who are committed to following Him? How is this terrible event going to forever affect the lives of the loved ones of those 17 who perished under the waves? What changes will there be in the lives of the dozens, perhaps hundreds, who responded to the emergency call and came to save the living and recover the dead? What opportunities to draw closer to God’s will await our corner of the Ozarks following this horrific loss? What of the hometowns of the 17 who died? Or the nation as a whole as we mourn their deaths?
I sat down to write an essay about the awful death of 17 fellow human beings, not knowing what I could say – only that I felt obligated to say something. For all I know and knowing the kind of people who are attracted to Branson, these who have passed away were likely good people. We who remain are left to ask, “Why?” Why were these taken and not spared? It is fine to ask why. The many reporters covering this story from around the nation are happy to tell us why. So are the lawyers. The One who truly knows why does not owe us an answer. But He will reveal that truth in His good time, and for His good purpose.