“A man’s steps are directed by the Lord. How then can anyone understand his own way?” – Proverbs 20:24
*It’s been a decade now since the young couple buried his parents and their only child, Abigail, victims of a fiery private plane crash here in Tulsa. The pilot, Rick, and his wife Debbie, both acquaintances of mine, were off to vacation in Canada. The first leg of their journey would take them to Missouri to return Abigail, their weekend guest, to her parents. Shortly after takeoff, Rick radioed the tower about an engine problem and their emergency return to the airfield. Tragically, moments later the Cessna dropped from the sky.
In his early fifties, Rick had only recently retired. His son and daughter-in-law must have eagerly anticipated the greater flexibility these devoted grandparents would now have to love on their family. How shocking for them to learn that their dream had been dashed and their family members snatched away.
“This couple did so much volunteer work,” the general manager of Rick and Debbie’s tennis club was quoted as saying. “Whatever we do to honor their memory won’t do justice to the type of people they were.” Hundreds attended their funeral. Why were these extraordinary folks taken in their prime? And what about little Abby, whose life had only begun? And what about all the innocent victims of terrorism, many of them children? And what about war hero Chris Kyle, survivor of four combat tours who was murdered by a fellow US soldier? And what about a young Jewish carpenter crucified for healing the sick and offering forgiveness and eternal life? And what about___? You fill in the blank.
Is there any sense at all to be made of life’s dreadful, often unexpected events? I’d like to suggest to you a point of view offered in the Bible book of Ecclesiastes that I’ve found helpful in gaining some perspective on this.
A well-known passage in Ecclesiastes, popularized years ago by songwriter Bob Dylan, notes that God has a perfect timetable and season for everything that enters our lives, both good and evil: “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven: a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot, a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build, a time to weep and a time to laugh…”
Ecclesiastes explains that since only God knows how long each of these seasons of life will last, the wise man, rather than taking what he has for granted and pining for more, will set his mind to enjoy his life, relishing each moment while he has it. Or, as a friend who recently lost his wife to cancer put it, “The wise man will stay in the moment and take nothing for granted.”
Behind all of life’s obscurities, Ecclesiastes adds, the God who has everything carefully choreographed, is mysteriously working good: “He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end.”
Though life may careen out of control, sometimes with catastrophic results, each day brings new hope and opportunities, along with new and frequently incomprehensible challenges. But the one who believes that God is there, accomplishing his perfect plan right on schedule and with our best interest at heart, as the Bible assures us he is, is able to find hope and peace of mind. God’s plan is unfathomable – we can’t really understand it, but it’s also “beautiful in its time.”
Dr. Jim Furr
*In conjunction with thoughts from Dwight Hill