I am 50. At this point, now one week after the plane lost radar contact, I can say that the absolute disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 is one of the most mysterious news items that I’ve followed in my half century. Today searchers are zeroing in on a remote island chain in the Indian Ocean for a missing Boeing 777. I’ve flown on the 777. It’s large, impressive, and exceptionally safe. Experts are telling us that the aircraft may have flown for hours after it vanished from radar, and that China reported a “seismic event” at the time the Malaysia Airlines flight disappeared. But no one knows with certainty.
Indian ships and planes have expanded their search to areas west of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. Those islands are hundreds of miles from the intended flight path. Several media outlets have reported U.S. officials “confirming” that Malaysia 370 dispatched signals to a satellite for four hours after the aircraft dropped off the radar, raising the possibility that the jet with its 239 people aboard could have flown a great distance in that period of time. These latest pieces of data seem to have ramped up speculation that whatever happened to the plane was a deliberate act. ABC News reported that two U.S. officials verified that two of the plane’s communication systems shut down separately shortly after the plane last communicated its position. But we can’t know any of that for sure at this point, in my opinion. We have no black boxes. We have nothing concrete in terms of evidence.
239 human beings are missing. 239 souls. I can barely imagine the grief surrounding this tragic week. People are suffering as they wait for any news of any kind.
The Bible probably records no greater story of human suffering than the book of Job. It is an honest portrayal of God allowing a man to suffer. After Job has lost all of his sons and daughters, he can still utter these words of praise: “The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord” (Job 1:21). And that’s just the beginning. Job is soon attacked in his own physical body to the point of near death.
When a passenger plane falls from the sky, we are rattled to the core of our sense of security. Rightly so. But when a jumbo jet simply vanishes, we’re not even sure what emotions to feel. I remember visiting Haiti soon after the devastating earthquake. On one hand it was very sad. On the other hand it was surreal. For almost its entire history: war-torn, ridden with internal strife and external domination, dependent for most of its history on a corrupt government that repeatedly squandered for its own use even the outside aid – basic food and supplies – that could have made a substantive difference for good among the precious Haitian people. In my heart and mind, these people did not need an earthquake. Why there? It was more than I could process emotionally and even spiritually.
What shall we do with this Malaysia Airlines disaster? First, let’s pray for the victims. Maybe the passengers are still alive somewhere, but there is a great need on Planet Earth for the Lord God to rescue and to save and to bring hope among many who are tragically touched by this. If the passengers have perished, their loved ones need our prayers.
And what do we trust in as we wait for even a semblance of understanding and clarity? May I suggest that we trust in the “God-ness” of God. By that I mean His unfailing character and nature for such a time as this.
God is still God. He’s the God of all power and might! In the unfolding story from God’s Word, Satan desires to afflict Job unmercifully – but he has to ask God’s permission first (1:12; 2:6). What does this teach us? That God is still sovereign, even when people suffer. When we suffer, He still reigns.
Secondly we discover that God rules over even meteorological elements of destruction. God asks a long series of rhetorical questions … “Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth? Tell me, if you have understanding. Who determined its measurements – surely you know! Or who stretched the line upon it? … Or who shut in the sea with doors when it burst out from the womb, when I made clouds its garment, and thick darkness its swaddling band, and prescribed limits for it and set bars and doors, and said, ‘Thus far you shall come, and no farther, and here shall your proud waves be stayed’ … Have you comprehended the expanse of the earth? Declare if you know all this … Have you entered the storehouses of the snow, or have you seen the storehouses of the hail, which I have reserved for the time of trouble, for the day of battle and war? What is the way to the place where the light is distributed, or where the east wind is scattered upon the earth? Who has cleft a channel for the torrents of rain and a way for the thunderbolt, to bring rain on a land where no man is, on the desert in which there is no man, to satisfy the waste and desolate land, and to make the ground sprout with grass (38:4-5, 8-11, 18, 22-27)?”
Christ is Lord over torrents and tornadoes. And He is Lord over technology and terrorists.
God’s ancient questions might just be for us today.
Thirdly we learn that the worst calamities – even if they’re associated with God’s judgment (and I’m in no way implying that about Malaysia 370) – most often include God’s tender mercy. Somehow. But it often takes considerable time to see the mercy and grace. Those are for later chapters of Job.
So God is God. And God is good.
For now, like Job, we know that our Redeemer lives.