"Surely I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know." Job 42:3b
Tragedy does a lot of things - not the least of which is to challenge our theology.
When something horrific happens "over there" - in some place that doesn't touch my place - then we have a lot of pat answers about the what and why it all occurred. But when a commercial airline flight crashes down on someone's house, near enough to your own house, then your theology isn't as airtight anymore. And that is exactly what happened here in our Buffalo suburb town of Clarence, NY on Thursday night February 12.
In our community of faith, we turned to the Scripture and learned some things from Job, though I must confess it is a subject that defies our ability to fully understand. If you care to access the teaching of that day, here it is: http://dev.jerrygillis.com/messages/. If you are reading this some time later than this post, then search for the title "The Mystery of Tragedy" from 2/22/09.
In addition to what we learned that day, I have been pondering some other things as well. But one of the most important things that I keep coming back to is that we must always learn to view God through the lens of Jesus Christ. Since Jesus is the "image of the invisible God" (Col.1:15) and since in seeing Jesus we have "seen" the Father (John 14:9), it is imperative that we view God through Jesus. When we look back in retrospect at the Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament), we must do so looking back through the lens of Jesus Christ. When we try and form our understanding of the nature and character of God in the present, we must do that by understanding the nature and character of Jesus Christ. While I understand (not really but for sake of argument) the identities of the Trinitarian make-up of God, it is still clear that God revealed Himself in Jesus Christ so that we might know Him more intimately.
A.W. Tozer, one of the great writers and "prophets" of days gone by, once noted in the opening of one of his books that whatever comes to your mind when you think about God is the most important thing about you (gleaned from The Knowledge of the Holy). I think I am understanding that more and more. What we think about God matters deeply because it shapes the core of who we are and how we respond to Him. There are so many ways in which people perceive God - big, giggling Grandfather, Black-robed Judge, Powerful Superhero, Zeus with a Bad Attitude, etc. If we will allow Jesus Christ to be what we think of when we think about God, we will go a long way toward understanding God more intimately.
Job helped me to see that a little bit, because Job, his wife, and his friends all had a vision of God that wasn't altogether right. That's why at the close of the epic, Job repented of what he had perceived God to be. It probably wouldn't hurt for all of us to evaluate how we understand God - especially because tragedy causes us to think those thoughts. Just make sure when you do it, that you see the face of Jesus, hear the words of Jesus, and understand the heart of Jesus. That will take you in the direction God wants you to travel to understand and know Him more intimately.