Every time I get on a plane, I do a little ritual. I do it subtly, I doubt anyone even notices. As I enter the plane, I place my hand on the door and say a quick prayer. When I get to my seat I often pray for the pilot, the crew and sometimes the passengers. I'm not a big fan of flying, so prayer helps to comfort my heart and hopefully ensure a safer ride.
This week, I like many others found myself glued to the news as reports emerged about Germanwings flight 9525. I read in shock as it was revealed that 27 year old co-pilot Andreas Lubitz, committed a murder/suicide, locking the pilot out of the cockpit and flying a plane full of 150 people into the French Alps. The reality of their 8 minute descent to instant death is something too disturbing to grasp.
How can we even wrap our minds around the terror they felt? Those of us who've flown know how unnerving turbulence is. I'm not ashamed to admit I clutch the arm rests and practically do breathing exercises when the flight gets bumpy. In those situations, we quiet our fears by telling ourselves everything will be okay. We hope we're right, and thankfully, most often we are.
However, in rare occasions everything is not okay. Tragedies of these proportions, acts done in mindless cruelty and utter indifference are hard for us to comprehend. Our first question is often, "How could anyone do something like that?" We're shaken to the core by it all, reawakened to the depth of depravity mankind's capable of.
In one sense, it's interesting that we still ask the how question. Everyday we see acts of violence erupting across our globe. We've become sadly familiar with sex slavery, murder, robbery and war. This is why I don't enjoy watching the nightly news. Advances in technology allow us to see in minutes, atrocities happening across the earth. All the while we may be dealing with the common stresses associated with work and family life. The added anxiety of societal issues can weigh heavily upon our souls. This is why some despair, expressing they've lost hope in humanity or wondering what the world is coming too.
The truth is, though the world has changed, humankind has remained the same. The same envy that lead Cain to kill his brother Abel in Biblical times, is the same envy alive in our hearts today. The utter disregard for human life that manifested in Nazi guards gassing women and children is the same lack of love that allowed Lubitz to crash a plane carrying mothers and their children. The same cruelty that recently fueled a Denver woman to cut a 7 month out of her mother's womb, is the cruelty that incited early U.S soldiers to rip open the bellies of pregnant Native American women. Though time has changed, humanity remains the same.
We don't want to believe this about our nature. We want to believe we are better than this. Often I'll ask strangers if they believe Heaven is real and if so, do they think they'll be their one day. If they believe in heaven, the most common reason they think they'll pass through the pearly gates is because they're a good person. I've often pondered that almost everyone I meet is a good person in their own eyes.
Truth be told, many of us are wonderful, caring, beautiful and honest people. Yet most of us, tend to measure goodness by our own standards. One woman told me she was good because she took care of her animals. One person is good because they give spare change to the homeless and another because they take their children to baseball games. In society today, goodness is relative, goodness is subjective and goodness is measured with the 'good' one's ruler.
Here's a truth about me, I don't think I'm a good person. I know I am a sinner. I'm a broken girl, capable of anything, bent towards jealousy, anger, pride, laziness...and that's just the start of the list. That's the bad news. The better news is, I'm also a saint. I'm one who encountered the love and forgiveness of Jesus Christ and has become through his mercy and grace, a new creation. If you don't know Jesus, that might not make much sense to you. It just means that I was once a slave to a nature of sin, but now I am free. I still sin daily, but Christ has changed me from the inside out. Now, sin hurts me, grieves my heart and I seek to turn from it and become more like Christ.
What does this all mean? What is the point of me talking about the horrors of this world and then bringing up God? After all, didn't God allow these horrors? Heck, maybe He's even behind them? Surely if He cared, He could have stopped the pilot, healed the mentally ill man, caused the plane to malfunction before leaving the ground. If he cared about humanity, why did He put us on this sick earth full of suffering and pain?
Well...here's my take on it. Yes, to all of the accusations in our hearts. God, Yahweh, Adonai, I AM could have done all of those things to spare the world tragedy. He could of, yet He didn't. We have to come to terms with that. We also must realize He doesn't owe us an explanation for this tragedy or any other. He doesn't owe us one word in His defense and he is not in need of a lawyer. God doesn't need to answer to us for sufferings, many of which are done by our own hands.
God is merciful and full of loving-kindness. I always believe He's doing something good. I have no idea how many people He sent into Andreas's life to help him with his depression. It's been revealed that he was seeing a doctor who advised him not to work the day of the crash. Maybe God was trying to reach out to Him, urging him to take another path. As for the crash, who knows what was happening in the final moments of terror? I believe Jesus was there, comforting, holding, sending his angels to carry His children to eternity.
God didn't stop it from happening but that doesn't mean He didn't weep over it. Just because He allowed it, doesn't mean he wanted that horrific act to take place. God has set this world in motion and given human beings the ability to choose. Sometimes we choose well and often we choose horribly. When we choose selfishly, we like to make that choice without anyone's opinion involved. We love to say things like, "This is my life" and "Only God can judge me." That's code for let me do what I want and mind ya business about it! The same God that allows us our indiscretions, even when they hurt us, is the God that allows others to do the same. Sadly, the consequences for some acts are far graver and more reaching than others.
The reason I don't call men like Andreas a monster is because that's not the reality of who they are. They are deeply broken, terribly flawed humans just like us. We wish they were pure evil incarnate to make it easier to distance ourselves from them. They are murderers, liars, wicked, careless..etc. While we think we are imperfect but good, well meaning, lovable, trying to change, and doing our best to get by. Bottom line is this- we are all deeply flawed. Yes, some have real mental issues that require serious psychological care. I'm not saying that we are all the same in our levels of brokenness or that we're all one step away from being a criminal. What I am saying is that at the core, all of us are broken people, bent on destruction. Hopefully we'll never cause destruction that takes families away from loved ones, and causes children to never return to school. Yet in some way throughout this life we will destroy. We'll hurt a friend, fail a lover, break a promise to a child, wound a parent. I promise we will do this because we no man is perfect except Christ.
When it's hard to make sense of humanity, know that it's because we don't see ourselves for who we really are. We don't acknowledge the depth our depravity and the absolute need we have for a Savior. We cover up the brokenness, put makeup on our mess and hope no one will see how truly desperate we are. Andreas was a depressed and very ill man, similar to shooters, akin to murders, in some ways, harassed and tormented like us.
If you need help making sense of the world we live in, or find yourself weary from the trials of life, there is one who will comfort, console and give you strength. His words below are better than any I've ever penned. When you can't make sense of humanity, spend time with the supernatural Creator that loves you.
28 “Come to me all of you who are tired from the heavy burden you have been forced to carry. I will give you rest. 29 Accept my teaching.[a] Learn from me. I am gentle and humble in spirit. And you will be able to get some rest. 30 Yes, the teaching that I ask you to accept is easy. The load I give you to carry is light.” Matthew 11:28-30 ERV