I was saddened to read about the passing of local actor Aloysius Pang, who died after suffering serious injuries in a National Service training exercise. Many questions are being asked about what went wrong and whether the tragedy could have been prevented. Perhaps some are also asking, “Why did God let a young person with so much potential die?”
It reminded me of the time another young, promising life was cut short, when a church member’s teenage daughter died suddenly in a freak home accident. At the funeral, many among the congregation had trouble understanding how someone so young could die in such a senseless manner. “She must have been harbouring some secret sin,” they suggested, “Or maybe the family needed to learn humility.”
At the time, I was outraged by their insensitive words. Now, however, I see their response as an example of how we often struggle to understand tragedy. In its aftermath, it’s natural for us to start asking why. We want to find reasons for the suffering, the pain, and the grief.
Jesus may have been addressing such questions when He talked about a recent tragedy where 18 people died after the tower in Siloam fell on them. “Do you think they were more guilty than all the others living in Jerusalem? I tell you, no! ” (In Luke 13: 4).
Instead of focusing on why it happened and who was to blame, Jesus pointed His listeners to the bigger picture—the message of salvation (v. 5), which gives hope. At the same time, Jesus always responded with empathy and compassion. When a good friend, Lazarus, died, He wept (Luke 11:35). God knows our tears.
Perhaps there are no answers for why a tragedy happens—at least, no answers that will fully satisfy us, or explanations that we can understand here on Earth. But I like to be able to respond like Jesus did: with compassion and love, sharing the hope that He offers. When those around us lose loved ones, when sorrow and bewilderment overflow, perhaps you and I can respond with the message of the gospel: Turn to Jesus, for in Him there is hope. —Amos Khan
Lord, may such tragedies remind me of the urgent need to share the gospel with those around me. Grant me the courage and character to do so boldly and compassionately, so that many will come to find hope in You. Amen.
The gospel is the Christian answer to tragedy.
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