Sometimes it’s hard to make sense of life. A terrorist plows a truck down a pedestrian lane in New York killing at least eight people. It doesn’t make sense.
I heard yesterday of the tragic death of a young father in a four-wheeling accident, leaving his wife, two-year old son, and newborn behind. It doesn’t make sense.
On the same day, I was told of a horrific farming accident that nearly claimed the life of a mother of one of our church members. It doesn’t make sense.
It doesn’t make sense when a husband walks out on his wife and children. It doesn’t make sense when someone takes his or her own life. It doesn’t make sense when a perfectly sane individual decides to steal from his company and winds up going to jail.
Without question, there are causes to these events. An ISIS extremist who becomes so warped in his pseudo-religious zeal that evil is morphed into good. Accidents that happen due to the laws of gravity, speed, and miscalculations. Hearts that grow cold and turn from love and loyalty to dishonor and disgrace.
Causes bring explanation, but they don’t make sense. Sense is to grasp the meaning of, to be reasonable or comprehensible. Explanations flow from facts. Meaning flows from purpose.
And herein lies an important distinction. Facts do not always reveal meaning. They reveal what happened, but they don’t bring meaning. Meaning comes from a higher source, an awareness of something greater than mere facts. Without any framework for evil in the world, terror can be explained by facts, but facts are interpreted and given meaning by one’s worldview.
To the follower of ISIS, the actions of suspected terrorist Sayfullo Saipov should be celebrated. To the rest of the world those actions are condemned. Same facts, but different meaning. “Sense” then comes from a higher plane of transcendent determination of truth, goodness and evil.
The reason we have a hard time of making sense of tragedy, accidents, and failures is because we have a “sense” that these events are not the way things are supposed to be. We have a higher understanding of a world of goodness gone bad, and we long for our return to Eden. As C. S. Lewis wrote, we hear “echoes of Eden” which stir our desires for “a better country, that is, a heavenly one” (Hebrews 11:16).
Until then, we comfort one another, and we live this life to the full with expectant hearts of what lies beyond the horizon. When tragedy strikes, we remind ourselves that the events of this world, though explainable, will one day be overshadowed by the meaning of the world to come.
“For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:18).