I just watched a piece on NBC Nightly News this evening about a man who had booked a seat on Malaysian Airlines flight 370 that vanished approximately 3 days ago. But the man canceled his ticket, afterwards saying, "I consider it the absolute providence of God that I wasn't on that plane."
Think about that for a moment. If you carry on with that line of thinking, then the question must be asked, "What did the 239 passengers and crew on that plane do to not deserve "the providence of God?"
Of course, this man's sentiments have been echoed throughout history; we hear it all the time. "My daughter was in a car wreck with 2 of her friends, but she survived. God must have a special plan for her life. Did God not have a plan for her 2 friends who died instantly? Or 2 people that you know have been diagnosed with cancer and you pray for both of them, yet one of them lives and the other doesn't. What did he do wrong? Did he not have enough faith? Did he not hold the "right" beliefs about God? Of course there's always the terrible condolence "Well, God must have needed another angel." Please. Hand me a trash can quickly to be sick in. Or there's always the time-tested statement "God is mysterious; we can't understand His ways, we just have to trust him."
All that these statements or responses to tragedy do is to continue to poke holes in a balloon that should have been deflated a long long time ago. The notion that God is a Controller-In-The-Sky who plans every moment of our lives (The Marionette God), or at least knows everything that is going to happen but does nothing (The Impotent or Malicious God), is offensive to me and, no wonder, to millions of other people - even to some Christians (particularly the progressive ones).
The truth as I see it is that we would do better to simply shake our heads and admit "I don't know" when tragedy strikes, and leave the pithy attempts at answers on the scrapheap of past religious lingo.
I am a person whose faith is important to him, but let us not for a second entertain the notion that God had a hand in either destroying or saving the lives of those associated with Malaysian Airlines flight 370. May we instead turn our thoughts and resources to those who mourn.
Mark Andrew Nouwen
St. Thomas, Ontario, Canada