Tragedies happen to someone, somewhere, every day. The fires in Maui certainly qualify as a tragedy. As of the date of publication, 114 people have lost their lives (and there is feared to be many more). Victims have been found in scenes that people compare to Pompeii after the eruption of Mount Vesuvius. Families have been found burned to death and huddled together in their houses. Their last minutes of life were a terror.
Whenever tragedies come, people enter into a desperate search for “meaning”. There must be some “purpose” behind the tragedy, and if we under- stand that higher purpose, it would be easier to accept. Most of the time, this is a fruitless exercise. There is often no rhyme or reason to explain some tragic events. There is only this: we suffer loss because we are human!
What explanation can there be for 114 deaths in a raging inferno that consumes an entire island, beyond the obvious? The “obvious” answer is that some- one carelessly threw a lit match into dry grass, or lighting set off the blaze, or one of any number of random things that happen all the time. It could even have been arson. Who knows? Solomon declared, “I returned and saw under the sun that— The race is not to the swift, Nor the battle to the strong, Nor bread to the wise, Nor riches to men of understanding, Nor favor to men of skill; But time and chance happen to them all”.
We would do well to accept the fact that sometimes bad things happen. And they often happen to good people. Humans are made of flesh and blood (Matthew 16:17; 1 Corinthians 15:50). As such, we are exceedingly frail. Psalm 90:4-6 says, “For a thousand years in Your sight Are like yesterday when it is past, And like a watch in the night. You carry them away like a flood; They are like a sleep. In the morning they are like grass which grows up: In the morning it flourishes and grows up; In the evening it is cut down and withers” (cp. 1 Peter 1:24).
We are soft, weak creatures, and we die. Sometimes that death is incredibly tragic. But to look for deeper spiritual meaning is fruitless, and it generally leads to more pain.
Adapted from David Weaks