On Tuesday, the NTSB released the cockpit voice recorder transcript for Flight 3407, which crashed on February 12, 2009 killing 50 people. I suppose now the finger pointing can begin as to how such a horrible accident could have occurred, just four weeks to the day after flight 1549, the “Miracle on the Hudson”. The question, though, that such news inevitably brings up by reminding us of the pain we have felt in the wake of death and loss, is not how such things happen, or who is to blame, so much as how can we reconcile our belief in a loving God with our having to endure the pain of losing those we love?
The way we as Christians view death and life is at the very heart of what we believe. We believe that death is not God’s final answer, because just as death came into the world through Adam and his sin, life has come to us through Christ and his cross. Jesus was forsaken so that we need never be and, as a result, the coffin is no longer an exitless box for us.
Paul tells us, for if, by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God’s abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ (Romans 5:21). This life that came through Christ is eternal life as God’s adopted children, and it was secured for us by Christ defeating death on the cross.
When we suffer the loss of a loved one, we have two promises of comfort from God. The first is that if our loved one died in the hope of Christ’s resurrection, then he or she will be with the Father. Jesus said, in my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you (John 14:2). No matter how our loved one leaves this world, through their faith in Jesus Christ there is a place for them with God.
The second promise is that the Holy Spirit abides with us. Jesus told his disciples, and I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever (John 14:16). “Comforter” is a fitting name for the Holy Spirit: he comforts us in our hour of need and in our season of loss.
The bottom line is that the stark reality of death and grief in this world is very real: some of us will lose loved ones seemingly before their time, sometimes witnessing their suffering as they die, sometimes receiving the phone call that brings such unbearable news.
But the promises from God are also very real: when we lose a loved one, we need not fear for them, for their place has already been prepared in the Father’s house. And we need not ever fear the absence of God in our season of grief, because the Comforter abides with us and will never leave us to face our grief alone.
May God the Holy Spirit, the Comforter, be with the families of the victims of flight 3407.