Some Thoughts on Life, Death, and Faith

by Jordan McKenzie

Seven people lost.

Seven lives cut short.

Seven families broken.

One nation in mourning.

That was the aftermath of January 28th, 1986, when the Space Shuttle Challenger tragically exploded during its launch. The launch itself was watched live by millions, and after the explosion became one of the biggest news stories in American history. Within an hour of the incident, surveys show that nearly all Americans were tuned into news coverage of the event.

I was born one year after the Challenger explosion, so I did not see it live. But as some remember and reflect on the 32nd anniversary of the event today, it’s made me mindful of the loss that day. I can only imagine what it would have been like to have seen it live.

We don’t like to talk about loss. Grief and death and all the emotions that come with them are uncomfortable, even awkward topics for us. This is especially true in our advanced, technological society where we can move on from something so easily, or find so many other distractions.

But when there is an event like the Challenger explosion or the Oklahoma City bombing or September 11th, it’s hard to get away from the harsh realities of life. It’s impossible not to talk about these things.

The truth is that our faith as Christians does not shy away from death, loss, or grief. Indeed, our faith invites us, even compels us, to take them more seriously. The foundation of our faith is that the world is broken and imperfect, often subjecting us to heartbreak and pain. Most profoundly, Jesus’s death and resurrection take us more deeply into these realities. Jesus’s death forces us to grapple with these things. On the cross he somehow takes the weight of our pain and suffering upon himself and shouts, “My god, my god, why have you forsaken me???” Even he is not exempted.

The good news, though, is that our faith teaches us that loss or grief do not have the final word. Jesus does. Jesus somehow overcomes our pain, our loss, our brokenness, our death. They are redeemed and restored by him, as miraculously “all things are worked together for our good.”

This is the good news. But we have to hold these realities in tension. We can’t have one without the other. There is brokenness, but there is also wholeness; there is suffering, but there is also healing; there is death, but there is also life.

As Christians we should not focus too much on either side of the coin. Rather we should always remember that we live in a broken world, but a world which is also redeemed by God. And that’s the good news. All of it.

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