The Unimaginable

There are moments that the words don’t reach

There is suffering too terrible to name…

-Lin Manuel Miranda/It’s Quiet Uptown from the musical Hamilton

The world was heartbroken today to learn of the unexpected passing of Christian author Rachel Held Evans. Just 37 years old, she had a case of the flu then a reaction to antibiotics which led to seizures, a medically induced coma and ultimately her death. She leaves behind a husband, two babies, friends, family, fans and admirers of her brave stance on social issues and Christianity.

I only recently “discovered” Rachel Held Evans as I began to come back to and rediscover the faith that I had for so long relegated to the recesses of my mind and past. I was impressed with how she not only spoke for those whose voices are often silenced, but also reasonably responded to her critics and the trolls that all too often populate cyberspace (which is how I “knew” her – through her Twitter feed).

The death of anyone at any time, at any age, or under any circumstance is undeniably tragic. But some instances make us cry out “Why?” Cases such as a friend who told me last week of a friend of her family’s who lost their 16 and 18 year old daughters when a drunk driver hit their car. The news from Charlotte of yet another senseless shooting where innocent lives were taken in a place of safety and learning. Occasions where natural disasters claim lives in one location and others are left unscathed mere yards away.

We cry out “why” in other situations too – like when someone we love is diagnosed with a serious disease. When a person has valiantly “fought” against cancer only to have it return and be declared untreatable. When we hear news of children abused and neglected by those who are supposed to protect them. Why? Why do these things happen?

I have heard the reasoning given by those who would explain things away from a Christian perspective. “We live in a fallen world.” “God is using this person to glorify him.” Or the ever popular “It is God’s will.” I believe that the answer to the “why” is often quite simply “we don’t know”. We don’t know why and there sometimes are no answers, no words of comfort, no explanations. Sometimes life just is.

Sometimes there is only the unflinching reality of tragedy in this life and the accompanying pain, suffering, and grief that accompanies such tragedy. And all we can do is love those who are hurting, reach out to help them in a tangible way, and, yes, offer prayers and thoughts of comfort and support.

One of the verses that comes to mind when I hear of news such is 1 Corthinians, Chapter 13, verse 12. “For now, we see through a glass, darkly; but then, face to face; for now, I know in part, but then I shall know as I am known.” (yes, I reached to the King James Version for that one!) And yet, even as I recall and type those words, the questioning part of my brain says “or maybe not.” How can I rely on a God that allows such things to happen? What if there never are any answers?

Not having the answers, not knowing why, that is where Rachel Held Evans would likely reply that faith would come in. In an interview with Jen Hatmaker for her For the Love podcast Rachel said:

“… ’cause I think recognizing that faith is actually a risk, like any significant relationship in your life, your relationship with God is a risk that you take. Faith isn’t about having it all lined up and believing everything 100%. It’s about following Jesus even when it’s not entirely clear, even when you don’t have it all figured out. “

There are so many things that I don’t have figured out. So many situations where the “words don’t reach” and terrible things happens to those I love or simply admire. But I can continue to come back to the place and the comfort that faith can provide. The loss of Rachel Held Evans is not fair, it is not explainable, and it is in fact unimaginable. But from what I know about her, I think she would encourage those of us who followed her words and thoughts to continue on the path of faith, even when it doesn’t make sense to us.

Go rest high dear Rachel…your work on earth is done but you will never be forgotten.

Karri Temple Brackett

May 4, 2019

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