Is the Christian Immune from Plane Crashes? – Reflections on Ps 139 as we enter the New Year

I hate flying – its an irrational fear (is it so irrational?!) but one that I deal with every time I fly. So in three days time we will be flying to Australia via Malaysia. Some have asked why Malaysian airlines – given their record this year (one missing plane, one shot down). And then this morning I woke up to the news that another plane from the area has gone missing (presumed downed by bad weather)…Asia Airlines, another Malaysian airline, has lost a plane with 155 people on board. So am I concerned about flying. Yes. But am I concerned about what I eat, or what I drive in, or where I visit etc? The fact is, as an atheist friend wrote me a couple of days ago, life is fragile. Who knows what the New Year will hold?

And then my psalm this morning was the following from Psalm 139. And therein lies the difference between the Christian and the atheist worldview. We are sustained by the Word of God. For the atheist life is by definition random and ultimately meaningless. For the Christian there is pain, hurt and sorrow but there is no meaninglessness. We are not immune from being on crashed planes, but we know that nothing that happens to us is random and that God uses all things for the good of those who love him. As gather for worship on this the last Lord’s Day of the year let us all remember that our times are in His hands – and He IS good.

If I take flight upon the wings of dawn
And if I settle far beyond the sea,
10 There also you will guide me with your hand
And still your right hand will keep hold of me.

11 If I should say, “The dark will cover me
And light around me be as dark as night,”
12 Yet even darkness is not dark to you—
The night is as the day, the darkness light.

13 For you created me and gave me life;
Within my mother’s womb you fashioned me.
14 I’m fearfully and wonderfully made;
I praise you as your mighty works I see.

15 My frame could not be hidden from your sight,
When I was made within the secret place.
When I was woven in the depths of earth,
My unformed body was before your face.

16 Your eyes beheld me in my unborn state,
And all the days that you ordained for me
Were written in the book that you had made
Before a single day had come to be.

And here is a superb version of this psalm from New Scottish –

14 thoughts on “Is the Christian Immune from Plane Crashes? – Reflections on Ps 139 as we enter the New Year

  1. Dear brother, only God and my wife know what your message means to me as I sit here reading at midnight during our forty-fifth year of marriage.

    In a picture, my wife and I are flying through—I repeat, through, by imparted faith—to the eventual end of a marital storm.

    God bless you for sharing your fear and the undergirding Biblical assurance of our Father’s intimate care. What an uplift.

    Right on; write on, brother.

  2. I had the same thoughts knowing that I am flying to Chad in two weeks time.Your reminder here of God’s sovereignty brings great comfort. I flew to Australia on my own a few years ago and a friend reminded me of Psalm 36:5. “Your faithfulness reaches to the the clouds”. We can understand these words and apply them in a way that the Psalmist couldn’t and what peace there is trusting ourselves to our faithful God. Have a good time in Australia.

  3. Life for an atheist is not meaningless, you get out of it what you put into it. The fact that you are free to make your own decisions without fearing some deity or religious controller is very uplifting. Ultimately, there is no grand purpose to life but that doesn’t mean you can’t make a difference as an individual.

    I can’t have any respect for a god that crashes planes for a grand purpose. What is this good for all those that worship him? Let’s put it another way, you have no explanation and are using the standard catch phrases of greater good, grand purpose, moves in mysterious ways and other get out clauses because your god has failed to protect anyone on board. As he’s also the same god of Muslims and Jews, should he not be protecting anyone on board from these religions while wearing one of his other hats?

    It was a tragic accident, nobody intervened in any divine way and I personally feel sorry for the families of those on board, you are doing them a disservice by saying it’s god’s purpose.

    1. John – thanks for your post which offers some interesting insights into the atheistic mindset. eg.

      1. You get out of life what you put into it. Classic works based self-righteousness – usually found in religions – but this time found in atheism. I just wonder if the holocaust victims got out of life what they put in? Does this mean that the healthy, wealthy and powerful get what they deserve whilst the poor, disabled and oppressed get what they deserve – because you get out of life what you put into it?

      2. YOu think you have freedom to make your own decisions, free of any external control/ Thats a great faith – but philosophically untenable – especially in the world of atheistic materialism where determinism is the order of the day.

      3. You can make a difference as an individual. Yes – but if its all from chaos and descending into chaos what difference does that difference actually make? Ultimately it is all meaningless.

      4. You can’t have any respect for a God who crashes planes for a grand purpose. Who is arguing that God crashed the plane?! The explanation I have is that there was probably a storm and something went wrong. I think we would both agree on that. The difference is that you see the whole of life as totally random and ultimately meaningless. I see the God of the universe taking these ‘random’ events and weaving them ultimately into something beautiful.

      5. You clearly commented without reading or thinking. I precisely stated that Christians are not immune from these accidents and events. And I did not state it was God’s purpose.

      Perhaps if you go away and think about what was actually said you might begin to grasp where I am coming from – and then perhaps you can comment intelligently – merely venting your frustration at something you don’t understand does not come across at all well…sorry…

  4. I’m fascinated by thins that randomly come up that some would say are coincidences others God – incidences and perhaps others till something in the ether. I was just pondering myself about the fragility of life today before reading you mention that in the light of the latest plane crash David. Funny how that happens.

    I too have felt a fear of flying in the past. I faced that fear with learning how to fly out in California and a day after earning my private pilot’s licence getting caught out in that thunderstorm in the middle of the desert, half way to Las Vegas.

    Is it not true that sometimes courage is about experiencing fear and facing it, not allowing fear to determine actions?

    I can say that I’ve lived most of my life as an atheist / agnostic and had a turning point when I had everything I wanted but still was wanting more, was frustrated, prompted to change and embarked on a different journey. For me living that way wasn’t working and now I have a contentment. a sense of gratitude and hope and peace that some have commented on that I didn’t have before.

    If this next bit makes it past David’s moderation, and he permits me to speak, I’d look forward to any response you would like to make.John.

    I here the atheist argument made by you John of feeling uplifted by no having a fear of any god and getting out of life what you put in. I certainly agree with the latter and I think there are some biblical precedences that would affirm what you are saying with that. If the Christian God is perceived as angry and wanting to banish you to eternal torment if you don’t worship him than I can understand how that might be unattractive and even repulsive to you. On the other hand if the same deity is all benevolent loving powerful and perfectly loving, on for justice and righteousness then isn’t it appropriate to experience a healthy majestic fear and awe? None of us are perfect and if say we were to speed in a car we would have a fear of being caught by a camera or by the police? If that fear keeps everyone safe and ensures justice then could it not be that a similar fear could be conducive to a healthy order and justice in a wider sense and therefore uplifting?

    Not trying to argue with you but offer another perspective. I understand it can be difficult to comprehend any God that would allow some things to happen. I suppose the way I see it is that I only have an infinitesimally small ability in what understand in comparison to what there is to be understood.I don’t have any easy answers to these very difficult questions at times of deep sadness and grieving.

  5. David
    /
    Why do you feel the need to be so aggressive in your rebuttals
    Have you ever thought that you are doing more harm than good.

    1. Stephen – I’m sorry if it comes across as aggressive. Is it not the case that anything that disagrees with someone can come across as aggressive? For example I could regard your post as aggressive, if I wanted to. Don’t worry I don’t. I am not sure what post you are referring to but let me tell you a little about the dogs abuse I have had for this reflection. I posted this this morning – not to have a go at anyone but just to testify to something that happened to me this morning and a reflection I had upon the meaninglessness of life without Christ. I was then subjected to a barrage of personal e-mails, tweets and posts from people who were furious. Well they don’t have to read my personal blog or FB page – and they really shouldn’t be too surprised that a Christian puts forward a Christian perspective. I don’t think my responses are aggressive at all. I just don’t accept some views and I am quite happy to expose them. I always find it fascinating that some Christians (and I don’t know what you are – so I am not speaking about you – just making a general comment) think the only sin is not to be nice. When people decide to attack Christ and his Word – then yes I am going to speak up. You may regard it as aggressive…I’m sorry but I don’t. I hope that reply was not too aggressive for you!

  6. Those who think that the only sin is not to be nice
    /
    The word nice is so anodyne now as to be meaningless.
    The only sin is not to be good would be a stronger statement and more difficult to argue against.
    Are we trying to win over the other in argument or defeat them publicly?
    Or is that whole strategy misguided?
    Should we not try to engage them in dialogue?
    They may be attacking Christ but what did Christ do when he was attacked – he turned the other cheek.
    He had bigger battles to fight.
    His face was turned steadfastly towards Jerusalem.

    1. Thanks Stephen….

      I’m sorry that you think saying ‘the only sin is not be nice’ is somehow aggressive! I think you and I must have different definitions of aggressive!

      Of course the only sin is not to be good would be a stronger statement – except that is not what people are saying. I don’t think that people are saying the only sin is not to be good so why would I argue against something that people are not saying?

      As for winning people over – it depends what that means…your statement is just too blanket (and judgemental)…it would mean that any ‘argument’ would automatically be defeated. And it also it depends who ‘them’ is….my concern was with ‘Christians’ who think the only sin is not to be nice.

      As for ‘engaging in dialogue’ – I do that all the time.

      Christ did turn the other cheek – and yet Christ also argued constantly….he ‘argued’ against the Pharisees, the religious hypocrites, etc.

      He went to Jerusalem where he defeated sin – not by being nice – but by defeating the devil and the spiritual powers of darkness on the cross. So when so called ‘Christians’ deny the atonement, or attack what Christ said and did, then you will forgive me for speaking out against such false teaching.

  7. David,
    I do not blame you in any way for speaking out against false teaching particularly in relation to redemption.
    The backdrop is the battle between spiritual powers.
    You have a great platform here to engage.
    Would it be preferable if we lost an argument but gained a soul?

    1. Stephen- I am not even sure what losing an argument and gaining a soul means! I don’t think I can gain any souls, and I often lose arguments. I think however that the Lord wins souls and that he uses many means but primarily his truth…arguments are not in opposition to ‘winning souls’….And the bottom line is that I don’t think ‘being nice’ wins souls either…Also I don’t consider this a ‘platform’…its just a personal blog which people are free to read, comment on or not…its not really a debating society…!

  8. I don’t think I can gain any souls
    /
    Granted.
    But we can be and are instruments in such divine work.
    Are you saying that “being nice” is immaterial.
    And I do maintain that “nice” is a largely meaningless word.
    It is sometimes rewarding to let the other win the argument.
    Or at least it is not always necessary to follow up with a fatal blow.

    1. I rarely put in a ‘fatal blow’ – again I am not sure what you mean. I agree that there is no need to demean people. I also agree that ‘niceness’ is largely meaningless and ill defined – which is why ‘you’re not nice’ is so often used as an accusation. As I said I write my own personal views on my own personal blog – if people choose to engage with that (and many of them do) then thats up to them. But it is not a debating society and I don’t have time to respond to the many comments I get….my only concern is to speak and apply the truth (in love of course)…personally I don’t think its even ‘nice’ and certainly not loving to let people away with facetious arguments which only end up being fuel for hell!

  9. Again if David will allow me to contribute I hope that what I say might be helpful to some. David, I’ve heard your argument before and been challenged by listening to you about not being a “wimp” when we shook hands. I speak as I do the day after having had a wonderful night in Burntisland in a pub, doing what I love which is stand up comedy. Taking what I have researched with the masters in biblical interpretation with a dissertation looking at the transformation potential for seeing humour in the bible and in particularly in the teachings and actions of Jesus in the bible.

    I consider it a privilege to share in this way. A couple of times recently people have come to me and said that they either envy people who have religion because of the peace it gives them or that they would like to have what I have. I answer that if I can have it so can anybody else and quote the bible ad looking for it with all your heart mind and soul. On the other hand I have experienced adversity at times either with being heckled or in one instance someone saying “you can shove your God up your” you know what.

    I hear the occasion you have talked at of at times about Elijah with prophets of Ball, Jesus with Pharisees and Paul with circumcising Christians. This is where I personally am challenged. Perhaps there are times for that and times for our conversations to be “seasoned with grace” that we can only discern the appropriateness of any action at any time by depending on Jesus?

    With regard to being “aggressive” or “nice” I think these are words in our vocabulary which mean different things to different people and different things at different times. I think Jesus was aggressive when turning the tables over in the temple and driving out the money changers. I think Jesus was nice when encouraging his followers not to worry. Conversely I think it possible to be nice in a way that is as you put it David being a “wimp” and ineffectual and also aggressive unnecessarily in a way that makes Christian worship and community appear to be unattractive and even repulsive therefore hindering rather then furthering the Gospel of the good news of Jesus.

    I don’t doubt your sincerity David and I don’t doubt yours either Stephen. I do think the written word is a limited form of communication and often can be given or taken in a way not intended. I for example don’t know how not to be a “wimp” David in the written word without that potentially resulting in you taking exception to what I write. Therefore I fear expressing myself fully which them make me wonder if I am in deed being a “wimp” in not being ore forthcoming in what I express. Hence where I am challenged.

    All I know, is that my understanding and ability to understand is limited by me being a human and scripture encourages me to hold onto what I understand lightly, acknowledge God and trust in his direction.

    I went on a little there. I hope what I wrote was helpful, not to “waffly”. Thanks for taking the time to listen if you have.

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