February 16, 2014: When You Don’t Understand “WHY?”

Posted on : Feb 13th, 2014 | By | Category: This Sunday's Service

Early Sunday morning, before most of us were awake, a young woman, who is accused of driving while drunk, got on the 60 Freeway in Diamond Bar going the wrong way.  She crashed into another car while traveling about 100 mph.  Four people were pronounced dead at the scene, and two people transported to UCI Medical Center later died, authorities said. The suspect was transported to Los Angeles County/USC Medical Center and remains in serious condition.  Here’s the story from the perspective of one person who survived:

About 4:40 a.m. Sunday, witnesses saw [Olivia] Culbreath’s red Camaro zoom east down the westbound 60 Freeway around 100 mph until it collided with a red Ford Explorer, which then smashed into a third car. Several people were ejected from the vehicles, and only Culbreath and Joel Cortez, the driver of the silver Ford Freestyle, survived the crash.

Cortez said in an interview Monday that the crash occurred during what was a typical Sunday morning for him. By his account, here’s what happened:

The 57-year-old woke up before dawn, got ready to head to his job as a technician in the City of Industry and asked God to protect three things: his children, the road and his job.

He left home in Ontario, tuned in to one of his favorite Spanish radio stations and headed west on the 60 Freeway along the route that usually takes 20 minutes. He settled into a lane and trailed a Ford Explorer for about 10 minutes. Then, in a whoosh, he saw the red vehicle fly through the air. He tried to swerve.

Something jammed into the passenger side of his car, and he felt his airbag push into him. Then his car slammed into the center wall that divides the freeway. He looked outside and saw something in the road. In the morning darkness it looked like a big bag.

Then he heard a scream: “There are bodies all over.”

He peeked outside. There was twisted metal, wheels and blood. He stayed in the car and called his children. Soon paramedics showed up and flashed a light in his face. After seeing that he was alive and seemed OK, a paramedic asked him to wait a bit — others were worse off.

The four people in the Explorer, all of whom died, have been identified as relatives Gregorio Mejia-Martinez, 47; Leticia Ibarra, 42; Jessica Jasmine Mejia, 20; and Ester Delgado, whose age wasn’t immediately available.

The two passengers in Culbreath’s car — a 24-year-old relative, Maya Culbreath, and Kristin Melissa Young, 21 — both died.

A woman who answered the door at the Culbreath family home in Fontana choked up and said, “I’m just the grandmother, but I’ve more or less lost two babies.”

“I can’t answer anymore. I’m sorry,” she said, her eyes downcast as she shut the front door.

[LA Times article]

Why?  Why do these kinds of things happen?  Why do they happen to innocent people who are simply driving to work, or driving to church?  When something totally unexpected and tragic happens, one of the first questions we ask is Why?

It helps to have faith in times like these, because in reality, there isn’t a “good” or “acceptable” answer to the question of “Why?”  Why was this 21 year-old woman driving while intoxicated, when she had her license suspended for doing the same thing when she was 17? There is no good or acceptable answer to that question.

There is however an experience of faith that can help us through times and experiences such as these.  In the 3rd chapter of James, one of the small books of the New Testament found near the end of the Bible, James asks, “Who is wise and understanding among you?”  Who has the wisdom to help us understand these unanswerable questions?  James isn’t seeking “facts” or “answers” here.  He is asking a faith question.  “Who has the faith to help us understand?”

Tony Robinson, one of our Still Speaking Daily Devotional writers tells this story about “understanding:”

In the Islamic faith this point is made with the little story of the One Hundred Names of God, according to which the Prophet revealed 99 of God’s names to his followers, but the 100th name of God he confided to his camel. Why? Because no one should know – or think they know – all that there is to know about God.

True wisdom is an awareness of our limits, an awareness that we don’t know, not fully, not completely. We stand beneath truths too great to fully grasp or control.

This Sunday we’ll try to understand what it means to understand without having “good or acceptable answers” to life’s difficult experiences.




~ This Sunday’s Scriptures ~

James 3: 13-18

James writes of the nature of wisdom.

Who is wise and understanding among you? Show by your good life that your works are done with gentleness born of wisdom. But if you have bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not be boastful and false to the truth. Such wisdom does not come down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, devilish. For where there is envy and selfish ambition, there will also be disorder and wickedness of every kind. But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without a trace of partiality or hypocrisy. And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace for those who make peace.

Psalm 46

Be still and know that I am God.

God is our refuge and our strength,
who from of old has helped us in our distress.
Therefore we fear nothing –
even if the earth should open up in front of us
and mountains plunge to the depths of the sea,
even if the earth’s waters rage and foam
and the mountains tumble with its heaving.

There’s a river whose streams gladden the city of God,
the holy dwelling of the Most High.
God is in its midst, it will never fall –
God will help it at daybreak.

Though nations are in turmoil and empires crumble,
God’s voice resounds, and it melts the earth.

God is with us –
our stronghold is God!
Come, see what God has done –
God makes the earth bounteous!
God has put an end to war,
from one end of the earth to the other,
breaking bows, splintering spears,
and setting chariots on fire.
“Be still, and know that I am God!
I will be exalted among the nations;
I will be exalted upon the earth.”
God is with us –
our stronghold is God!

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