Incoherent Tragey

You may or may not have read or seen news about the tragic events of December 21st in the town of Upper Island Cove, Newfoundland & Labrador. Just before Christmas these two boys were riding together on an ATV, an activity all too common for youngsters in the rural parts of beautiful Newfoundland. At some point things went terribly wrong. Max Antle and Ryan Coombs (both 15 years of age) have been missing ever since that day. All that has been found, tracks that end at cliffs edge, a boot & a mangled ATV where the North Atlantic meets the land, is of little use or comfort to families and communities that are reeling with hurt and immersed in grief.


On Saturday the community assembled for a memorial service at St. Peter’s Anglican Church. The Reverend William Strong is a very pastoral man and no doubt brought some context and words of healing to a community that really needs to hear a word. I have prayed daily for Bill since that day as he has a tremendous weight of responsibility in a community that is so small and so tight knit. I have great respect for Bill Strong as he was so very pastorally present to my family when we needed him and gave me so much latitude to participate in Andrea and Becky’s funerals.


There is no way to make sense of these tragedies, no way at all really. Oscar Wilde once wrote that, “It often happens that the real tragedies of life occur in such an inartistic manner that they hurt us by their crude violence, their absolute incoherence, their absurd want of meaning, their entire lack of style.” A town of 2200 people and the entire region has been living with the horror of this loss. It is in every way absolutely incoherent and lacks any profound meaning. It is in every way a tragedy!


I think one of the places where scripture most honestly meets human emotion is in the Psalms. I dare say that each and every human emotion is recorded in the Psalms. Remember that from the cross, Jesus cried out in quoting Psalm 22 – “My God, My God! Why have you forsaken me?” I have been praying the words of two Psalms in particular for The Reverend Bill Strong, from Max and Ryan’s families and for the communities surrounding and including Upper Island Cove. The translation I have used is a Biblical paraphrase called ‘The Message.’ I’ll include the text of these Psalms here and perhaps you can offer them as prayer as well.


Psalm 13   

1-2 Long enough, God— you’ve ignored me long enough.
   I’ve looked at the back of your head
      long enough. Long enough
   I’ve carried this ton of trouble,
      lived with a stomach full of pain.
   Long enough my arrogant enemies
      have looked down their noses at me.

 3-4 Take a good look at me, God, my God;
      I want to look life in the eye,
   So no enemy can get the best of me
      or laugh when I fall on my face.

 5-6 I’ve thrown myself headlong into your arms—
      I’m celebrating your rescue.
   I’m singing at the top of my lungs,
      I’m so full of answered prayers.


And I offer Psalm 42: 5-11 

5 Why are you down in the dumps, dear soul?
      Why are you crying the blues?
   Fix my eyes on God—
      soon I’ll be praising again.
   He puts a smile on my face.
      He’s my God.

 6-8 When my soul is in the dumps, I rehearse
      everything I know of you,
   From Jordan depths to Hermon heights,
      including Mount Mizar.
   Chaos calls to chaos,
      to the tune of whitewater rapids.
   Your breaking surf, your thundering breakers
      crash and crush me.
   Then God promises to love me all day,
      sing songs all through the night!
      My life is God’s prayer.

 9-10 Sometimes I ask God, my rock-solid God,
      "Why did you let me down?
   Why am I walking around in tears,
      harassed by enemies?"
   They’re out for the kill, these
      tormentors with their obscenities,
   Taunting day after day,
      "Where is this God of yours?"

 11 Why are you down in the dumps, dear soul?
      Why are you crying the blues?
   Fix my eyes on God—
      soon I’ll be praising again.
   He puts a smile on my face.
      He’s my God.

There is such honesty and raw emotion in the Psalms and they are a reflection of the real feelings that we who are followers feel. Anger, disillusionment, pain, and grief cause us to cry out and wonder where our loving God could possibly be. It is often not until after we have walked through the valley of the shadow of death and looked back at our trail of dark misery that we can recognize the quiet, supportive, steady presence of the Divine. I pray that those who are in their worst hour in this world can hold firm to the promise of God’s presence even in the darkest hour. God with us – Emmanuel, we have heard some of this lately.

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