I was talking with my wife last night and she was telling me about something that happened to a friend of hers (let’s call her “Anne”). Apparently, Anne had offered to assist her friend (“Jane”) with a task. Anne didn’t usually do this, but felt that it would be nice if she showed up to Janes workplace and kept her company for the day.
Everything was fine until suddenly, Jane collapsed. Anne immediately called for help, Jane was rushed to hospital and her life was saved. Truly a miracle! God sent Anne to work with Jane that day, so her life could be saved!
And then I read this article on MSNBC this morning, about a teenager (who didn’t usually ride the bus) who saved a bus full of schoolchildren after the driver collapsed and died from a heart attack. Surely it’s another miracle! God put that teenager on the bus, so she could save the lives of the innocent children!
If I actually believed in miracles, Divine Intervention and all the rest of it, these two unrelated events might serve to strengthen my faith. But in fact, they just serve to raise more questions…
Why did God have to kill the bus driver, just so the girl could save the other children? Surely, it would have been simpler for God to give the driver a heart attack at a more convenient time. Why strike him down when he’s in control of other peoples lives? Perhaps it would have been better if he had just passed quietly in his sleep, or even once he had delivered the children safely to school?
And did God tell Anne to go to work with Jane that day? Did He know she was going to collapse at work? Or is it more likely that there is a greater chance of dying from a heart attack when a person is alone, because no-one else is around to help? If Jane had been alone, the story may have had a completely different ending, but what implications would this have for a benevolent God? That she wasn’t worth saving? That maybe he could have saved her by sending someone to work with her that day, but chose not to?
How many times does a tragedy occur, with no-one around to lend assistance? Where was God during these tragedies? Was he pre-occupied watching a football game?
If you’re involved in a situation like this, it is very easy to look for meaning within the event. In both these cases, neither of the people who saved the day would normally have been there. And it is this random element of chance, combined with exceptional circumstances, that causes people to look for a reason, or ascribe the outcome to fate or a higher power.
Of course, the reality is that it is simply a coincidence. An outlying chance on the bell-curve of probability. And because it is an unusual and dramatic event, it immediately stands out among all the other normal events that happen every day.