Last night the news hit of the death of US Basketball legend Kobe Bryant, his daughter Gianna and seven others in a helicopter crash in California.
The tragic news of the death of these people has caused a massive outpouring of grief, shock and sadness within the media and on social media in the last 24 hours as people have begun to come to terms with what has happened.
Kobe Bryant was one of the greatest basketball players to ever play the game. He played his whole 20-year career with the Los Angeles Lakers and retired in April 2016.
In his career he was named 2008 NBA Most Valuable Player (MVP) and two-time NBA Finals' MVP. He was also NBA scoring champion twice and a two-time Olympic champion. He won the NBA Finals five times. 'Legend' does not do his sporting career justice.
So rightly, as it is the same when anyone we know dies, we mourn. We are sad and affected by this news because it is just that, incredibly sad. Whenever anyone dies, especially when young, we grieve. Jesus himself wept as his friend Lazarus died and it is right and proper that we do too when we encounter suffering and death ourselves.
Death is always incredibly sad whether it is someone we know or not. Death is a result of living in a broken world, as is all suffering. It is not how this world was meant to be.
We may not know Kobe Bryant personally but for those who grew up watching his career, hearing hours of interviews with him and seeing how he played the game, there is a sense we knew some of him. He was immensely talented and from all you read as well his work ethic was phenomenal and he was well liked and respected in the game. It has also been reported by some that he regularly attended a local Catholic Church.
So we are right to be sad and we are right to pray for his family, his friends and those who knew him personally at this time.
If you’re reading this, then you may know the pain of death yourself. The story of Kobe Bryant may have brought up difficult memories and questions. Whenever we come face to face with suffering and death there are always questions, and sometimes these will not be able to be easily answered. Know that in these moments you can speak to God and he will listen. A third of the Psalms are Psalms of lament.
The Christian faith is realistic and it makes sense of the world we live in. And at the heart of the Christian faith is an understanding of life’s frailty.
In Psalm 103, David reminds us:
"For he knows how we are formed,
he remembers that we are dust.
The life of mortals is like grass,
they flourish like a flower of the field;
the wind blows over it and it is gone,
and its place remembers it no more."
We are created beings, formed out of the dust of the ground - we ourselves are not immortal.
Maybe when celebrities die we forget that they are human like us. Every life ends, even those who are famous or supremely talented. Perhaps we often forget this for ourselves too.
The Bible reminds us that our life is not our own - God gives life and God takes it away. This is shocking and a useful reminder to us all.
That is not meant to cause us to wallow and to look in on ourselves however; it is to help us to look upwards to God, to look to Christ in times of tragedy.
It has been said that “death is the great enemy of humanity.” The wonderful truth of the Christian faith is that it is possible to beat death through being in a right relationship with Christ.
The great news of the Christian gospel is that we can be made right with God. The Bible tells us of the amazing hope which can be found and offered through Jesus. And so, as we consider our mortality, we are pulled to consider God.
The Psalm continues:
"But from everlasting to everlasting
the Lord’s love is with those who fear him,
and his righteousness with their children’s children—
with those who keep his covenant
and remember to obey his precepts."
True life is offered by God to anyone, whether you are talented in a specific area or not, freely and without condition. The call is merely to rightly ‘fear God’ - to honour him and trust in him as God alone deserves. Put all your trust in God in whom our life is held.
Nothing is outside of God’s control. In the midst of tragedy he is still in control.
David goes on:
“The Lord has established his throne in heaven, and his kingdom rules over all.”
So even in the midst of great sadness, even in the midst of death, we can look to the one who made it all and give him thanks that he is God and we are not. We can come to him with our sadness, our brokenness and our pain knowing that he walked on this earth and he knows all these emotions himself. And if we have put our trust in Christ we can cling to the certain hope we have of eternity with him.
We pray for the families affected by this helicopter accident and we pray that this news may draw them, and the millions of people posting, tweeting and writing about it to Jesus - in whom alone eternal life is found and in whom we can #RestInPeace.
"Praise the Lord, all his works
everywhere in his dominion.
Praise the Lord, my soul."
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