By Scott Armstrong
As many in the Nazarene world and beyond are aware, a week ago a Boeing 737 airliner with more than 110 passengers and crew crashed Friday near Jose Marti International Airport in Havana, Cuba, shortly after takeoff. The plane, Cubana Flight 972, was on its way to Holguín, Cuba, when it went down about 12 p.m. local time.
On board the aircraft, 10 couples from the East District were on their way back to their home Province of Holguín after being part of a National Conference for pastors from the Church of the Nazarene. In the days after, expressions of grief and solidarity were expressed from the General Superintendents and brothers and sisters around the globe. On May 21, Dr. Carla Sunberg dedicated her message at the Global Ministry Center’s chapel service to the couples who were killed and the family members and Cuban leaders who are picking up the pieces after this tragedy.
In the Dominican Republic the missionaries and National Office leadership met, as we do every week, for devotions and prayer. This time the mood was somber. We knew the right theology: God is sovereign. He has a plan. He offers eternal life to those who die in Him. However, the questions remained: why did this happen? Why didn’t God stop this? What about the ten orphaned children who are now weeping and will not see their parents on this side of heaven?
In the midst of such struggle, the Nazarene Compassionate Ministries’ Coordinator for the Central Field (Costa Rica, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Panama, and Puerto Rico), Paquita Bidó, began to read from Psalm 100.
“Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth.
Worship the Lord with gladness;
come before him with joyful songs.
Know that the Lord is God.
It is he who made us, and we are his;
we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.
Enter his gates with thanksgiving
and his courts with praise;
give thanks to him and praise his name.
For the Lord is good and his love endures forever;
his faithfulness continues through all generations.”
Worshipping with gladness? Joyful songs? Thanksgiving and praise? Clearly, this is not a lament Psalm!
Paquita acknowledged that we mourn with our Cuban family, and we recognize our bewilderment. We must not explain away this devastating loss with trite words of affirmation or theological maxims. At the same time, she explained that she brought this psalm to us as an expression of faith in the very midst of sorrow. The Lord is God; we are not. He is Creator, and we are his creation. As sheep, we enjoy the care of the Shepherd and obey his voice. What a privilege to serve him for as long as he gives us breath.
Paquita continued. If we proclaim that God is faithful only in the good times, then what good is that? Our trust would be based merely on circumstances going our way and not on a loving Father who allows pain in our lives because he knows best. However, we do, in fact, declare that He is good, and His love endures forever, even in – or especially in – this bitter reality confronting us. And his faithfulness is promised not only to us, but it continues through all generations.
In the light of this reality, and even in the midst of sadness, we shout for joy! Our tears co-mingle with thanks and praise. God is good. Still. Even now.
Our entire region is devastated. We have mobilized to give and pray for Cuba. And as we weep, we also rejoice that we serve a good and faithful God. Yes, his love endures forever.