Chaplain’s Corner: CLXVII

“When Tragedy Turns to Triumph”

What swept the dinosaurs from the face of the earth?  That question has puzzled
paleontologists for a very long time. At least 700 species of dinosaurs have been identified.
The geological record suggests that these extraordinary creatures dominated our planet for as
long as 175 million years.  Then about 66 million years ago, they suddenly vanished.  What
happened?  Perhaps dinosaurs ate all the available food.   Or they succumbed to disease.
Perhaps small mammals developed a fondness for dinosaur eggs.  One British geologist,
Charles Lyell believed that virtually everything that had ever happened in natural history had
happened slowly.  Lyell had no time for “catastrophism,” the idea that sudden dramatic events
could change everything.

Then in 1980, a startling discovery changed the conversation.

A geological research team led by Nobel Prize-winner Luis Alvarez proposed the earth had
been struck by a gigantic cosmic object.  In short, this event was a dinosaur apocalypse.

Almost overnight, the uniformitarians were out of business.

It’s all too common to imagine the average American life as a predictable series of events. Our
worlds are almost certainly will be rocked by catastrophes that no one will see coming.  The
drunk driver.  The heart-stopping CT-scan.  The special needs child.  The addiction.  The
“reduction in force” at work.  The divorce. The tsunamis of anger, loneliness, and depression.
The accident that changes everything.  One day, seemingly out of a clear blue sky, their worlds
will implode.  And they will wonder if they can ever go on.

It’s often in such moments, however, that we discover the true source of our hope.  The next
most interesting thing that will happen to us spiritually turns out not to be when we die–when
we finally see Jesus face to face–but when we discover that God actually keeps his promises
to us right here and now.  Sometimes the good disaster, the life-threatening moment is what
gives us life instead.  The health crisis brings us to our knees.  The job loss opens unexpected
doors.  The special child teaches us to love in ways we never could have imagined.

In the Old Testament, the worst thing that ever happened to Joseph became the best thing that
could ever have happened to the rest of the family.  In the New Testament the worst thing that
happened to Jesus became the best thing that could ever have happened to the rest of the
world.  Tragedy turns to triumph.  Weakness becomes strength.  Unimaginable loss becomes
unexpected gain.

Through it all we are never alone.  Jesus assures us:  “Surely I am with you always, to the end
of the age.” (Matthew 28:20)

God is always with us, and is always at work.  Which means that whatever might seem like the
end of your world in 2024 may turn out to be one of God’s most surprising gifts.

Ron Naylor, Chaplain