A farmer who died for a stranger: How to find good news in bad news


There is good news in the bad news making news today.

First, the bad news: Large parts of Nebraska and the US Central Plains were underwater over the weekend after a late-winter “bomb cyclone” storm triggered historic flooding. Forecasters warn that more rain is coming tomorrow.

A farmer named James Wilke got a call to assist a stranger during the storm and drove his tractor over a bridge that collapsed. Wilke and his tractor went into the floodwater; he did not survive.

Meanwhile, last week’s shooting in New Zealand continues to dominate headlines as authorities rush to identify the fifty victims and the prime minister promises changes to gun laws. And ceremonies were held in Kenya and Ethiopia for the 157 victims of last week’s Ethiopian Airlines plane crash.

While man-made tragedies deservedly generate headlines and global sympathy, natural disasters affect millions across the country. The global annual death rate from natural disasters has fallen significantly over the years, but such tragedies affect 218 million people each year and claim 68,000 lives.

However, there is a principle here that promises to liberate us with hope that transcends all hardships.

Theology from a crocodile

The book of Job is not usually considered an uplifting work of literature. Much of it is dominated by Job’s understandable complaints to God about the horrific suffering he endured.

Toward the end of the book, the Lord answers him—not by explaining Job’s pain, but by declaring his own omnipotence and omniscience.

For instance, God asks Job, “Can you draw out Leviathan with a fishhook or press down his tongue with a cord?” (Job 41:1). Most scholars believe that “Leviathan” in this context is a giant crocodile.

The creature’s creator warns Job: “Lay your hands on him; remember the battle—you will not do it again!” (v. 8). By comparison to this mighty beast, “The hope of a man is false; he is laid low…

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