Summary: This message was written in response to the space shuttle Columbia tragedy.

When Tragedy Strikes

Selected Passages

February 2, 2003

Columbia Disaster Message


Yesterday, the North central Texas sky was filled with the shocking sound of a loud, explosive boom, the shocking sights of indescribable sorrow and the sky was filled with the echoes of an American tragedy repeating itself. Yesterday we witnessed yet another historic tragedy. Seventeen years and three days after the Challenger disaster, the Columbia was lost.

Around 9am Eastern Time the unthinkable happened again, another space shuttle was destroyed. Columbia was the very first shuttle ever created and yesterday it disintegrated during re-entry with the loss of its entire crew. The accident was sudden, horrific and complete tragic.

As I watched the news play out the events of the day. Three things struck me. The first was an announcement that was made by an unnamed U.S. Official: “The space shuttle Columbia is gone and seven brave people are lost.” Just a few moments later the announcement was made that the flag beside the countdown clock on Kennedy Space Center was lowered to half staff. Telling the world that our worst fears were now reality.

Yesterday, what had seemed routine, now seems anything but. Yesterday, what we took for granted, we can do so no longer. What had seemed impossible, now is a grim reality. The loss of the Columbia reveals the depth of human tragedy, the frailty of the human condition and the uncertainty of human life itself.

Today, as scientists, technicians and experts of all kinds search for causes and explanations of this terrible tragedy; I want to examine God’s Word as a guide for times when tragedy strikes.


I. When tragedy strikes people need comfort

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God. For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows. 2 Corinthians 1:3-5

Christ wants to give you comfort. He loves you with an eternal love that will never die. The presence of Christ brings peace to the troubled, hope to the hopeless and strength to the weak.

The Greek word for comfort literally means “to come alongside and help.” Comfort does not remove our difficulties or our sufferings but it does bring us strength, encouragement and hope to deal with our difficulties. Paul makes it clear to the Corinthians and to us that when we go through hard times, Christ comes by our side and helps us.

Life is uncertain. One moment you can be living out your greatest dream and the next you could be taken from this world. No one knows what tomorrow holds but you can know who holds tomorrow. Christ stood by your side as you watched the debris of Columbia fall to earth. Christ stands by your side, no matter what the day brings and offers you help, healing and hope.

II. When tragedy strikes people need peace

John 14:1 – Do not let your hearts be troubled; trust in God, trust also in me.

A. The reality of troubled hearts

1. The situation of troubled hearts

a.) The news Jesus shared

This was the night of the Last Supper where Jesus had washed the disciple’s feet and shared the Passover meal. It was at this meal that Jesus told His disciples that one of them would betray Him and that he would soon die. Jesus predicted the denial of Peter and the rejection of the rest of the disciples.

b.) The expectations of the disciples

To say the least the disciples were shocked because they had different expectations of Jesus. The disciples never truly understood the mission and purpose of Jesus because they had bought into a Jewish tradition that the Christ would be a great political leader and rescue Israel from their enemies.

c.) The result was shocking

In less than three hours Jesus had totally demolished the disciples flawed image of who He was and their vain hopes of what He had come to do. Jesus saw the effects of what he was saying and then tells them: Do not let your hearts be troubled.

2. The meaning of troubled

a.) The Greek word for troubled means to agitate, to disturb or to trouble the mind with fear, terror or doubt. The news of the Columbia disaster could fit into this category because it was disturbing and it was troubling

b.) Jesus was telling the disciples to not be afraid, to not be terrified and to not be in doubt. Jesus was giving to these disciples the cure for troubled hearts.

B. The cure for troubled hearts

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