A family's Job-like response to tragedy

By Andrea Neal-Indianapolis Star/News- INDIANAPOLIS (Thu, Mar 12, 1998)

Why do bad things happen to good people? That often-asked question came to mind as I read the newspaper account of 16-year-old Matt Ware, the Heritage Christian basketball player who suffered a spinal cord injury while diving for a loose ball at practice. The accident, which left Matt paralyzed below the armpits, is the sort of tragedy that would make the best of us lash out in anger at God and the unfairness of life. Yet the Ware family has been anything but angry. When Matt's mother first saw him at the hospital, he quickly reassured her with the comment, "God is in control." In the days since the injury, the family has been in constant prayer, hoping for a miraculous recovery, of course, but more importantly, seeking God's will. "This accident won't cause us to deny all the good things and charge God with evil," says Matt's father, the Rev. Charles Ware, president of Indianapolis Baptist Bible College. "Rather we're so grateful for what God has given and what he is doing. We believe he is using this so-called evil thing to bring glory to his own name." Every now and then, a story comes along about someone whose courage in the midst of suffering blows the rest of us away. How is it that some folks can cope graciously with crisis when others fall apart? The question is as old as man himself. Consider the story of Job in the Bible, who lost his sheep, his camels, his servants and his family -- everything but his trust in God. Four thousand years later, we still struggle to make sense of tragedy. Perhaps that's why one of the best-selling books ever is Rabbi Harold Kushner's When Bad Things Happen to Good People, written after the death of his 14-year-old son. "Sooner or later, each of us finds himself playing one of the roles in the story of Job," says Kushner, "whether as a victim of tragedy, as a member of the family or as a friend-comforter. The questions never change; the search for a satisfying answer continues. "When faith is strongest, the search is easiest. Or so it seems to the Wares. "Last night as we were praying," says Matt's father, "he prayed first that God would use this to draw our family closer to God and one another. He prayed God would give him strength and work a miracle in his healing. He also prayed that God would encourage all those who are praying for him. "It is hard to comprehend how a teen-ager can have such peace, knowing that his life may be changed forever. But to Rev. Ware, it's no mystery. "As Matt and I discussed, we would much rather serve God through our strength, but sometimes God allows us to serve him through our weakness. When you think about it, what else could get a 16-year-old on the front page of The Indianapolis Star? I told him if he was playing basketball at his greatest, it wouldn't have got him there. "Is there an answer to why bad things happen to good people? If we're looking for explanations, Kushner tells us, probably not. There's just no way to explain why some people get cancer and others don't, why planes crash and children die. But if the word "answer" means response, there may well be satisfying answers to tragedy in our lives. In Kushner's case, "I know that people who knew our family were moved to handle the difficult times of their own lives with more hope and courage when they saw our example. I take these as instances of God moving people here on earth to help other people in need. "In Matt's case, the response has been overwhelming. Prayer chains are active across the world and all sorts of people who would never have known Matt's name now know what it means to trust God. In the middle of crisis, author Max Lucado says we should remain calm and let God take over. "Just trust. Not direct. Or question." That's just what Matt and his family are doing in their time of trial. Their example is an inspiration for all of us.

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