Early last Thursday morning, EgyptAir Flight 804 was en route from Paris to Cairo when it disappeared from radar over the Mediterranean Sea. Indications suggest that the Airbus A320, carrying 66 passengers, plunged from its altitude 37,000 feet into the Mediterranean.
After 5 days, authorities still don’t know what happened, and no theory has been ruled out, including terrorism or a bomb. Smoke sensors inside the plane were tripped minutes before the crash, but photographs of retrieved debris show no signs of fire or charring.
While the search for answers continues, families of passengers on Flight 804 face the same questions and uncertainties that other families have, mourning the fate of their loved ones. Meanwhile, the rest of the world watches and wonders.
But as Christians, God calls us to do more than stare with detached curiosity or scientifically determine the cause and effect. Even once we know the cause, the ripple effects will continue in the lives of these families, and tragedy will remain hard for us to explain, let alone accept. Even once we’ve explained how this happened, we’ll still be left wondering why.
As Christians, instead of watching or explaining, God calls us to pray. Why? Because prayer pulls us deeper into these tragic mysteries. But it does not leave us there. Rather, prayer takes the mysteries we face and places them in the arms of God, who is filled with love and compassion. He himself endured tragedy on the cross. While Jesus’ own family, friends, and followers did not understand, God himself spread his arms wide and embraced the pain and anguish for us.
When tragedies like this happen, we as Christians can bring God the pain and anguish on behalf of the victims and their families. It is a unique gift that Christians can offer in times like these. No matter the tragedy or the outcome. No matter how much news it garners or how few people it effects, we can raise it up to God who knows—deeply, personally—the sorrows we bear.
Take a minute now to read Psalm 35 as a prayer for the passengers and crew of EgyptAir Flight 804 and for their families. Envision them and imagine the anguish they are facing this week.
We pray the Psalms not because they fit the exact circumstances, but because they help us to express to God our real, honest feelings, and to refocus us on God’s care and involvement. You can read Psalm 35 word-for-word, or use it as a jumping off point to guide your own prayers.
God, how long are you going
to stand there doing nothing?
Save me from their brutalities;
everything I’ve got is being thrown to the lions.
I will give you full credit
when everyone gathers for worship;
When the people turn out in force
I will say my Hallelujahs.
Don’t let these liars, my enemies,
have a party at my expense,
Those who hate me for no reason,
winking and rolling their eyes.
No good is going to come
from that crowd;
They spend all their time cooking up gossip
against those who mind their own business.
They open their mouths
in ugly grins,
Mocking, “Ha-ha, ha-ha, thought you’d get away with it?
We’ve caught you hands down!”
Don’t you see what they’re doing, God?
You’re not going to let them
Get by with it, are you? Not going to walk off
without doing something, are you?
Please get up—wake up! Tend to my case.
My God, my Lord—my life is on the line.
Do what you think is right, God, my God,
but don’t make me pay for their good time.
Don’t let them say to themselves,
“Ha-ha, we got what we wanted.”
Don’t let them say,
“We’ve chewed him up and spit him out.”
Let those who are being hilarious
at my expense
Be made to look ridiculous.
Make them wear donkey’s ears;
Pin them with the donkey’s tail,
who made themselves so high and mighty!
But those who want
the best for me,
Let them have the last word—a glad shout!—
and say, over and over and over,
“God is great—everything works
together for good for his servant.”
I’ll tell the world how great and good you are,
I’ll shout Hallelujah all day, every day.