Trying to Understand the Universe Through a Puzzle Piece: L’Engle on Understanding Tragedy

It’s been a tough week. I feel like I keep turning on the news to see more bad news (like the devastating fertilizer plant explosion in Texas this morning). When it seems like there’s no end to tragedy in the world, I’m reminded of Madeleine L’Engle’s The Moon by Night–specifically by Vicky’s conversation with Uncle Douglas after seeing a play about Anne Frank. Vicky can’t imagine how a loving God could have let the Holocaust happen. Uncle Douglas says he thinks of the universe (and all its tragedies and injustices) like a jigsaw puzzle:

“You know those puzzles with hundreds of tiny pieces? You take one of those pieces all by itself and it doesn’t make sense, does it?…we find it hard to realize that there is a completed puzzle….We find it almost impossible to think about infinity, much less comprehend it. But life only makes sense if you see it in infinite terms. If the one piece of the puzzle that is this life were all, then everything would be horrible and unfair…But there are all the other pieces, too, the pieces that make up the whole picture.”

I love that reminder that when we think about tragedy, we’re thinking about the universe in a very limited way. There is a lot of unfairness and destruction–but that’s a small part of what makes up the whole. It’s not the whole picture on its own. That doesn’t mean to say we can’t feel sad about terrible events, but I do like reminding myself that the world isn’t just terrible events. Even when it feels like that’s all I hear about.

(image: yann.co.nz)

5 thoughts on “Trying to Understand the Universe Through a Puzzle Piece: L’Engle on Understanding Tragedy

  1. Rabbi Harold Kushner says, in “Why Do Bad Things Happen to Good People,” that bad in the world is randomly-occurring. It is not a Divine Punishment. It’s not even a Divine Test or some means to an end. It’s just that the world was created with certain rules (e.g. heated air over an ocean will create a hurricane) and men were created with free will, and the combination of the two can cause some truly awful things to happen. But God has a reason for why the world works the way it works, just as He has a reason for giving man free will, so God doesn’t stop the disasters, although it grieves Him to see people suffering (just as it grieves us).

    I thought that was an interesting take on the problem of evil in the world.

  2. Why do bad things happen? Because there is evil in this world brought about by man’s decision not to obey God. Simple, it was our decision, not God’s and now innocents get caught up still from that first horrible choice. God wanted us to remain faithful and happy. And yet God still loves us, even in that disobedience – sending His only Son to be the once for all sacrifice for everyone’s sins. How many of us would exemplify that kind of love?

    Great post Annie! Thanks for letting me rant (in my humanity of course) on people now shaking their fist at God and wondering why do these things happen?

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