Thornton Wilder's interesting book, The Bridge of San Luis Rey won a Pulitzer Prize. I have no quarrel with that; it is wonderfully well written. It is so very interesting to learn of Colonial Peru and the daily life of Limeans. I was a bit disappointed though that Wilder was, in the end, unable to answer the question the book so intriguingly poses.
A 100 year old foot bridge suddenly collapses and five people perish in a horrifying plunge into a deep gorge. Brother Juniper wonders why? Was it part of God's Plan or merely an accident? He decides to examine the lives of the victims and see if he can discern the answer. He discovers that though every life is both ordinary and extraordinary, nothing unique pegged these folks to perish at this particular place and time.
I have dealt with the same question much of the past year. I've watched good people die at the most inopportune times. No amount of faith or pleading with God could turn the tide of death that overtook and destroyed. For me, accident, disease, ultimately death are all an integral part of God's Plan. They are not necessarily caused by God, but the Fall of man and the earth as Adam and Eve were driven from Eden, set things in motion that God intended and fully sanctions. I also believe, that on occasion, God deliberately countermands the course of nature, intervening in man's behalf. Why He does on one occasion and does not on another, is not my affair. I trust Him to know fully, fairly and perfectly, what He is up to. We have no right to boast that He has favored us with a blessing we desire and we have no business condemning Him when He does not. Either way, He is favoring us with that we He, in His infinite wisdom, sees fit for our best - in the long run - interest.
I don't think Brother Juniper ever figured this out. But it seems He did come to understand that love bridges the gaps between us and lends meaning, when all else seems to fail. Considering, Brother Juniper was a man of the cloth, he might have gone on to discover that despite life's troubles and trials, the love of God undergirds and overarches all and in the end can heal all wounds.
Philosophically, I thought Wilder came up just short of his target on this one. Too bad.