Kobe and Gianna Bryant’s deaths: making sense of a senseless tragedy


On Sunday, January 26th, news that NBA star Kobe Bryant, 41, died in a devastating helicopter crash in Calabasas, California shocked the world . His daughter Gianna, 13, along with 7 others also died in the crash.

Sadness and grief have gripped the families and friends of those who perished. And even if one did not know Kobe or the others intimately, the sheer senselessness of this tragedy is enough to make one weep in despair. Kobe left behind his wife Vanessa and three daughters, the youngest of whom is only 7 months old.

Many have taken the time to capture what this moment means to them. For me, the only thing that comes to mind is how much life is a vapor. We all understand that, but seldom do we actually stop and think about our own mortality. After much reflection, I find that the best way to capture this moment is in three simple reminders.

1. Develop a heart of wisdom

“So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom”

Psalm 90:12

The Psalmist was on to something when he penned these words many millennia ago. Those who grew up watching Kobe play basketball celebrated his famous 81 points against the Raptors in 2006. We cheered when he scored 60 points against the Utah Jazz during his last NBA game in 2016. And we watched in amazement when he came just one championship shy of matching Michael Jordan’s 6-championship feat.

But one thing we never did was imagine that Kobe Bryant would die less than 4 years after retiring from the NBA — alongside his precious daughter–, to make matters worse. It’s sad and tragic, indeed!

So when the Psalmist says, “Teach us to number our days”, may we all take heed to this precious advice. Knowing that our next breath is not guaranteed certainly puts things into perspective, doesn’t it? All of a sudden, that argument with your spouse seems so trivial. Yelling at the driver who just cut you off on the road seems like a waste of breath.

Perhaps that’s why Jesus instructed his disciples to “Bless those who curse you, and pray for those who spitefully use you” Luke 6:28. He understood that returning evil for evil is easy, but to bless an enemy is truly God-like.

Lord, teach us to number our days, that we may develop a heart of wisdom!

2. Leave an indelible mark on others

“Owe no one anything except to love one another, for he who loves another has fulfilled the law.”

Romans 8:31

Given the outpouring of grief since the death of Kobe, Gianna, and the 7 other passengers aboard the helicopter, it is not far fetched to say that they left an indelible mark on others. Kobe had friends, family members, and children that will always remember him for how he made them feel. Same for Gianna (Gigi), and same for the others who perished.

Owe nothing to anybody except to love them as you love yourself. That’s what it means to leave an indelible mark on others. Leave people better than you found them, not worse. I know that I personally have a lot of growing to do in this area.

Learning to love others is not easy. If it were, there would be no hatred in the world. Although it is not easy, love is worthwhile. And it is moments like this that make us realize how precious love is.

3. Remember that death is not the end

When this corruptible has put on incorruption, and this mortal has put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.”

1 Corinthians 15:54

As tragic as the death of these 9 individuals are, it is good to know that death is not the end. For those who trust in Jesus Christ for their eternal hope, death is only a passage way to eternal bliss.

Those who lost their lives this week in this horrific helicopter crash — including Kobe and his daughter — are gone. Sadly, their families and friends will not see them again in this life. And it would be futile of me to speculate as to their eternal destinies. However, for us who are still here, there is a way to know where we will spend eternity.

It was Jesus who said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the father except through me” John 14:6. And he invites all those who are weary and heavy laden to come find rest in him. Why? because he came and died to pay for the sins of the ungodly. If you are ungodly, as we all are, then he is inviting you to come find forgiveness and rest for your soul — in him.

How can we make sense of this senseless tragedy? There is no way to make sense of it. People die every day, sometimes without rhyme or reason. Therefore one cannot explain death. One can only seek refuge in the one who defeated death when he rose from the grave after three days. And that is Jesus Christ!

“O Death, where is your sting? O Hades, where is your victory?” The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

1 Corinthians 15:55-57

-Led by the book



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