Because It Rains: Why Kobe Bryant’s Death Hit So Hard & Wide

Why Has a Death like that of Kobe Bryant Hit So Many So Very Hard?

The following was written by Isabella Yosuico.

For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. (Matthew 5:45)

Why has a death like that of Kobe Bryant—and his daughter and companions—hit so many so very hard? Even non-basketball fans have been genuinely bereft and reeling. Sure, there are several painfully poignant and tragic elements that magnify the loss. Three young girls’ lives snuffed out in an instant alongside devoted parents on a joyful gameday jaunt, leaving irreparably heartbroken families behind. A highly skilled pilot caught in the crosshairs of calculated risk, missing the crest of a fog-cloaked hillside by maybe a few dozen feet. And yes, the loss of a great man.

By all reports, Kobe Bryant was an exceptional human and just a really good guy. Gifted with remarkable athletic ability, unique warmth, and visionary business savvy, Bryant was also a generous philanthropist, a fine friend, and a devoted father whose tear-stained hashtag #girldad spread like wildfire worldwide. A committed Catholic, Bryant was seen praying in solitude before Mass the very morning of the accident. Then there’s the terminal irony of death by helicopter—the means of travel Bryant chose to maximize family time and quality of life. I could go on, but you get the point.

Altogether, the calamity evokes great collective sorrow and shocking awareness of the fragility of life and unpredictability of fate. Because it rains on everyone. Yes, that’s it. For me anyway. It’s the scary reminder that this world isn’t safe for anyone at all. No matter how good, how rich, how generous, how talented, how powerful, etcetera…chance comes, and game over. By any measure, Kobe Bryant was tops. Yet that didn’t save him, or any of the other passengers on the ill-fated helicopter. It rattles us. I mean if the likes of Kobe Bryant can’t avoid disaster, who can? And his wasn’t a case of fame gone awry. Just miscalculation on a foggy day. What’s worse, Matthew 5:45 doesn’t really leave it to chance. God is sovereign. He allowed it. Ouch.

Christians often interpret the Bible as promising that if we live right, do right, pray right, or—so much worse—believe right, we can not only self-actualize, but dodge the big bullets life shoots our way. Or, when they inevitably come, we believe God can and will make lemonade of lemon-shaped missiles. This is still some version of the Do-Good-Get-Good-Gospel. But real life, the New Testament, and Jesus himself offer another testimony: It rains on all of us. A lot. Every so often, we do get to savor the lemonade of hindsight, but more often, we never understand why the really messed up, unjust, and senseless stuff happens. Plus, there’s little good to show of it. Sometimes the cancer spreads, the baby dies, the spouse leaves, the business tanks. What do we do with this God who doesn’t deliver the safe ride or happy ending?

We kneel and we hang on for dear life—and for the inevitable death we all face. That’s where we encounter the real Gospel: Jesus.

Bad things happen to good people all day long, everywhere. There are entire countries (or American neighborhoods, for that matter) full of beautifully fervent faithful for whom the rain never stops: Whether it’s the drudgery of poverty or famine, or catastrophic war, persecution or epidemic. Still, many live in a joy and surpassing peace that leaves comfortable and misguided missionaries slack-jawed with admiration. Everyone has access. Really, Jesus is a flower who blooms brightest in heavy rain.

What the Gospel offers is not a sure-fire way to avoid getting wet, but the promise of an Abiding Companion with a really big umbrella of inexplicable and unconditional love, peace and grace. Plus, the promise of an eternity of rainless, tearless days.

Because this side of heaven, it rains a lot. On everyone.

But still the Son rises.


Featured image credit: Fred Kearney on Unsplash.

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7 responses to “Because It Rains: Why Kobe Bryant’s Death Hit So Hard & Wide”

  1. Josh says:

    “By all reports, Kobe Bryant was an exceptional human and just a really good guy.”

    I don’t think you’ve read all the reports.

  2. Pierre says:

    With respect, there is definitely at least one report that does not agree with you, and it was filed by a police department in Colorado in 2006. There have been all kinds of remembrances of Bryant in the wake of his death, and the most honest ones are those that grapple with all sides of his life as a public figure. Yes, he was extremely committed to his daughters and he became in recent years a huge champion of women’s basketball. Those are important and laudatory things. He also almost certainly committed sexual assault in 2006 and got away with it, primarily through using his lawyers to hound his victim into silence.

    All of these things can be held in tension, as they are in every human life. His worst act does not and should not define him. But we also should remember that his public accolades are a luxury his victim was never afforded. And we certainly shouldn’t gloss over all of this. He was a complicated man, as is any person possessed with extraordinary talent, wealth, power and charisma. I think you’re right in the breadth of your assessment about why his death hit people so hard, but it’s a disservice to everyone to pretend that he was universally beloved with no faults.

  3. Isabella says:

    Thanks for commenting. It may have been an oversight that I didn’t remark on Kobe’s human failings, and in so doing, unintentionally suggesting he was perfect. Prayerfully considering my response, I’ll now say this: Kobe wasn’t convicted of the 2006 charge and only God and those involved know the facts. Whatever the case, he apologized publicly and to me it seemed, very humbly contrite. His wife evidently forgave him. I don’t know for sure, but can only suppose he confessed his sin to priest and God. Having said that, Scripture tells us if we confess, we’re forgiven (1 John 1:9), and our sins and misdeeds—whatever they may be—are utterly forgotten (Hebrews 10:17).

    In Christ, we ARE perfect (Colossians 1:22).

    Whew! I’m really grateful for those promises. Aren’t you?

  4. Ricky says:

    Right on Isabella. Thank you! I’m grateful for those promises

  5. Kathleen Wright says:

    A thoughtful take on a celebrity death. As I live in Northern California and my family members are unanimous Golden State Warriors fans, Kobe Bryant was not always celebrated in our household – mostly because he was such an amazing talent and his play sometimes beat our team.

    Kobe’s failings and bad behavior in having a sexual relationship outside marriage, which may not have been consensual and which was reported to authorities, show us that no one is perfect and that true contrition and forgiveness can set us on the humble path again. “But whoever confesses and forsakes (his/her sins) will have mercy.” Proverbs 28:13. This is the important lesson for me. With God, humble confession, real remorse, and a pledge to sin no more in this way, redemption is always possible. We can admire his talent and generosity. Only God can judge Kobe.

  6. Isabella says:

    I really appreciate your comment, Kathleen, and totally agree. AMEN!!!

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