recovery in Christ when life is broken

in Faith

Five Things God Taught Me Through Tragedy

One day I was playing basketball during my lunch break and got a phone call that changed my life…” Jeff, you need to leave immediately and go straight to the hospital…your 2-year-old niece has been hit by a car and it’s serious.”  I remember the panic that ran through my body. My heart raced as I grabbed my keys—so many questions and no answers. By the time I reached the hospital, I took one look at my older sister (who was standing outside of the ER) and knew that my niece had died. Kara was gone. In 15 minutes, our lives had changed forever.

 

As information about the tragedy came in, it was more horrible than I’d imagined. My brother-in-law had accidentally backed over her while moving his trailer. My sister, along with my 5-year-old nephew, witnessed it.

 

That was twelve years ago, and our family still carries the scars of walking through this tragedy together. Though I wouldn’t wish this experience on my worst enemy, it is a part of a story that God has entrusted to us as a family. He ministered to us in very special ways during this time. You may have experienced something similar (or maybe something worse) but I write this to demonstrate that God can redeem, restore, and use really bad things in our lives to help us know Him more.

 

Though the Lord taught us much through this tragedy, I want to share 5 specific things: 

  1. Theology matters. (Psalm 119:111)

Questions about God and His character are thrust to the forefront when tragedy strikes; Questions like “Where is God?” and “Why didn’t God stop this from happening?” I’ll never forget my sister’s words as she was troubled by bad theology spoken by friends and family…with tears in her eyes she said, “Please tell me the devil didn’t steal my baby from me!” She was hearing from them that “that old devil stole your baby away” …as if God had somehow fallen asleep at the wheel. I went home that night and compiled many Scriptures to help her navigate her grief and give her a true understanding of God, His character, and his ways. 

  1. God’s presence is most potent in times of tragedy. (Psalm 23: 4, Mark 4:37-39)

I remember a strange supernatural peace that was present with us at the funeral home as we hugged friends who tried to comfort us...thinking, “Why are other people so despairing?” I remembered coming to the realization that God is an “ever present help in time of trouble” (Psalm 46:1). He provided a peace that transcended understanding during this difficult time. Some would call this “shock”- but that is too simple of an explanation for the power that we felt to be able to comfort those who were visiting us. 

  1. God speaks in little ways to remind us He loves us and is in control. (Psalm 73:26)

I will share one example (of many) that my sister relayed to me. My sister was having doubts as to whether she was a good mother to Kara, and even that “if she would have been a better one, she could have prevented this tragedy.” A few weeks after Kara’s death, she was cleaning my mom’s house to “give herself something to do”, when she “happened” on an e-mail that my mom had printed. This e-mail, from several months before, went on and on about what a great mother my sister is. It described several specific instances where my mom had noticed this about my sister. My sister cried as she read it, and said that it was as if God was whispering, “You see, I love you. You were a great mother.” 

  1. God taught me the “Ministry of Presence”. (Proverbs 25:20, Gal. 6:2)

Words were not adequate to either give me comfort or express the magnitude of my grief during the first few days of our loss. But, I remember who came to the funeral- the friends who took time out of their “busy” schedules to grieve with me-it was very powerful and important. And years later, my brother-in-law told me that the one thing that meant the most to him during our time together was that I was present and by his side (touching my shoulder with his) during the most difficult parts of the first few days of our loss—no words, just presence. 

  1. God gave me a special heart for others who go through similar tragedies. (2 Corinthians 1:4, 2 Corinthians 12:9-10)

Since Kara’s death, God has used my experience with tragedy to comfort others who have experienced trauma. I feel a special calling to be there for others during hard times, and I am equipped to navigate the difficulties that come when tragedy strikes.

 

God never provided us clarity as to “why” this tragedy happened, but we felt God’s presence throughout it. We still treasure the many passages of scripture that God used to comfort us.

 

The following year, on Easter (I can’t make this stuff up), my sister gave birth to another baby girl, Jordyn Grace. Although we will always miss Kara, we treasure little Jordyn. When we look into her eyes, we are reminded of both the intense pain from the past and an amazing hope for the future. God is good—even when life (and death) doesn’t make sense.

-Jeff K.

Will Joy Ever Come?

I will always feel alone. Things will never change. God has abandoned me. God doesn’t love me. No one loves me.

Have you ever had any of those thoughts cross your mind? Maybe they have not only crossed your mind but you believe them to be true because your reality seems to affirm those thoughts.

We have entered into a season that should be marked with joy and gladness, yet for many it feels like pouring salt into the open wound of loneliness.  The holidays serve as a reminder of loss, broken promises, or abandonment that you want to run and hide from. It often appears easier to escape than to allow yourself to feel hurt and sadness and so you mask or numb the pain. That may get you through the holiday season but the pain and heartache will remain long after.

Loneliness is common to all and sometimes inescapable. You may fall victim to loneliness through no fault of your own and your circumstances have thrust you into it. Loneliness also comes through sin which bring separation from God and others. As a follower of Christ, you may experience loneliness for being an obedient disciple and forsaking the ways of the world.

I love the book of Psalms in the Bible because it is filled with honest, raw emotion and it teaches us how we are to handle loneliness and heartache.

Psalm 13

How long, Lord? Will you forget me forever?

    How long will you hide your face from me?

How long must I wrestle with my thoughts

    and day after day have sorrow in my heart?

    How long will my enemy triumph over me?

Look on me and answer, Lord my God.

    Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death,

and my enemy will say, “I have overcome him,”

    and my foes will rejoice when I fall.

But I trust in your unfailing love;

    my heart rejoices in your salvation.

I will sing the Lord’s praise,

    for he has been good to me.

From Psalm 13 we see the psalmist openly convey his heart to the Lord and even question God. He’s completely honest about his feelings and doubts. After pouring out his true thoughts to the Lord he begins to pray that God would answer him and rescue him. The psalmist then moves to expressing his faith in the Lord and praising Him for the salvation of his soul and for His goodness.

When loneliness occurs, rather than seeking to escape reality or fill the void we should seek aloneness in the presence of the Lord. Cry out to Him just as the psalmist did. Ask God to search your heart and reveal sin in your life. Even though joy feels absent, thank God for who He is.

God, who is well acquainted with grief, sees and knows your heartache. He longs to fill the void in your heart. He has promised He will never leave us, He goes before us, and He will not fail us. He is the one who will meet all of our needs according to His glorious riches and satisfy us with good things.

Joy has come and is available to all who would receive Him.

-Johnna S.

recovery in Christ when life is broken.