Accidental Death and a Sovereign God

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I hate traffic, especially drug traffic, but also the congested, automobile variety. Today I was held up by a vast, right-lane conspiracy of cars blocking the road by driving so slow they seemed to be going somewhere between 10 mph and reverse. I angrily imagined my vehicle fitted with sidewinders and me pressing a button, saying, “fox 1, away!” and “fox 2, away!” Just like in Iron Eagle, or whatever.

Calming down, I listened to the cheerful chirrups of Jason Gray and wished that the sadness of being stuck in traffic would come untrue.

I wondered if it was God’s will that I be late for work. Why would it be? How is that good? Why doesn’t my vehicle have side-winder missiles? You know, the big questions.

Mostly I pondered sovereignty. I thought of how often I’ve heard people thankfully say that they were saved from a terrible wreck because of some irritating delay. A child couldn’t find his shoes and we were delayed. If we’d been on time…. A wrong turn. Delayed by a storm. We’d have been right in the middle of that terrible accident.

Accident?

The unifying element in these tales is thankfulness to God for rescuing the teller from what was very close by and terrifying. I’ve been impressed and conversely distressed at hearing these reports. Part of me is eager to embrace them, to say: “Good, see the hand of God in all things and be grateful for mercy.” Another part of me says, “Would we be giving thanks if the delay had caused the wreck? Or would we still attribute the calamity to God’s hand?”

These questions, these kinds of puzzles, are what keeps the wise-as-serpents part of our minds busy while we go hunting for the innocence of doves.

But I know why bad things happen. It’s because of rebellion.

I’ve been studying the Pentateuch, particularly Genesis, for the past several months. The beginning of Genesis is so profoundly instructive, as well as being a deeply moving story, teeming with pathos. In chapter three we see the attempted de-Godding of God by the first parents.

The heartbreaking results follow fast. In chapters four and five the hearts stop, the blood runs, the refrain echos out: “And he died…and he died…and he died…and he died…” Etc. On and on the deaths pile up, a grotesque contrast to the unfallen before.

In the acrid air of usurpation our first parents got new clothes, a sacrifice to cover their naked shame. A hint of resolution, restoration brewing.

God is still sovereign. Even in suffering. Happier still, he is merciful down deep, slow to anger and abounding in love. He offers rebellious, treasonous mankind a great exchange, our sin for the righteousness of Christ. We can be acceptable to the Father again, by the mercy of God in Christ.

I don’t know how traffic jams and wrecks work out for God’s glory and the good of his children. I know, in the short run, it often feels terribly wrong.

But death feels wrong because it is. It isn’t natural, isn’t the way things ought to be. It’s a fearful, final foe. But one which will be defeated by the victorious King Jesus.

I don’t know how sovereignty works out. My father, quoting Walter Staton, always said, “God is sovereign and man is responsible.” That helps me.

People say, “When God closes a door, he opens a window.” I am always tempted to blurt out, “and sometimes he knocks the house over on the people.”

God isn’t safe.

So do we give credit to God for deaths in traffic as well as praise for when we are saved from the same by lost shoes or a bad sense of direction?

When we read the Bible, we see pretty fast that God kills people, sometimes in large groups all at once. This may bother us, but we can’t pretend it isn’t so. Wrestling with this is fine, even appropriate. But this reminds me of what Jared C. Wilson said.

“It’s okay to wrestle with a biblical text, so long as at the end it masters you and not the other way around.”

It’s popular to say that doubt is humble and certainty is arrogance. This depends, of course, on what we’re certain of and what we’re doubting. There can never be enough of doubting God and his Word to please an entrenched rebel in his pride. If we doubt ourselves, however, we may be on to something (this is humility). If we habitually doubt the faithfulness of God, this is no poetic virtue; it’s called unbelief. Who of us hasn’t prayed, “Lord I believe, please help my unbelief?” But let us keep on praying it and not surrender to our proud misgivings. Keep on fighting, keep on praying. Doubt is a thin shield, a hollow creed.

So, brothers and sisters, let us struggle and lose. Let’s understand that God isn’t simply responsible for the deaths of the Egyptian army in the Red Sea, or the many who worshiped the golden calf, but of Moses too. In fact he isn’t caught off guard by any death. He is sovereign over all, never asleep, feckless, or disinterested. We are responsible. We chose and go, drive and die, but God works his will over all.

Whether I am spared death (for now), or meet my end today, I am glad. I’m thankful. Uncertainty about how it all works out abounds, as well as doubt in my own ability. But let me be certain of him and his Word. He is good. He is just. He is merciful. The Story is true.

At his right hand are pleasures, evermore.


40 Comments

  1. Aaron Alford

    When my older brother passed away in a car accident, I was left to try to find a comforting answer as to why. There were those that said that simply because we live in a broken world, things just happen. Others, well intentioned, said that God must have needed him, or that God “took” him (forgetting that God already had him).

    It’s true my brother was driving too fast. I’ve often wondered, often tearfully, how different things would be if he had chosen to slow down. I know several people who have driven countless times in severe drunkenness, who are alive today to tell their story without a scratch on their body or a dent in their car. I’ve wondered how there can be such a thing as providence when that providence seems so fickle. This person makes a hundred bad decisions and lives, this person makes one bad decision and dies.

    I’ve also wondered if I would have the depth of relationship I have with my parents if my brother was alive today. I’ve wondered if all the good and beautiful things, and people, in my life would be there if this event hadn’t happened, and my life had taken a different course.

    In all of this, I’ve realized that the answer does not lie in an absolutist version of blind chance or of harsh providence, but in the mystery of a redeeming, loving God, who can somehow take our worst mistakes and redeem them so thoroughly it almost seems they were meant to happen. To live in the freedom of this mystery invites me into the strange and beautiful dance of providence and chance. Love Itself, deep and trustworthy, is the song.

    God is God. God is Father. God is Love.

    This is enough.

  2. Curt McLey

    @curtmcley

    That should give me enough to think about, at least through the weekend. Wow, S.D. Smith, are you in a perpetual state of pondering? Those are some high octane questions, brother. What a post. And a wonderful follow up from Aaron Alford.

  3. Alyssa

    I appreciate these thoughts so much. Recently I have heard several people cheerily declare the popular statement “Coincidence is when God chooses to remain anonymous.” I get the intent behind it, but I can’t bring myself to fully agree with it. For one thing, does God really ever choose to remain anonymous? And as you point out, what about the unhappy coincidences? The longer I walk with Christ, the more I find that it’s nigh on impossible to summate his sovereignty in one tidy little statement. Thanks for your words about wrestling and losing. Much to think on.

  4. rachel

    He is trustworthy, even when we don’t understand. He understands, and so we can trust Him.

    thank you for your beautiful writing on a volatile subject. i have been long convinced that one of the biggest voids in the american church is a solid theodicy. it’s not something that you can logically comprehend in the midst of personal tragedy, which is why it has to be something you have been convinced of, by faith, well before such tragedy strikes.

    God is sovereign. God is good. even when i feel pain.

    delirious?’s “our God reigns,” derek webb’s “this too shall be made right,” and psalm 46 helped to teach me that several years ago. and then my 25-year-old cousin was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer, maximum life expectancy: 5 years. i went to church that sunday and stood silent and weeping as i worshiped God, unable to sing along with the now-trite praises. but when i had to live it out—when i had to actually trust God while understanding NOTHING and grieving a serious wound—He did an incredible work of increasing my faith and my vision of Him. He gave me Himself; there is no better gift.

  5. Don Smith

    Excellent post. Terrible mystery, this life. Maybe part of our wonder is directly related to the “eathliness” of our every perspective. I reckon.

  6. Kyle Keating

    Well put S.D. It is easy to be God’s advocate when the world seems right and good, when we can attribute some great blessing to his sovereign hand. But it is so much more difficult to remain his advocate when calamity comes or evil abounds unchecked. So much of my theology of theodicy is rooted in the narrative of Job–it is instructive as we wrestle through the goodness of God and evilness of evil in the world.

  7. JJ

    I struggled for a long time with my wife’s difficult pregnancy. I was angry at God for over a year because of it. I thought in a rage, “What possible good can come from her suffering and puking her guts up for almost 9 solid months!?!?!” It’s only been in the last few months (early summer I guess), when I looked at my amazing 18 month old son and it clicked. I still don’t know why my wife’s pregnancy was so bad. I mean, I know the actual reasons the midwives told us the whole 9 months, but understanding why was far from me, like why most pregnancies are normal and the morning sickness ends around 13-14 weeks. But it almost doesn’t matter now. I just have to look at this perfect little boy who, while playing with his trucks on the floor, will randomly get up and walk up to either me or my wife, put his arm around our neck, and kiss us, then go back to playing with his trucks (it brings tears to my eyes typing that). This sweet little boy was a good gift to us, and I can never stop thanking God for him.

    What a picture of God he is to me! I can be sitting at my computer stressing about something, and up can walk this awesome little boy, and he’ll want to sit on my lap just long enough to hug me and give me a kiss. The stress just melts away in that moment. How much more does God care for me?

    I’ve always said that if there was even one thing that God wasn’t in control of, whether traffic causing us to be an hour late to work, the death of a child or a star going supernova, we couldn’t trust him. Period. And what a terrifying thing that would be. Either God is sovereign over all things or he isn’t in control of anything. I find much hope knowing that God is in control of even the worst things I endure in this life.

  8. Leanore

    All these things are beautifully written, and true, and I hear the pain in every line. Yet it seems there’s a missing perspective: for us who believe, death is our golden door. The circumstances are always horrible, but occasionally there is the opportunity to see through that door in the face of a dying saint who is about to be ushered into the presence of Jesus. For my mother, having suffered for years with much illness, there was utter joy and transfixed anticipation. There was grief at her death, and many tears. But we wept for our loss, and wept over what universal rebellion and universal death had claimed during the course of her life. We did not weep that death had now claimed her, because it had not. Jesus had won. All that death had was her body, and that too will be refashioned and made glorious.

    Life for all of us, believing or unbelieving, is a wonderful mystery; but death, when it comes to the unbelieving, is only the beginning of divine judgement. When it comes to the believing, it is a triumph that King Jesus HAS DEFEATED death, and made it His golden door. For those who have cast their soul on Jesus, it’s the beginning of pleasures forevermore. If this life is breathtakingly beautiful, how much more the life beyond, where God dwells? And so we do sorrow, but not as those who don’t believe, not as those who wonder in the night what happens after death.

    I write this, standing on the verge of what may well be the slow death of two other members of the immediate family – one believing, and one not. I know there will be much suffering and many tears to come. I look beyond these sufferings, to that door where Jesus calls all of us to come. Let there be rejoicing that He calls.

  9. JJ

    One short story about an elderly friend (and believer) of my wife’s family who recently passed away. Apparently just before she died her face lit up and she said, “It’s so wonderful!” Then she was gone. It still gives me chills. How kind of God to give her that glimpse, and then allow us to experience in a small way that glimpse with her.

  10. Sharon

    I’m reminded of a beautiful poem called “Diving Deep in Sovereignty” by Curtiss Mortimer, from his book “The Dinosaur Journal,” written during and after his 9-year old son Benji died of cancer.

    Been diving deep, the sea called Sovereignty,
    To find the shattered shards of Benji’s life.
    Been giving up the hero’s dignity,
    I could not wield old Abraham’s sharp knife.

    I dove to try and find some evidence,
    To find some answers there or drown and die,
    To give God’s ways some down-home earthly sense.
    I leapt from off the cliff with anguished cry.

    I hit stone-hard–inscrutable the sea,
    Unconscious till revived by soft warm rain.
    I snuggled down in rocking Soveignty,
    And falling droplets washed away the pain.

    I gazed into the cloudless, dripping skies
    And caught a glimpse of God’s great tear-brimmed eyes.

  11. Tony Heringer

    Nice post Sam, better than what comes to my mind in traffic — except for the missiles, that’s me too. I always wish we just drove bumper cars, then we could have fun in traffic.

    Aaron, that word “mystery” just keeps popping up for me. It’s goes with another bittersweet . These two have stuck with me this year.

    Concerning the latter, I think that is this life, whether good times or bad times, is bittersweet. Until Jesus comes back and takes the bitter out to leave only the sweet, that is the best we can hope for while it is called Today. It is all we should expect given the pain and suffering of a fallen world. All of us will struggle to some degree and there many who get what we see is their share and more whereas others seem to move right along without a care. Psalm 73 deals with that a little bit specific point and the Psalms as a whole are our voice to God about this struggles.

    Bittersweet songs we can sing over each other in good times and bad. Songs that inspire so many other things we ponder here, but at the core, that’s the songbook I treasure most.

    Oh, and Sam, its my prayer that Jesus comes back today so we can skip this whole death thing. Can I get an amen? 🙂

  12. EmmaJ

    Amen and amen, Sam.

    I was just looking for something I’m almost sure that I wrote a few years ago… or maybe it was only composed in my own head. In any case, I heartily agree with you on both topics: the logical necessity of acknowledging the sovereignty of God for good or ill, and that death is an ugly enemy.

  13. Michael Ramsay

    When God first commanded light into existence, “Let there be light,” and all matter and energy with it: did He do so with all of His heart? When God first broke the symmetry of the great laws, balancing the minor forces of gravity and magnetism against one another: did He do so on a whim? When God planted countless quarks into His seething sea of photons, arranging them into hadrons, pairing them with leptons, cooling and boiling, expanding, contracting, exploding and starting all over again: did He do so because it seemed like a good idea at the time?

    For me your questions lead me back to the uncountable magnitude of God, His imagination, and His universe; over and against my infinitesimal perception, my instantaneous existence and my fickle moods.

    I believe that this universe lives and moves and has its being in the laws cast into it by those first commands of God. The heavens declare the glory of God because they are the work of His hands – an expression of His unchangeable being. I’m easily tempted to believe that this world is a sand box He constructed for me to live out my story per His direction; But the unbelievable truth is more that this world is His good creation created for His greater joy and glory; and then tainted by my and my father’s sin.

    If God glories in His creation – even the parts farthest flung from my middling perception – ruled by the laws written from His heart, then it must grieve His Spirit to “bend” those rules for any cause.

    Thus, as a steward of this earth, I often feel beholden physical laws – though I know my understanding of them is not so deep as a reflection off the surface of a vast ocean. I feel a tension between “with God all things are possible” and gravity. Along the length of this tension there is a chord ringing eternally, “do not tempt the Lord your God.”

    The nexus of this consuming helix of thought is inevitably the same humble truth binding your questions to mine: God is God, I am not. I am equal parts comforted, awed and frightened knowing God is big, God is good and God is in control.

  14. Christy Robb

    S.D., my roommate and dear friend was killed in a car accident 8 short months ago. Before I was aware that it was her accident which was causing my delay to school, I was so frustrated with the traffic, and was impatiently wanting to know what was happening. As I was re-routed past the accident I pulled up for my turn to make a left onto the road where we both worked, I turned and looked to my right, and there was her car, in two pieces. Horror ran through my body as I realized it was my dear Aimee’s car. Aimee was being taken from the car and rushed to the hospital in critical condition.
    Her parents are missionaries in Taiwan and were made aware of this situation in the middle of the night, so far from Charlotte, NC. They had such a long journey ahead to get to the US, car to bus to planes upon planes. During this they walked through a nightmare of making decisions regarding Aimee and what should happen should she loose her life. Aimee’s life on earth ended at 7:05pm that day.
    As I picked her parents up from the airport, her mother sat next to me in the front seat as I drove. She wanted to know as many details as I knew. First and foremost, she wanted to know about the driver who hit Aimee. The young boy who crossed the line and hit Aimee’s car was not intoxicated, was not texting, his car “simply” crossed the white line. Aimee’s mom wanted to know his condition, was he ok? How badly was he hurt, was he going to be ok? My mind raced as she asked these questions, “why did she want to know about him?” She had heard things in emails from people in the area about the headlines saying that a young school teacher was killed in a car ACCIDENT. As we continued on in the car, she focused on the word accident. Aimee’s mom explained to me, through great tears, that she had been spending time with the Lord in the book of John in the past few months. She was focusing on John 12:24, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth, and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” She had been asking herself what in her life needed to die so that people would come to know and love Jesus. She looked at me and said, “I didn’t know it would be Aimee.” She then went on to tell me that as soon as she and her husband could, they wanted to go to the boy whose car hit Aimee’s and tell him that they did not believe in accidents. They believed that this was God’s means to take Aimee home to him, to where she wanted to be.
    It blew me away, and still does. This pain is so present, and yet so unnatural because it was never meant to be. I’ve been struggling deeply as time passes, and this post was a timely reminder and blessing to me. Thank you for reminding me of King Jesus, our victorious Savior who will make all things new.

  15. S. D. Smith

    @sdsmith

    Aaron Alford– I’m so sorry about your brother, I CAN imagine that pain. Thanks for sharing with us. It sounds like you had some choices to make (as we understand it) and God chose to do some good things that you have been empowered to see as well. A mystery indeed, but glory to God, Master of all. Peace to you.

    Curt– Thanks, brother. There is a pond in which I ponder. 🙂 Actually, don’t we all think about these kinds of things? I’m pretty sure we do. Unless Nebraska or West Virginia is playing.

    Loren –Thanks, man.

    Alyssa –Thank you. I agree, it’s so puzzling. I think what’s liberating to me is not having to comprehend entirely, but to believe and trust in a childlike way regardless.

    rachel –Thanks for sharing that. God does use pain, as do all fathers who love, and it’s not pleasant at the time, but it is for love. For God’s glory and our good, I believe.

    Don Smith –What you said.

    Kyle Keating –Thanks for pointing us to Job. Amazing literature, amazing theology (of course). A pet-peeve of mine is the idea that Theology is antithetical to poetry, literature. Boo for that balderdash. But yay for KK.

    JJ –Thanks for sharing that. I agree with you. God is sovereign, hard as it is to understand (impossible). In my view it’s better than any alternative theory, which all seem to render God feckless, or evil.

    Leonore –Thanks for your heartfelt words. I’m with you. I think there is a sense in which it remains awful and tragic, the death of people, and a sense in which it is a beautiful avenue to unveiled glory. Thanks for bringing that truth in here, it was needed. Peace to you as you live in that tension with your family. God be strong on your behalf.

    Aaron –Thanks, my brother.

    Sharon –Thanks for sharing that. You can really feel his pain and as a parent, boy that really is something you hope to never face.

    Tony –Man, I think you nailed it. Bittersweet. Living is such sweet sorrow. Already/not yet.

    EmmaJ –Thank you. Living with the tension.

    dawngreen –Thank you. I’m with you.

    Michael Ramsay –Wow. I love that. Anything moving my heart in the direction of greater awareness and the necessarily-following wonder at his great glory, I welcome. Such profoundly moving, beautifully truthful few paragraphs. Thanks, brother.

    Canaan Bound –(Hey, that song is playing as I type here. AP, what a guy.) Thank you so much. That is so kind of you to say. Even if it might be considered immature of me to be bucked up by a kind word like that, well, that’s where I am. That really encourages me.

    Christy Robb –I’m overwhelmed by your story, Christy. I don’t know what to say. But that is the life being lived out in reality as I write about it in theory (mostly). Thank you so much for sharing that. I pray God gives you comfort and joy in him. I am a missionary kid myself and can appreciate that kind of devastation, but am encouraged by the grace on display in the face of all that pain. Again, thanks for sharing that. Peace to you.

  16. EmmaJ

    Christy, I have never met you and was not to acquainted with Aimee, but in an odd twist of circumstance, this is not the first meditation I’ve read from a friend trying make sense of her passing – I met someone earlier this year who was also a close friend of Aimee’s.

    What you said about Aimee’s mom’s perspective connects with something in my own life. Several years ago I had the strange and extremely surreal experience of surviving a house fire, made even more poignant by the train of thought that had been with me all the previous day (http://chelseamorning.xanga.com/668155731/item/). In keeping with Sam’s thoughts above I absolutely agree that God would have been no less good had we all been consumed by the flames or left wounded and forever marked in our physical bodies by the experience.

    As I huddled with my sisters, their roommate, and the upstairs neighbors, shoeless and shocked on the sidewalk at 3am, and as we carried on in the days that followed, the only sense that I could make of it was that God could make something from the ashes. I didn’t know what it would be, but I prayed that it wouldn’t be for naught, that something good would come of it. Just a little more than two years from that dark night, I can’t say that I’ve seen anything that most people would call miraculous. I can say that my sisters and their roommate have a much deeper relationship with those former neighbors than before, and I have hope that through those relationships that family will be touched by Jesus in a way that never could have happened if someone hadn’t maliciously set fire to their home in the middle of the night, if we had not shared that very strange and gut-wrenching experience.

    I don’t want to presume or trespass on grief which is not mine, but I will pray that you, Aimee’s family and other close friends will be comforted. And that while it may or may not be something easily seen, that something beautiful will grow from the strange ashes of loss. When I think of possibilities, I think of what grief can do to people. Unsubmitted grief hardens hearts, leads to bitterness and isolation, something I have known all too well. It seems like a grief that’s submitted to Jesus, in all its incomprehensible ruin of previous hopes… it seems like maybe He could use that in us to make our hearts more tender, more compassionate in our own remaining days for the people we encounter. If more love and compassion, more appreciation and self-giving flows out of a heart that has known loss… perhaps that in itself is a worthy legacy, a small sprout of living good emerging from the ground. I’m praying right now for the healing of your heart, that you will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living, that God will comfort you and rebuild your hope.

  17. Jonathan Rogers

    @jonathanrogers

    S.D. I hope you are encouraged to see people responding to what you have written here. You’re hitting people where they live, and telling the truth in the process…a writer can hardly hope for better than that. Even a humorist.

  18. Sarah

    This was a beautiful post, so thoughtfully written, and very poignant to me. The sovereignty of God is something I have struggled to understand. After my family went through a pretty devastating event, someone said to my mom, “well, I was going to feel sorry for you, but I know God is sovereign and he wanted that to happen to you, so I can’t.”

    I had issues with God’s sovereignty after that. Reading the Old Testament just made it worse, and there came a time when I didn’t want to enter that part of the Bible or face God with any struggle. Of course, the answer I felt I had when I prayed was to go back and study the OT. I started with Isaiah, ended up doing it with a great study group and it gave me entirely new eyes. I don’t have full answers to why things happen, but the sweeping love of this holy, righteous God, the way he is intent on our good, the ache of his heart for us to turn and respond, all came through so clearly that I felt able to trust. Finally.

    I hope to hear more of what you find in your studies…

  19. Tony Heringer

    “well, I was going to feel sorry for you, but I know God is sovereign and he wanted that to happen to you, so I can’t.”

    Ugh!

    Job’s friends were of the best help to him when they sat with him in silence. A practice we all should follow with those suffering loss.

  20. Hamlet

    Discussing with Don Moen tonight the basis for his song God will make a Way was the tragic death of a family member’s child.

    God will make a way
    Where there seems to be no way
    He works in ways we cannot see
    He will make a way for me.

    So True.

  21. Leanore

    Thank you for taking time to reply to each of us, S.D. You’re right, it is awful and terrible…yet God triumphs over all, not just someday, but now, in a greater sense then we recognize. By the way, the screen name I use here is in honor of my mother, Eleanor – I reversed one letter to make it Leanore.

    Christy – such pain, only one who has been through a very similar experience would be able to understand. It would be shattering to see a friend, loved one, lose her life in such a frightening accident. I don’t want to diminish your pain at all, but Aimee didn’t lose the rest of the life she was meant to live on earth. She lived every day that God ordained for her – Psalm 139:16. This is not intended to be a Band-Aid for your pain, but if you can grasp some of God’s great love and intention in this Psalm, it may help in time. (Losing my first child through miscarriage taught me to dig deep into that, but it took a long time to work through the pain.)

    Michael, loved the thoughts you put down about the laws of the universe and God’s great delight in them…but if He chooses to bend the laws He made, I’m not so sure it grieves His Spirit. Wouldn’t those times be called miracles? Otherwise, it’s a great meditation on the wonder of creation!

  22. Karisa

    Oh. My. I can add nothing to this post and following conversation except my gratitude to you all for sharing. I draw courage and comfort from those who also grapple with the mysteries of God’s sovereignty and goodness in the midst of death and pain. Sam: thank you.

  23. Lori

    “as for the saints in the land, they are the excellent ones in whom is all my delight”.
    i can’t begin to tell you people how much i look forward to being home with you…seeing your faces, sharing stories, sharing meals and embracing you all one day…just to get started. my heart is full.

  24. Michelle

    S.D. Thanks for this post. Your initial post and several of the replies had me in tears at various points. My mom passed away and even though its been almost nine years, I’ve been missing her quite intensely over the last couple of weeks. I am resonating with so many of the things that have been said here about loss. My mom was too young, had a fairly short battle with an aggressive cancer and was ushered into heaven with all of my immediate family surrounding her bed, singing her favorite hymns, as my brother would later state ‘along with all the angels’. I struggled with God’s mercy and sovereignty, saw family relationships break and shatter, saw people try to deal with the loss and her absence in very different ways. I remember asking God about a year after her death what possible good he could bring out of this tragedy. He was gracious enough to give me a glimpse. My mom was the center of our family and so many relationships ran through her and she was quite good at holding it all together. In her absence, many of those connections broke down, but I was seeing God starting to rebuild those relationships more directly and in some cases, in a healthier way. It honestly didn’t feel like a fair ‘trade’, but it was one step in learning to trust in a new way in God’s grace, mercy, love and sovereignty. I still miss her, and have a different view of heaven knowing I will get to sit and have coffee with her again, but I can say with an honest heart even when the grief hits all over again that God is bigger than death, God is good, and he loves me and I trust him.

    I’m reminded of CS Lewis’ concept of ‘deeper magic’. The white witch killed Aslan, and he surrendered to her under the laws by which Narnia was made. But she was unaware of the deeper magic, by which he was resurrected. This is what makes God and his mercy and grace so amazing. Deeper magic. The fall and death. Sin and tragedy. Satan thinks he’s won. But the truer truth is that God is able to bring good out of all of these. I have seen glimpses of this, times when the veil is lifted for a moment, and I hope to see more. My God is bigger than anything and everything that Satan and his followers can do. He is ultimately in control and I can and am learning to surrender to that. It is a mystery, and it is beautiful.

    In the middle of it, though, it is ugly. But we have a God who does not leave or forsake us even in the garbage of our own sin or tragedy that enters our lives through the general fallen state of the world or the sin of others. We have a God who weeps with us and collects our tears. And promises that he is making ALL things new.

  25. S.D. Smith

    EmmaJ– That’s an amazing story. Thanks for your truth-drenched perspective.

    Jonathan– Thanks, pal. That means a lot to me.

    Sarah– I’m also appalled at that statement, an ugly perversion of the truth about our great and sovereign God. I am glad to hear your story and the hope you are chasing in truth.

    Tony– Right on.

    Hamlet– Word up.

    Leanore– I love the name, and the way you’re honoring your Mother. Thanks so much for your words.

    Karissa–Thank you, Karissa.I feel the same way about these comments.

    Lori– Me too.

    Michelle– Thanks for your thoughtful words. I am encouraged by the recitation of those hopeful truths. he deeper magic is ours, all things are ours because all things are Christ’s and we are in him. Beauty.

  26. S.D. Smith

    I’m really moved by these stories you all have shared and the connections we have in our pain and hope. I think it’s beautiful that we, who are so different, can be so united in these ways.

    I feel like many of you could have written more eloquently, and have. But it feels pretty special to me to have a shared experience of just talking about this stuff with you folks.

    Thank you.

  27. Alan

    Thanks, S.D., and praise the Lord for giving you these thoughts and understanding (even without having to go through a tragedy firsthand).

    What you and the many repliers have said is so beautifully true. God gets His glory from both blessing and tragedy; and for the faithful, joy and tragedy are often one in the same.

    Three weeks ago I was working at a mission station in Kinshasa, DRC and had an “accident” with an angle grinder. Short story: the grinder disk exploded, embedded in my face, and I had emergency surgery there in the Congo that night to remove the disk. The amazing thing wasn’t so much the dozens of miracles that happened to save my life, but how the Bride of Christ around the world rose up to pray not just for healing, but for God’s glory to be proclaimed mightily through the circumstances. It has been amazing to see that happen.

    It brings me so much joy to meet people who I’ve never met, but who have been blessed by the awesomeness of God through the story of how he kept me alive, and have been praying for me. It is great when people don’t even know my name, but they know the story because of the scar, and they give glory to God for it. That scar is an awesome symbol of how my life on this earth is worth nothing if it is not heralding Christ and His grace in my life.

    Like in God’s response to Job, I know that I don’t know the ways of God. I don’t tell the lightning where to strike. I wasn’t there when the stars were formed. Why should I question God when something seemingly tragic happens? I am nothing in the presence of the Creator, yet He loves me, and I must take joy in His plans for me; His ways are not my ways.

  28. S. D. Smith

    @sdsmith

    Alan –Amazing tale. Thanks for telling it. I appreciate so much your story and your God-glorifying attitude. As an MK from Africa myself, your story really resonates. I’m thankful that you lived, scars and all, to tell the story.

  29. Loriann S.

    What a mysterious place, where the free will of man and the sovreignity of God intersect. I have lived there lo these past 11 months, after my husband and daughter were hit head on by a drunk driver, nearly killed and seriously injured. The Great One enters into that dark place of unknowing.

  30. Rolley Haggard

    When good comes in the wake of tragedy, one man says, “This, then, is why God had this happen.”

    Another, a wiser, says, “Ah then, God can bring good even out of this evil.”

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