Sandy (not her real name) and I were best friends in high school. We never dated but came together to write and play music. Neither of us understood a personal relationship with God at this point but the lyrics written reflected a quest for truth and meaning in life. There was a similar longing in our hearts for a connection with God. Sandy knew me at my loneliest time and her friendship gave me hope. We spent many hours together dreaming of Colorado and adventures in the world of performing music.
During our senior year, Sandy and I stopped playing music together and drifted apart. I was busy with school and work and dating. We both moved on to other interests and lost touch. I began to follow Jesus and it changed my life. Through the obstacles of all my faults, still I was able to sense of God’s incredible grace. After high school, I became a volunteer leader with a local youth ministry. It was an exciting time of growing and learning each day what it means to follow Jesus Christ. I slept little and often carried on deep discussions with peers through the late night and into the early morning hours.
One time late in the evening, I was at a friend’s house for a party when I received a call from Sandy. We had not talked for almost two years. I stood in a noisy living room and closed my eyes to try and understand her quiet words over the phone.
“Are you busy?” She said.
“No,” I fibbed. “What’s up?”
“I just need to talk with someone. I didn’t know who to call. Can we meet somewhere?”
“Sure.” Of course, as an introvert I’m always glad to leave a party, so I excused myself and headed out. We picked a local 24-hour restaurant to meet and ordered a pot of coffee and chocolate dessert. I remember having a great conversation about several things but there seemed to be nothing specific on Sandy’s agenda. She knew I had accepted Christ and was interested in how this impacted me. A few hours later of friendly chatting, we hugged and went our separate ways. I quietly wondered why she phoned me so late at night for what appeared to be casual conversation.
I later learned it was a matter of life and death.
It was an extremely fragile time in her life that night and my name kept coming up in her mind. Honestly, I still do not know how she got the number for my friend’s house or even knew I was there. I am so glad she did. She later told me that her deal with God was, if you are real, let there be someone who shows that they care; if not, I will kill myself tonight. Completely clueless, I simply showed up.
The story is just getting started. We began getting together almost daily and she did accept Jesus into her life. Three weeks after becoming a Christian, Sandy was confronted with a terrible crisis: her father, step-mother, little sister, and their baby-sitter were all killed in a terrible car crash.
God will hear the cry of His children from afar, but we should live so close to Him that He can hear our faintest whisper of prayer.
Tears are the prisms that make rainbows in the soul.Charles W. Conn
The news was an incredible shock. Sandy’s relationship with her father had been estranged, yet in the initial process of being rekindled. Suddenly, he was gone. They all we gone. As a brand-new Christian, she was slammed with the reality that horrific things happen to good people. Life can suddenly become unbelievably devastating.
Sandy could have totally rejected the God of the Universe for the tragedy that so closely followed her conversion, but instead she drew closer. She let the God who knows ultimate sorrow hold her while she grieved. There was no hint of trying to minimalize or explain away the shock and grief; no bad theology that turns God into the villain of the story. Sandy recognized that bad things can happen in life to anyone and eventually, to everyone. When those overwhelming moments come, we all make a choice to either face it alone, or lean our friends; to embrace comfort from the God who made us, and is always with us or walk through this valley without hope.
The night before he was to die on a cross, Jesus sat at the table with his closest friends and whispered these words, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me.” (John 14:1) During their last meal together, Jesus comforted his disciples, “Peace, I leave with you. My peace I give to you; not as the world gives, do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful.” (John 14:27). One cannot turn bad things into good things by simply attributing them to God. Bad things are bad things. However, God can use even bad experiences to bring about good things in life, but this does not change the reality of pain and loss. However, it does adjust our perspectives on them. We are people of hope.
People have different ways of trying to make sense out of tragedy. God calls us into viable relationships, not cold isolation. I believe the perspective of God as the perpetrator of evil events sets people up for an eventual crisis of faith. It plants the seeds of deep doubts as to the very goodness and or existence of God. I prefer to accept the reality of our broken world and recognize that God will never leave us or forsake us. The Holy Spirit is our Comforter who gives, “the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:7). This is where we cling to the hope of the resurrection.
Sandy has been there and she knows.
Do not be afraid. Do not let your hearts be troubled.
God is with you through the darkness.
Revised from Real-Life Wisdom: Stories for the Road, (Ayres, 2004)