When I start to search for a new Bible study, I never know exactly where God will have me land and today was no different. Surviving Tragedy – why would He choose that topic out of the myriad topics I had in mind? I’ve experienced a lot of loss in my life and have had some pretty tragic things happen to me or to those I love. It’s not something I dwell on, particularly once I’ve successfully worked through it with my therapist. But here He was, bringing it back up again.
Surviving Tragedy: Grandma Clara
I was sitting in front of the computer at work, talking and laughing with a co-worker when my sister called to tell me my grandmother had just died in a house fire. My favorite grandmother. The one who took me in every summer and made me feel so special and loved. In a split second, my world got flipped upside down. The laughter replaced with pain.
I imagined how scared she must’ve been.
She had woken up from a nap only to realize the house had caught fire. Being blind from macular degeneration, she had difficulty finding her way out. The first responders heard her screams for help and tried to get her out, but she succumbed to the smoke and as a result, died shortly after transport to the hospital.
It was hard enough losing her, however, losing her in such a traumatic way was just… unfathomable. I questioned why God would do that. Why did he allow such a horrific thing happen to such a woman of faith? This woman lived and breathed her rosary. If she had a problem, she went straight to prayer. She was a devout Catholic that made sure to pass on her beliefs to her family, including me.
My strength wasn’t enough.
After I got off that phone call, I thought for sure I could stay at work. I was strong. They needed me. There was nothing else I could do, so why not be productive and keep my mind off it? But there was no way I could NOT think about it. Those horrifying flashes of fire and smoke and being blinded and not knowing where to turn flooded my mind. I felt the anxiety she must’ve felt. That brief moment of relief when she heard the firefighters trying to get to her. I felt the rush of adrenaline that the firefighters must’ve had as they worked on saving her. And then, there was nothing.
What happened in that brief moment between her life and her death? Did she know it was coming? Did she feel God’s presence as He scooped her up and brought her home to heaven? I’d never given much thought about that before but now, that’s all I could think about.
“A thief comes only to rob, kill, and destroy. I came so everyone would have life and have it fully.” John 10:10
It’s during those times of chaos and fear that Satan gets a foothold. He sticks his foot in the door of our misery and lingers there for as long as we’ll allow him to. He asks questions like:
“If God really cared about your grandma, he would’ve let her just die in her sleep.”
“You should have lived closer and taken better care of her.”
“Is God really a good God? I mean, look at what he did here!”
There are so many questions and doubts that he pokes us with. He wants us to dwell in that pain and he wants us to suffer. Because when we suffer, we keep our eyes on the thing causing the pain instead of focusing our eyes on Jesus. He wants us distracted because distracted people cannot go about the business of God.
Be strong in spirit.
The one thing I learned from all of this is that it doesn’t matter how strong you think you are in mind and body. You have to be strong in spirit. How much you can bench press isn’t going to be the thing that gets you through these trying times. How fast you can solve a math problem isn’t going to do it either. It’s believing in the goodness of God and remembering that it’s by his own cuts and bruises that we are healed (1 Peter 2:24). Jesus experienced heartache. He lived through pain so unbearable. And with every single lash of the whip, he thought of you. He endured it all for you. He is calling you and saying, “Don’t look over there! Look at me! Look at my eyes and see all of the love I have for you! I am nailed to this cross for you and that means I will always take care of you.”
Satan doesn’t want our thoughts to go there.
He will use every single tactic and play he has in his playbook to keep you from remembering that Jesus is still there. But Jesus is still there! In the middle of death – he’s there. When your spouse leaves you – he’s there. When your child gets caught up in drugs – he’s there. Even if you lose your job, your home, your best friend, your dog, or anything in between – He. IS. There!
I don’t know what you are going through in this very moment, but God asked me to convey this message to you: He loves you. He loves you so much that He would trade all of creation just for you (Isaiah 43:4). No matter how massive this thing is that is weighing you down, your God is bigger! No matter how far out of your grasp it feels, He’s got a hold on it and will bring you through. All of those thoughts and doubts swirling around in your head? Not a single one of those matters when you lay it all at His feet. Lay it down. Take 10 steps back. Now watch Him work.