I remember being fifteen years old and having just got my learners permit. My dad let me drive his burgundy Cadillac DeVille. Big mistake. I had driven into town (Augusta, GA)-so far, so good. No wrecks, no tickets. I was now on my way back home heading down Washington Road. I was moving! I wasn’t speeding too bad, maybe anywhere between 7 and 15 mph over the speed limit, depending on who’s story you believe (mine or the officer’s). I remember thinking, Some music would be nice. So I reached down with my right hand to adjust the radio station, then looked down to see what radio station I was about to listen to and I glanced up to make sure I was on my side of the road and…uh oh. There was a car stopped in the left lane, turn signal on, waiting to turn left. I couldn’t stop in time. The tires screeched for what seemed like forever. And then, BAM! I rear-ended the guy. Good thing I looked up when I did or we’d probably both be dead. Obviously I’m alive and proud to say the other guy had no injuries either. Cruising along and traffic came to a screeching halt.
Life can be that way sometimes. And it’s usually tragedy or difficulties that provide us with the opportunity to hit our brakes when we least expect it. The only grandpa I have ever known just passed away, widowing my 86-year old grandmother. Life in Oregon was moving along at a good pace. In fact, my church was picking up steam. That’s a good thing, but I had talked to my wife and Chairperson of the church about taking a sabbatical soon. I was getting tired; a good tired. Then I was informed that my grandpa was in the hospital dying and it was time to call-in the family for one last goodbye. That’s when I put the brakes on. I can almost hear them now as I recall being told his life was coming to an end. I heard those breaks again when my plane landed in Atlanta. I heard them yet again after talking with my grandpa (he could only use his eyes to communicate) as he told me, I love you, I’m proud of you and I forgive you. I heard the crash when he died.
He is in a better place called by Jesus Himself, paradise. But something interesting happens after the crash, something miraculous. The moment the crash occurs, healing begins. There’s no intermediate state between the crash or tragedy in our lives and the beginning of the healing process. Healing, God’s healing upon us and within us begins immediately. In fact, I would go so far as to say that God begins preparing us for the tragedy long before it occurs and begins preparing us for the necessary healing long before the trial begins. They seem to overlap beautifully. Being healed is rarely described by this word, but I believe it always should be; that word being transformation.
I can look back at every tragedy I’ve been a part of in my life and say that in some profound way it changed me forever. Look at the tragedies you’ve experienced. Are you the same person you were before? I think probably not. And that’s not a bad thing, it’s a design thing. God intends on using the tragedies in our lives to shape us into the followers of Jesus we need to be to fulfill His will, not only for us, but for His Kingdom.
When tragedy happens, do you curse God? Do you avoid God? Do you shake your fist at God? Do you pray for deliverance? Do you pray for comfort, peace and strength? How do you respond? When life comes to a screeching halt, how do you respond to God? How you respond to God in the midst of tragedy heavily influences the way you’ll respond to those around you during healing. It will affect the way you see that tragedy and it will affect the way you grieve that tragedy. Do you cling to God or do you cling to something or someone else?
When tragedy happens, embrace the tragedy for what it is and fall to your knees in ultimate dependence upon God. Allow God to shape you through the tragedy by drawing close to Him in solitude. Lastly, take your time grieving. There’s no concrete grieving timeline. Say what you need to say and do what you need to do. This will bring closure, or at least help the grieving process.
Tragedy breaks the mold so God can break your hold. Let go of your life and let God shape your life.
Father, thank You for loving me so much that you led me into this tragedy I’m facing right now. Thank You for allowing it to break the hold I have on my life. Help me to depend on You fully during this time and help me depend on You that way continually. Give me the strength to stand one more day in this difficult time and I invite you to transform me into the person You want and need me to be. I love You, Lord. Thank You, thank You, thank You. Amen.