Dear Friends,

This week someone asked me what I initially felt when I realized my wife, Donna, had been killed in the car crash caused by a drunk driver.  This might be helpful to anyone going through a tragedy.

Here are my reflections on my experience:

Trapped—my head and shoulders resting on the trunk of my car—one arm inside and the other outside the broken rear window.  My feet were hanging over the front seat tangled in the seatbelt as I struggled to keep my loafers on my feet—a ridiculous thing that somehow seemed important to me at the time.  My hips were suspended in midair between the front and back seat.

Lying on the trunk of my car I looked up into a beautiful summer night sky.  The stars sparkled and danced in the fresh, clear air of that June evening as I tried to remember how I found myself in this horrible position.

A first responder, a paramedic, was speaking to me in hushed, but urgent tones, very close to my ear saying, “Hang in there with us.  Hang in there!  Stay with me!”  Evidently, I had been out for a few minutes unaware that my life had just been plundered.  In the corner of my eye I saw a huge number of emergency firefighting equipment with their bright red strobe lights flashing in every direction.

I told the paramedic, “I’m okay, just take care of my wife!”  His response is permanently etched into my memory.  He said, “We’re not worried about her.  We’re worried about you!”

I knew what that meant.  That’s code for “she’s gone.”  My first inclination was to reject what he said.  Maybe I misunderstood.  Maybe I didn’t hear him correctly. Maybe I should ask him again how Donna was doing.  “Of course,” I thought, “she is on the stretcher and is already on her way to the hospital.”  I tried to tell myself, “I’ll see her in a few minutes when they get this car off of me.”

In a moment like this you can try to fool yourself.  You mind soars at amazing speed. Your thoughts are flying past in a series of pictures and concepts.  I was grasping for some alternative meaning of what I clearly heard the paramedic say.

But deep in my heart I knew.  I knew the truth.  I knew what he meant.  I knew that Donna was gone.  As this truth began to sink into my consciousness, I cried out loud to God.  I shouted into the beautiful June sky, “O no, God this isn’t happening!!”

There, trapped in that car, was a battle raging in my heart between faith and…  Actually, I don’t exactly know what the alternative to faith is.  I don’t know what my other option was at that moment.  I only know that I was devastated.

It was at that moment.  It was upon expressing my rejection of what was transpiring, that God asked me the most important question of my life.  In the quietness of my heart He asked, “Do You Really Trust Me, Or Do You Just Say That You Trust Me?”

God asked me to trust him—even in the middle of this horrific tragedy.  He didn’t want me to trust him only when times were good. He wanted me to trust him in the tragedies as well. God had walked with me for many years.  He had been with me in previous times of testing.  He delivered on his promise, “I will never leave you or forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5).   He had taught me of this faithfulness and love.  I had tasted of his grace and comfort.  I didn’t just know about Him, I knew him.  God had proven himself trustworthy in the past.

“The choice” reminds me of the time when Jesus asked Peter if he would turn away from following him? Jesus was teaching difficult things to the multitudes who followed him.  He called them to total commitment to Him as Lord.  The crowd wanted Jesus for what he could give them (he had just fed a crowd of maybe 20,000 with a couple of fish sandwiches), but Jesus asked for a much deeper spiritual commitment.  At this point many turned away from him.  As people left in great numbers, Jesus turned to his twelve disciples and asked, “Are you going to leave too?” When confronted with this choice Peter, as spokesman for the group, responded, “Lord, to whom would we go? You alone have the words that give eternal life” (John 6:68).

I knew I had to choose trusting God; I knew of no other option; I knew that God alone had the key to eternal life.  He was the only one who could get me through the days ahead.  He was the only one who could take this tragedy and make it into something beautiful.

I said in the quietness of my heart, “Yes Lord, I choose to trust you!”

Immediately a Scripture flooded my heart, “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28). There was this amazing peace that it would be okay.  By trusting in God at that moment, I knew God would walk with me.  He would give me the strength I would need.  He would somehow—far too miraculous for me to comprehend—work this tragedy together for good…my good.  It seemed impossible, but this was the hope I grabbed onto as if it were a life preserver.

As I determined in my heart to trust God, He surround me—overwhelmed me—with His supernatural peace.  It was as if He placed me inside a bubble of protection.  I describe this as God’s Emotional Anesthetic.

As an illustration, I recently I had my hip replaced.  One of the anesthetics they use for pain control is a spinal block.  For more than 24 hours after my surgery I felt no pain at all.  Eventually, it wore off, but as it nice while it lasted.

I believe God does something like this for us.  When we have immense emotional trauma, the Lord can provide emotional comfort that is beyond anything you could ask or imagine.  I experienced this supernatural emotional protection for many days.  During this time, trusting God and believing He had everything under control was easy…I was feeling very little emotional pain.  But as time went on, I began feeling more and more pain.  That’s when I needed to cling to these following truths.

7 THINGS YOU CAN EXPERIENCE DURING TRAGEDY:

  1. God’s Emotional Anesthetic

Psalm 27:5 (NLT) For he will conceal me there when troubles come; he will hide me in his sanctuary. He will place me out of reach on a high rock.

  1. God Is in Control

Psalm 33:11 (NLT) But the Lord’s plans stand firm forever; his intentions can never be shaken.

  1. He Will Work this for Good

Romans 8:28 (NLT) And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.

  1. He Will Provide Perfect Peace

Isaiah 26:3 (NLT) You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, all whose thoughts are fixed on you!

  1. His Peace Is Inconceivable

Philippians 4:7 (NLT) Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.

  1. He Will Provide Comfort for Your Hurt

Isaiah 49:13b (NLT) For the Lord has comforted his people and will have compassion on them in their suffering.

  1. He Will Give Strength for the Journey

Psalm 46:1 (NIV84) God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.

It would be a shame for someone to go through tragedy without receiving these things from the Lord that He has promised to provide.  We simply need to reach out and receive what He has for us.

Onward clinging,

Pastor Gary