When Tragedy Strikes

Nothing in this life is guaranteed. Not even tomorrow is guaranteed to us. Not one of us will get through life without facing some sort of tragedy or hardship. So what are we to do when tragedy strikes?

Recently, there have been tragedies that have affected my church family.  While not directly affecting me, the shock and grief have run through our church and have affected people I deeply care for.  So it got me to thinking about what our response should be when we face trials such as this.  What do we do when we feel like our world is crumbling down around us and nothing makes sense?  What do we say? How do we find hope? How do we hold on to faith when it seems like God is so distant?

This post is a departure from my normal discussions on improving our lives as men, but I feel like I need to put my thoughts to paper. As men we do face these dark days and we need to be prepared for when they come.

My career and one of the passions of my life is funeral directing.  I am a licensed funeral director and embalmer. I deal with death on a daily basis.  I’ve seen death come after a long sickness and at the end of a Godly life, as it did for one of our church members recently.  And I’ve seen death strike in the blink of an eye without warning as it did for another brother in the faith this week. Doing this as a career really makes one take a step back and examine your own life.  Am I ready if my time comes unexpectedly? What if someone I love is taken from me? What will I do when tragedy strikes?

There’s a story of man in the 1800’s who was a successful businessman in Chicago.  When the Great Chicago Fire destroyed the city, he lost everything. He lost his law practice and business.  He had also invested heavily in real estate and all of it was destroyed. A young son died not long thereafter as well.

After a tumultuous couple of years, he decided to take his family on a trip to Europe for some rest and also to help his friend Dwight L. Moody on one of his campaigns in Great Britain.  In November of 1873, he sent his wife and four daughters on ahead as he had some business matters to attend to and would join them shortly. On November 22nd, the ship on which his family was traveling was struck by an English vessel and sank in less than twelve minutes.  His wife was rescued floating on a piece of debris. All four daughters, however, were lost to the waves. When she reached England, she telegraphed back home to her husband, “Saved, alone.”

The man booked passage on the next available ship heading to England.  About four days out the ship’s Captain called him to his cabin and explained to him they were over the place where the accident had occurred and his children were lost.   Looking out over the vast ocean, pondering the loss of his children, Horatio G. Spafford was inspired to write these words:

“When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,

When sorrows like sea billows roll;

Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say,

It is well, it is well with my soul.”

The words to that great hymn comfort us still, even after almost 150 years.  It is well with my soul. When life is peaceful and happy, or when life throws trials at us like a wave rolling up and down, whatever we may face, as long as it is well with our souls, we’ll be ok.  

It’s our souls that matter.  Not this earthly body. This mortal life isn’t the life worth living for.  It’s the eternal life of our soul that we live for. We endure sorrow and tragedy in this life, in the hope of a life without it.  Revelation 21 tells that one day, “God will wipe every tear from our eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain.”  The promise of that everlasting life is what gets us through the tragedies in this temporary life.

Once we realize that this world is not our home, the tragedies we face, while painful to be sure, don’t defeat us.  While the enemy can take our bodies, he cannot take our souls. Therefore, we put our faith and trust in our great God.  He is the mighty fortress. He is our refuge and strength. When we are attacked, we turn to him for salvation. “The Lord is my light and my salvation” the Psalmist wrote, “Whom shall I fear?”  

We fear nothing.  Not even death. Because we know that one day…

“My faith shall be sight.

The clouds be rolled back as a scroll;

The trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend,

Even so, it is well with my soul.”

So when tragedies strike us, we don’t lose faith, because we know that God is in control.  When we face loss in this life, we don’t lose hope because we have the promise of eternal life with our Lord.  And when it seems like nothing makes sense and our world is crumbling around us, we do not fear, because He is with us, He protects us, and He is preparing a place for us. 

Because He died for our sins, because He is our refuge and strength, because in Him we find everlasting hope, we can confidently say, “It is well with my soul.”

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