“Our neighbors called the firefighters thinking seven people were trapped in our house fire.” No one wants to hear this from a family member.
A week ago when my brother sent this message and a picture of his truck engulfed in flames, I hesitated and prepared myself to discover the next divine blow to our family. Instead, I felt relief like cold water rushing over me as I learned that the truck was an isolated accidental fire and no one was hurt.
I watched the stream of green text bubbles roll up on my phone screen as my parents, five siblings and their spouses expressed their compassion and the same relief I felt for no injuries or deaths.
My sister shared Isaiah 14:24: “As I have planned, so shall it be.”
“Merry Christmas, Job,” my dad said, referencing the Bible character who lost everything. “Blessed be the name of the Lord.”
“Yeah,” my brother replied, “It’s good to have the same God Job has. Pretty secure in His hands. Just have to jump the hurdles and press on.”
He had just lost his truck, the indispensable tool for his construction job, with no insurance settlement beyond a limited repayment for his hunting rifles and equipment inside. The suburban to carry his wife and five children was also partially melted, including ominous damage inches from its gas tank.
“It’s just things :),” he texted.
What makes a person react like that? What causes a family to come so quickly to an agreement that possessions are just that – things we possess and then things we don’t?
Albeit a hefty loss, this announcement was a far cry from the scariest our family has heard.
“Rick,” my mom said to my dad over the phone, “It’s Sarah. She’s been in a car accident.”
My oldest sister, 18 years old at the time, had been in a car accident with a semi a mile from our country home. Over the next year, I watched through 7-yearold eyes as my family processed her severe brain injury, physical therapy and rehabilitation.
Exactly a year later, a semi hit my dad’s car near the same intersection. Despite metal being shaved away inches from his head, he walked away without a scratch. He keeps a picture of his twisted vehicle on his office desk at the church he’s pastored for the last 30 years. “As a reminder of providence,” he said. “God was in control of Sarah’s event, as He was of mine. He will not suffer me to be tested beyond that which I am able to bear.” The righteous shall live by faith.
I’m reminded of this truth when I learn of others’ stories of tragedy. Pain is a familiar guest in the lives of those around us.
While we’re on this side of Heaven, we bear the scars of that intrusion. We hold the scars of wounds inside and outside, of burdens before and after salvation, we hold our hands and hearts to Christ with burns and bruises for Him to kiss. What makes us choose hope over despair when we don’t understand why trials come?
Paul shares, “For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known” (1 Corinthians 13:12). We do not know all yet, but we are all known, and that is more than enough for now.
A few days ago I met a woman in the line at Cuppa Jones who eventually told me of her husband’s passing from cancer. With tears in her eyes, she spoke of the comfort God provides. The BJU Lives on Mission videos released over the Thanksgiving season gave a megaphone to those who offered proof of the Lord’s faithfulness through heavy difficulty and sorrow. When you’ve surrendered the fate of people you love to the Lord, the loss of possessions like trucks and hunting gear become merely hurdles to jump and then press on for the prize.
Run. Lay aside every weight, Paul says, lay aside the sin that troubles us so easily – and run our race. Run with our eyes turned to Jesus, who both gave us and will fulfill in us the hope of our faith. Christ, “who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross.” Christ had a purpose to endure His pain. He had a goal, a joy, set before Him, for which He willingly surrendered. So, we too, have a joy set before us. We also may patiently run, knowing Christ has gone before us and will be the finisher of our faith when all else is burned away.