“Untimely Death. Timeless Hope.”
By Shauna Wallace
It was a Friday afternoon. We turned the car over to the valet at the mall and sauntered into our first store to make a return. My two youngest begged me to be quick. In the middle of working with the sales association to figure out why I had received a bed skirt I never ordered, the phone rang.
“Hey Jennifer, what’s up?”
“Did you hear about Katie?”
“No. I haven’t heard anything. What’s happened?”…
“She was killed in a car accident this morning.”
“What? You’re kidding me! Are you serious? Oh, Jennifer, there’s no way! Oh, the family!”
And it happened. In an instant, the lives of two vibrant young women ended and countless more would never be the same.
I was overcome with shock, unbelief, heartbreak, and nausea as I tried to imagine what her parents would be feeling. It hurt too much. If I couldn’t stand the pain of imagining, what was it like for them?
How do we make sense of something so senseless? How could such a vivacious young woman be here one moment and gone the next? No warning. No wrong doing. No drugs, alcohol, or rebellion. She wasn’t doing something wrong in a place she shouldn’t have been. It wasn’t the result of any form of foolish or criminal behavior. She just spent the night with a friend and was on her way home.
Seeking comfort in the Lord, the pain didn’t go away, but joy mixed in knowing Katie was in His presence. I rejoiced for her, but I mourned for those left behind to figure their way through her absence. I celebrated His saving grace for Katie, and my heart broke for her family. I found hope in the fact that His grace is sufficient, even in the loss of a child. His grace is sufficient in any loss. Any tragedy.
I thought about my own mom. The phone call ten years ago.
My sister had left two messages about an emergency. Someone must have broken a bone or something, I thought.
“Hey, what’s up?” I asked when I called her back.
She never showed up for work that morning. Her staff called 9-1-1 to check on her, and they found her dead on her kitchen floor. No warning. No idea it was coming. No idea cancer had taken up residence in nearly every organ and system in her body. The life of a vibrant 62-year-old woman ended, and countless others would never be the same.
In an instant, life as I knew it changed. Shock, unbelief, debilitating grief, disorientation, and denial set in. But the Lord was there. He went deeper than the grief. When no one or nothing could make it better, He did. He was sufficient. He was able. He was faithful.
Only the Lord knows the number of our days. Tragedy is a painful reminder. Let it be our teacher, too. Be the one to extend the hand of grace, forgiveness, repentance, and reconciliation. The Lord has given every one of us who are His the ministry of reconciliation. Let us be faithful in it. Let no anger sit. No offense take hold. No bitterness take root. No unkind word leave our mouths, within our families and without.
Lord, let us love more vulnerable, extend more grace, assume more humility, let more go, encourage more generously, reconcile more quickly.
Katie’s voice spoke loud and clear even in her death. Her funeral was a celebration of a young woman who wanted nothing more than for others to come to know her Jesus. They did, by the dozens. She may have reached more lives for Jesus in her death than she ever could in her life.
We’re not promised understanding. We may not know why terrible things happen, but we can know what God’s word says about Him. We can know He will never leave or forsake His children (Hebrews 13:5). We can know He will work all things, even catastrophic loss, for good to those who love Him and are called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28). We can know He is ever present, all powerful, all knowing. We can know He loves His children more than can be measured and will carry them through whatever He allows. We can know He is our “very present help in trouble” (Psalm 46:1). And we can know that “weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning” (Psalm 30:5). The Lord is Him who comforts us (Isaiah 51:12).
Katie’s family has a guarantee. So do I. We will miss our loved ones for the time we remain, but one day, we will be with them forever. It is the source of hope in the face of despair.
Lord, give us an eternal perspective for this temporary existence. When pain overwhelms us, and we can’t see how we’ll manage our next step, turn our hearts to You, Lord, and give us peace as we are wholly Yours, even in the midst of great loss. Thank you for the guarantee of salvation and the hope of an eternal family reunion with all who are saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ.