Early morning phone calls.
9/11/2013 2:16:21 PM
Sept 10, 2013~Grieving


Early morning phone calls.

Seems like our home telephone seldom rings anymore, well except when telemarketers call.  But it rang yesterday morning, and I knew it could not be good news.  Sure enough--an associate’s 20-year-old son had been struck by a car and killed instantly (the driver not found at fault).  The young man graduated two years ago from our local high school, and went on to play football at UCLA.  Number 36 had come home for his only ‘bye’ weekend this fall, and met with death.  Nick was a gentleman, a leader, and a passionate athlete—a standout, well liked by so many people.  Indeed, hundreds of students, families and friends flocked to San Clemente High School’s football stadium to be together last night.

Shocked. Heartbroken. A family’s life forever changed.  How to make sense of the tragedy … oh, how to cope!  Everyone reacts differently, to be sure.  One Christian may run to God with the pain, and another is angry with God. 

And for the unbeliever, what then?  A casting about for some kind of peace, some kind of numbing agent … alcohol, Valium, whatever.  Where is hope?

Honestly, I have been trying to string two sentences together myself, wanting to write about how to deal with sudden death and all that it means.  Reading Scripture, asking God, reading Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, C.S. Lewis and others…  Because right thinking matters.

When the phone call comes, our reaction depends on two relationships—our closeness to the one who has suddenly died and our relationship to God.  There cannot be any greater pain than that of a parent, whose child’s life has been suddenly cut off, no matter the cause. 

And then … where is God?  Where was he to you before the phone rang?  What had you done with him? 

These questions lead me to more questions.  And so I ask:  who is God to me?  What is my default setting?  I mean, when life falls apart, where, what or to whom do I instantly turn?  I would like to answer, knowing that for so many of you, my answers will help you form your own answers to these critical questions.

God is good.  His heart is good and right.  He is not the author of pain or the cause behind a sudden death.  There are things in life I do not understand—like why Nick died, why good people get cancer and evil people seem to flourish, why the innocent and children suffer.  But who God is still does not change.  God loves me, and I love him—circumstances do not change either.  Where is God now, as Nick’s mother and father and brother grieve in sorrow?  Grieving with them.  David said, “You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book.”1

God is present in our pain.  Again, from the psalmist, “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted; he rescues those whose spirits are crushed.”2 Here’s the thing—as always, you and I have a choice; we can blame God or we can run to him. He has promised he will never leave us or forsake us.3  You are not alone, unless you choose to be.

Tap your helmet, Christian, and run to God!  For “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.”4 God has not caused your pain, your loss or your suffering, but he is on hand, waiting to enfold you with his love.  “The Lord your God is with you; he is mighty to save.  He will take great delight in you.?The quietness of his love will calm you down.?He will sing with joy because of you.”5

So get alone, get quiet—just you and God.  Take him at his word, that he is present, closer even than a brother, and pray to him.  Give him your pain.  Ask him for the comforting balm of his Holy Spirit.  He will not disappoint.

There cannot be any greater pain than that of a parent, whose child’s life has been suddenly cut off … God understands that.  He has been there.


1 Psalm 56.8

2 Psalm 34.18

3 Deuteronomy 31.6; Hebrews 13.5

4 Psalm 46.1

5 Zephaniah 3.17