Altar Call – Opelika-Auburn News

Walter Albritton

July 1, 2007


All of us need to find a way to face tragedy and see it through


          Sixteen years ago Judy lost her son in an automobile accident. Charles was a college student, age 22. At the time Judy shared with me her overwhelming struggle with grief. Having lost a child myself, I encouraged her to believe she could get through her dark valley of sorrow. After a brief time of correspondence, I lost contact with Judy.

          Last week Judy contacted me again to thank me for the help my writings had been to her. What joy I felt to learn that she did not allow her sorrow to cripple her. Instead she used it to become a finer person by caring for others who have lost a loved one.

          Judy edits the newsletter of The Compassionate Friends in Troy, Alabama. In the current issue Judy quotes Terese Goodrich, a national leader of Compassionate Friends.

Perhaps without realizing it, Terese explains what has happened to Judy when she says,“Remember that someday you will take the time to help someone else and that time will be the most satisfying time of all.”

          That is one of the great secrets of working through grief – dry your tears long enough to help somebody else who is struggling with sorrow. This truth should not surprise. The old gospel song explained it long ago: “Help somebody today, somebody along life’s way. Let sorrow be ended, the friendless befriended, oh help somebody today.”

          By helping others while she has been going through her own struggle, Judy has found the grace to see it through. In the process she has become a more sensitive, caring human being. That is surely how God wants us to “use” our sorrow. 

          In her helpful newsletter Judy reprinted a little piece I had written years ago, and forgotten about. In the hope that one of my readers may find this piece encouraging, I share it again today. Perhaps someone you know may find help by reading this devotional based on Second Samuel 18:33 (Living Bible):

          Then the king broke into tears, and went up to his room over the gate, crying as he went, “O my son Absalom, my son, my son, Absalom, if only I could have died for you! O Absalom, my son, my son.”

       Where is God when our children suffer and die? This cry goes up to heaven every time a precious little child suffers and dies. Anguished parents want to know why God allows such pain. The prophet Habakkuk dared to ask God how long must he cry for help before God would respond to his pleas (1:2).

          When King David learned that his son Absalom had been killed, he wept as any father would, even though his son had led a treacherous revolt against his father. No one can read the account of his crying, “My son, my son,” without feeling the depth of pain David was going through.

          In the cruel hours of painful sorrow it is hard for any of us to believe that God really cares. We feel that he has forsaken us, that he could have prevented the death had he wanted to. Such anguish and questioning is normal and common to all people. Since God is able to do anything, we reason, then he simply chose not to save the life of our loved one. Such a decision by a God of love is simply unthinkable.

          As one who has lowered the dead body of a son into the grave, I know the heartache and hurt that parents experience when children die. I know also some conclusions which I came to, which I believe to be very important. There are some questions for which there are no satisfying answers. I do not know why God allows the innocent to suffer. I do not know why some are healed and others are not.

          I do know that we may know God, and that knowing God is better than knowing answers. When our son died, people gave us all sorts of answers. But it was not answers that we needed. We needed to know that other people cared, and that at least some of them knew how we hurt. We can survive without answers if we have the love and support of a few people.

          I came to another conclusion that helped me. I concluded that no matter how badly we hurt, we must not abandon our faith. We cannot live in this world without faith, and no matter our circumstances we must struggle to find, hold on to, and strengthen our faith in God.

          Another conclusion that helped was this: God is never absent from our suffering. He is always with us even when he appears to be silent. He is always behind the scenes working for our good. There is, after all, another world, and God is God. He who is able to give us our children in this life is also able to arrange for us to see them again on the other side.

          So for me the best prayer I can pray, after some of the pain and anger have subsided, is “Precious Lord, hold my hand; lead me on through this barren land.”

          We never get “over” the loss of a precious child. We can, by the grace of God, get “through” the pain. God is very good at giving us the power to face tragedy and see it through. + + +