As I write this, I am feeling very uneasy. This past Monday was anything but your typical Monday. First, I received a piece of bad news about myself that I wasn’t expecting. Then, I learned of the death of the Rev. Kyle Lake, a 33-year-old husband, father and pastor in Texas. Kyle was electrocuted in front of hundreds of people on Oct. 30 during a baptismal service. While this would have been a sad event regardless, it hit home because Kyle was a Relevant Books author, like myself. Relevant is a small publisher, and all the authors either know each other, or know of each other. I knew of Kyle and of his books, and his death forces me to face the harsh reality that, in the words of the late Rich Mullins, “we are not as strong as we think we are.”
All of this has me feeling afraid. There, I said it, and I don’t say it with pride. It seems to me like Christians ought to have some sort of earthly protection—a Teflon coating against the fingertips of the Evil One, or a supernatural barrier against human circumstances. Almost like having extra leverage over what the rest of the world calls “uncontrollable.” If we are the chosen ones, the saints of God, then it only seems fair. I see too much irony in Kyle losing his life at 33 years old, having written books titled, Understanding God’s Will and (re)Understanding Prayer. You’re gone now, Kyle, and I can only stand back and say, “I don’t get it, God. You really stumped me this time.” Few of us consider the possibility that God’s will for our life is to cut it shorter than the rest.
Facing some unpleasant circumstances of my own at the moment, though not nearly as painful as death, I keep getting the same advice from people: “Trust God to take care of you.” How? What do I trust Him to do, fix my circumstances on earth? Can God really be trusted to do that? If a young preacher and up-and-coming author can die in such a tragic way while smack dab in the middle of doing God’s precious work, then I can’t help but think that I’m trusting God—that we’re all trusting God—for the wrong things.
Kyle died young. Where is God in that? I think He is in those of us who are so deeply shaken by his loss that we have found a new determination to make our lives as meaningful as possible. I think He can be found in the changed hearts of those individuals who will accept Chris as a result of Kyle’s death. We can always trust God to bring blessings out of our pain, even though we can’t trust Him to protect us from pain and tragedy. He never promised us either.
I can see life lessons already in the hardship facing me. I can learn how to pray for peace to overcome my anger and fright. I can learn to rely more fully on God’s strength and less on my own. I will always face times of need, but I can trust God to sustain me.
Nearly 13 years ago, my next-door neighbor died in a plane crash, leaving behind a young wife and three kids. He was not even 40 years old, with a lovely family and a devotion to the mission field, and yet he died so soon, so horrifically. But because of his death, I began to take my then-infant relationship with God seriously, and his widow and children sort of adopted me into their family and faithfully took me to church for years to come. It showed me that God can be trusted to turn mourning into dancing, and to bring beauty out of ashes.
When God does not seem trustworthy to you, consider re-examining what it is you expect from Him. The Lord has made firm promises that we can stand on. Romans 8:28-39 give us the “security” promises:
1. God will use everything in our lives—including the things that hurt and the things we can’t explain—for our ultimate good.
2. God is FOR us, and He proved His loyalty in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
3. God does not (listen closely to this one!) listen to Satan’s lies and accusations about us.
4. Christ intercedes for us.
5. No power or being will ever be able to pull us away from God.
I am convinced, from experience, that when we fear the unknown, or God doesn’t seem very trustworthy to us, it’s because we’ve forgotten the firm promises we can stand on, and are instead focused on the unknown. The truth is, you’re going to fall. Sometimes God will catch you. Other times, He will brush off the dirt, heal up the scraped knees and elbows, and get you back on your feet again. Sometimes Satan will take swipes at us. Sometimes God will stop him. Sometimes He will stand back and allow the attack, but take heart… Jesus already won the war. Like number five says, nothing can pull you away from God.
All my life, God has been like the ocean to me, big and beautiful, powerful and majestic, but often overwhelmingly large and frightening. I keep going back, because the beauty outweighs the mystery, and because I know if I get swept under by the waves, I’ll be carried home by safe and mighty arms.
When you feel confident about God’s promises, the open-ended questions don’t stump you so much. It’s never going to make total sense, and you never know what lurks around the corner. But you do know what kind of God you serve.
Stand on His promises and don’t be afraid to let the waves carry you away.