God in the Pit of Despair

Five months have passed since the tragic events of July 11, 2017, when our beloved oldest son Christopher was killed in a car crash on the way home from work. Those first moments and hours were chaotic, confusing, and excruciating as we struggled to come to grips with what had happened. Nothing can adequately prepare a parent for the loss of a child. The closest I can come to describing it is this: I liken it to being cast headfirst into the deepest, darkest pit imaginable—and then your soul implodes. I never knew there could be that much pain in this world.

I had told my children many times from an early age that if something ever happened to me, I didn’t want them to be angry with God. As a police officer and Christian father, I felt I was doing my due diligence preparing them for a fallen, broken world and to the realities of police work. We talked often that tragedy, adversity, and trials don’t change the fact that God is still God (John 16:33). The essence and core tenants of our faith in Christ were not dependent on our situation, and, yes, sometimes bad things, horrible things, can happen to good people—but, of course, it was all theory until that day. Reality had come crashing down hard on us. I never dreamed my words would boomerang back to me with the loss of one of our children.

Almost immediately after receiving the news, I was overwhelmed with the sense that Chris was standing with Jesus, watching us and wondering if we would remain faithful through this tragedy. The fact that Jesus was watching should have been enough, but the added pressure of Chris, our amazing son who loved the Lord, looking on from Heaven shook me. I did not want to disappoint or embarrass my Lord or my son by crumbling under such a catastrophic trial and abandoning everything I had believed or said I believed, but I could only muster the guttural cry of my heart, “God help us.”

Family and friends arrived at our house that night to console, grieve, and pray with us. I would love to say that God immediately lifted us out of our pit of despair and gave us instant peace and clarity. He didn’t. He did, though, reach his loving hand down into that pit and held fast to us, as He has been doing every day since. He anchored us during the emotional storms of anger, sadness, and anguish. He gave us the strength to rely on Him and pray, thanking Him for Chris’ life and praising Him amid gut-wrenching sorrow. We witnessed God’s power displayed in Justin and Shannon as they stood at Chris’ Celebration of Life, honoring their brother and God with passion and authority that can only come from the Holy Spirit.

I’ve wondered a thousand times if I could continue to press forward, endure, and walk in faith. At each juncture, when the pain and doubt were at their worst, Jesus would show up at just the right moment in miraculous ways, and He gently restored me when my faith faltered or waned. “If we are faithless, he remains faithful” 2 Timothy 2:13.

We are still in the pit, although more and more light is piercing the darkness with each new day. Waves of grief wash over our family at different times and in different ways, and the spiritual battles have been real and intense. But the Lord’s hold on us has not wavered one iota. I don’t know if we’ll ever be drawn from this pit, but the one thing that has made it bearable is knowing that the Creator and Sustainer of All Things has been and continues to be with us, here, in the darkest, most challenging time of our lives.

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