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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5 thoughts on “God in the Pit of Despair

  1. Dave Soderberg

    Thank you for sharing your feelings Mark, quite a testimony. I pray light continues to flow into your familie’s life.

    Your brother in Christ,

    Dave Soderberg
    Goose Creek PD, SC

  2. Hey Mark. As you know, we are walking almost the same road, except for a different reason. Thank you for sharing this part of your journey, as it confirms what we are experiencing–discovering there’s more of God than I ever knew. Parts and provision I’d never had to success, and I have to admit, am often surprised by. The cross means more to me now, as Christ’s work there holds the power to survive and thrive, even in this. Praying for you and your family.

  3. Mark, I didn’t know about this. Thank you for sharing your heart. May the Lord continue to bear your grief and sorrow. Bad things do happen sometimes to good people and it’s hard to understand, but one day everything will be made crystal clear. I lost two dear brothers one at age 35 in an AF mishap over Homestead AF Base, another at age 43 from cancer. God has given me a wonderful vision of the two of them in heaven fellow shipping with my father after he passed several years later. Heaven is so real. All three were in the prime of life, happy and the AF one told me to “go back” that my work was not done here.

    Another quick story: When our son was being birthed, the doctor used ether to put me to sleep, and I had a terrible hallucination of death and dying. I could clearly hear the devil say that all the Bible said about death and dying was a lie, that we died just like pigs to a slaughter and I saw the pigs being slaughtered. I was one of them. Needless to say, after Tim was born, I had a terrible fear of death and dying. But God had a plan. When Tim was six months old, we visited a Church of God for the ordination of Dwayne’s cousin Rudy. When he gave an altar call I was sitting in the back nursery with a two-way mirror. Somehow I found myself walking to that altar after handing the baby to another worker. When I got down there, I got extremely nervous being Baptist, and not knowing what the COG folks might do at an altar. ( : I had my eyes clenched shut. In the same moment I finally opened them, heaven opened and my grandmother leaned down and said, “Elva, dying is like waking up from a bad dream. As good as life can get on earth, it’s still like a bad dream compared to the wonderful reality of heaven when we die.” WOW! That fear of death and dying and the devil’s lies went up (actually down) in smoke.

    Love,
    Elva Cobb Martin
    Pres., ACFW-SC Chapter
    Anderson, SC http://www.elvamartin.com

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