When Death Strikes: A Believer’s Response to Tragedy

“Honey, I think God is telling us to set our house in order.” These are the words I spoke to my husband the morning before his sudden and unexpected death. I had no idea at the time God was speaking of his impending death. I thought God wanted us to get our house in order because we were having financial difficulties, and God wanted us to be better stewards over our affairs. In the month leading up to my husband’s death, the Lord told me to read the Book of Isaiah. Every morning during my devotional time, I read a chapter or two and tried to encourage my husband with what I found. He’d been feeling depressed because he couldn’t find a job and he was struggling with his health. My husband was hit by a drunk driver as a teenager and suffered from a traumatic brain injury (TBI). Nine years after the accident during our second year of marriage, he started having seizures. It was a seizure that ultimately ended his life. I was seven months pregnant with our second child when he died. Our son was two.

So, after the Lord called him home, I found myself in great despair and confused. I couldn’t understand why God would take my husband and my children’s father at such a young age, 28, and especially since he loved the Lord so much and had such a strong desire to pastor God’s people. We thought we’d serve in ministry together. I found myself in bed for days, holding my large belly and sheltering the growing baby inside me while consoling my toddler who didn’t understand why daddy didn’t come home. As I laid on my bed, softly crying and praying to myself, the Lord spoke to me and told me the significance of Isaiah 38 in my husband’s life. God said to me, “Lauren, just like Hezekiah prayed for an extension in his life after he became ill and I gave him 15 extra years, I gave your husband 10 extra years after he was hit by that drunk driver. He should have died that night, but because of the prayers of the righteous, I gave him more time to go to college, become a husband and become a father.”  My husband always told me his parents prayed him back from the brink of death. The word God spoke to me on my bed of mourning was confirmed days later during my husband’s funeral when the preacher preached “The Sound of a Miracle.” He said my husband wasn’t supposed to be here, but God allowed him and us to participate in the miracle that was his life. The word didn’t take away my pain, but it reinforced to me that God was still with me and cared for me because He was still speaking and ministering to me on my bed of affliction.

As a result, I have grown deeper in my relationship with God. Going through the loss of my husband has taught me many things about how God ministers to us during our time of despair. Here are a few things I believe will help you if you’re in the midst of grief.

1. Run to God. Don’t run away from Him.

Oftentimes, when we’re hit with the unexpected, especially when it’s the sudden death of a loved one, we run away from God. We hide from Him because we can’t understand why He would allow so much pain into our lives. However, grief is the time when we should run to God. Matthew 5:4 (NIV) says, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted” because Jesus personally ministers to us and comforts us during our time of bereavement. We can run into His figurative arms and be comforted. You will feel a difference in your spirit if you seek God during your time of mourning.

2. Expect God to Respond.

“Where were you Lord?” is oftentimes the first question we ask when we’re hit with tragedy. However, just because we face tragedy doesn’t mean God abandoned us. There are some things God allows in His permissive will to accomplish a greater purpose, and sometimes we have to look at circumstances with our spiritual eyes in order to get understanding. Death is tragic to us because in our flesh, we see death as the end. However, the Bible teaches us the spiritual reality of death. Although a gruesome death, Stephen saw the windows of heaven opened as he was stoned (Acts 7:55-56). Psalm 116:15 says, “Precious in the sight of Lord is the death of his faithful servants.” God’s ways are not our ways.

However, although, you may feel abandoned, expect God to respond to your need for understanding, comfort and encouragement. Don’t lose your expectation of God to fulfill His promises and word to you during tragic times. Numbers 23:19 (NIV) says, “God is not human, that he should lie, not a human being, that he should change his mind. Does he speak and then not act? Does he promise and not fulfill?” God will answer your prayers, and He will give you all you need to make it through the hard times. Just trust Him.

3. Allow God to Put the Broken Pieces Back Together Again

After my husband’s death, I felt like my heart was shattered into a million pieces. Two years later, I feel like I’m on the road to recovery. That’s because I’ve made myself available to God so He can heal and restore me. Jesus is the author and finisher of our faith (Heb. 12:2). That means we’re in His hands. He is the great potter (Jer. 18:1-12). We are nothing but clay. He can put us back together again and give us beauty for ashes (Isa. 61:3). However, we have to do our part by allowing Him. That means staying in God’s face through prayer, reading the Word, and fellowshipping with other believers when you feel it’s time. Time doesn’t heal all wounds, but God does. He will mend the broken pieces and make your latter days better than the former.

Lauren Jones (@revlaurelj) is an Itinerant Elder in the African Methodist Episcopal Church and serves in the Columbia, SC metropolitan area. As a widow, she balances ministry and motherhood to two rambunctious children. She blogs about her adventures at www.throwupandtheology.com. When she’s not preaching, writing, or changing diapers, she raises awareness about epilepsy and the devastating effects of drunk driving as a volunteer speaker for Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD). She self-published “I’m Singing This Song to You,” a letter to her children in honor of her late husband available for purchase on Amazon.

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