When Tragedy Strikes

I will lift up my eyes to the hills- From whence comes my help? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth. He will not allow your foot to be moved; He who keeps you will not slumber. Behold, He who keeps Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep. The Lord is your keeper; the Lord is your shade at your right hand. The sun shall not strike you by day, nor the moon by night. The Lord shall preserve you from all evil; He shall preserve your soul. The Lord shall preserve your going out and your coming in from this time forth, and even forevermore (Ps 121:1-8).

On April 16, 2007 the campus of Virginia Tech University was forever changed as were the lives of those who lost loved ones on that fateful day. You might recall the events of that day when thirty-two students were senselessly murdered at the hands of a gunman who also took his own life. It was a horrible tragedy which unfolded like a nightmare as the story played out in front of millions of Americans watching in disbelief.

However, the events of that day were much more personal for me than for most onlookers. My family lost someone very close to us, a young woman who was like a daughter to my wife and me. She loved God and loved people. She had a bright future and she got the most out of life. Her name was Rachael, and she was my daughter’s best friend. My daughter (Mindy) and Rachael had been friends since kindergarten and had gone through school together. Their relationship was filled with sleepovers, birthday parties,  vacations and all the things best friends experience together while growing up. Rachael was a part of our family!

Upon hearing of Rachael’s death that evening, the disbelief and sorrow we felt is difficult to describe and only those who have experienced such a tragic loss can really understand. Our family, broken as it was, consoled each other the best we could but in the days that followed, I wondered how we would get through this? How could we endure such a loss without becoming bitter or angry? As I sought God in this season of life, He led me to Psalm 121.

The psalmist reveals God as a Helper, Keeper, Protector and Preserver. I knew that this God I had loved and served was a living God! He is a God who is well acquainted with the sorrow we were experiencing. He knew how to meet our needs when no one else could. I thought to myself, “If God can create heaven and earth; certainly He can handle our grief and mend our broken hearts.” Certainly God would provide us with the strength and the peace to deal with such a tragedy in life.

In the days that followed, God helped us through each day. It wasn’t easy but the mercy and grace of God was evident in our lives. God kept us close to Him. He loved us and encouraged us in many ways. He protected us from becoming bitter and accusatory and instead we reflected on the memories we had and the love we shared. And through it all, God has preserved us. Why was Rachael taken from us at such a young age and in such a tragic way? We’ll probably never know the answer on this side of heaven. However, God has given us the ability to move forward and He has preserved not only our memories of Rachael but our faith in Him because He has proven Himself to be faithful over and over again! When tragedy strikes, lift up your eyes and look to the Lord!

The Glory of God changes everything


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