Fifty-six years ago my sister died, with her husband, in a car accident. They were both 24. Always the questions will be “How could God allow this?” and “Where was God when my child suffered?” One answer is, “He was in the same place as he was when his own Son died.” I recently came across a sermon Dad shared a fortnight after my sister and brother-in-law’s car accident. The sermon was later printed in The Methodist Spectator. Dad’s thoughts are as relevant today as they were half a century ago. They show the perspective faith can give on the struggles a family faces when they are confronted by unexpected loss.
Some extracts from Light in the Shadow of Death by Rev Colin McRae:
It is known to all of you that during the past fortnight the Angel of Death has visited our family, and that a daughter and son-in-law have lost their lives in a road accident. You will pardon my speaking about this just because it may become personal to any of you any day.
The first comment must be about the almost overwhelming kindness of so many people. We have been humbled and amazed by the loving kindness shown. It is a good thing for people to learn, even thus, of the real goodness that lies deep within others.
In all the hurt of the occasion we are able to see how blessed we have been in these two children. We see that there are things worse than death, for practising Christians. We have had all these years of love and joy from our child – why should we grieve unduly?
Through these days I have found that for me there is a danger of self-pity, as though I had been badly dealt with and the world owes me a recompense; even of self-satisfaction that it was our daughter and husband to whom such tributes have been paid.
We have met at first-hand the problem of reconciling such a seeming tragedy with our Christian faith in the goodness and the protecting care of a Heavenly Father. While there continues in our world the evil and the vicious, why should these die, who had so very much to give? Does not God love and care? Cannot he protect? Or more awful still, is there no God?
To these questions the answers must be found somewhere within the Gospel itself. And the Gospel is written in people’s lives as well as in the Bible. Why were our children the kind of people we think them to have been? In large part, because they trusted in God. Is there then no God?
Then where did the mighty movement of spiritual fellowship come from that surrounded us all at the funeral service? To us it brought comfort and composure through what had threatened to be an intolerable ordeal. It brought other things to other folk. Surely it came from the faith and love of these Christian people? Is there then no God?
We turn again to the Scriptures: what can separate us from the love of God? I am convinced that there is nothing in death or life that can separate us from the love of Jesus Christ our Lord.
So what is the answer to our questions? We think of the answer as being not in some human theory tidying everything up into a packet; not in cynicism or denial; but in a great venturing out in faith in the reality and power of God.
If the door to this abounding life is what we call death, need we be so alarmed? Jesus went this way first and He leads us through no darker room than He went through before.
I have watched people die after pain and anxiety. I have sometimes seen the stress go out of the weary face, to be replaced by what I can only call a look of glad surprise.
Our faith in the spiritual world rests finally for Christians in the resurrection of our Lord. If He rose from the dead, then is death discredited; it is neither final nor permanent. The Bible sets forth a world not yet amenable to His will, and therefore much may happen that is not His will. Yet He can make all things work together for good to them that love Him.
We find a new demand for better appreciation of people while they are still with us, for tomorrow they may have crossed the bar. We can see that life is not in length of days but in quality of living.
My husband and I were living in Indonesia at the time of the car accident with a six-month-old daughter. She too would die before her time. As I reflect on the shortened life of my daughter, I can only say, “I thank my God each time I think of you.”