The Promises of God amid the Tragedies of Life

My brother and I awoke one Sunday morning to commotion in the hallway below. Hurrying down the winding staircase, we saw before us our father lying on a stretcher, suffering a heart attack. Mom told us, “I’m going to the hospital. Go upstairs and pray.” So there we sat in our bedroom, Eric at age nine and me at age seven, praying every way we knew how, that Dad would live. When my mother returned, we ran to her. “How is he?” we asked. “He’s dead,” she replied. Our world changed that day.

It can be difficult to reconcile the promises of God with the tragedies of life. I had been taught to trust that God hears our prayers and answers them, yet when it came to the most important plea in a child’s life, my ask went unfulfilled. Afterward, though I petitioned in hope, there was often an accompanying element of anxiety and doubt, especially when praying for healing. Then one day beamed a glimmer of light—a Biblical event shining clarity into my soul. It was the story of three exiled Hebrews brought before the Babylonian king for not worshiping an image he had made. Threatened with a furnace for noncompliance, they answered him, “If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand. But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.”1 There it was—both faith in God’s power and submission to God’s sovereignty. God wields His power within His larger plan; neither negates the other. Didn’t Jesus, facing torture and sacrificial death, express the same in Gethsemane? “My Father,” He pleaded, “if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; yet not as I will, but as You will.”2 If Jesus subjected His will to God’s sovereign purpose and plan, can we do likewise? Yes, we can. For He answers our prayers with love, power and wisdom that exceed our own.

Epilogue. For decades it seemed to me that death had consumed my father’s life that July morning in 1965, and with it, our family happiness. Yet once more it was Scripture showing me the opposite, for as Paul wrote to the Corinthians, we long to “clothed . . . with our heavenly dwelling, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life.”3 Death need not consume our life, for in Christ life swallows up our death. We live in this glorious hope.

Father, thank You that you hear us when we pray; we know that You always do.4 We choose this day to trust in Your power and submit to Your sovereignty. Lord, in Your mercy, hear our prayer. Amen.

1 Daniel 3:16-17 NIV [emphasis added]
2 Matthew 26:390 NASB [emphasis added]
3 2 Corinthians 5:4 NIV [emphasis added]
4 John 11:41-42