"Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand; and we boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God. And not only that, but we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us." -Romans 5.1-5
I've always thought that this was a cool passage. But now that I am going through this horrible tragedy in my life, I feel the truth of it deeply. It's only been about 75 days since Midi and Nathan died. But I can already feel that I am growing. I'm stronger now. Even in my weakness, I am strong. My faith is stronger than it has ever been, even when I first came to faith in Jesus. My capacity to love has grown. I am a better father to Lucas than I ever was. I am a better son, a better son-in-law, a better brother, a better cousin, a better friend, a better follower of Jesus. I have perceived this growth from the earliest of days after the accident. And I perceived that others around me would grow in their faith as well. My first response to this growth out of the ashes was anguish and guilt. I felt that the cost was too high. Midi and Nathan dying was an unspeakable cost to get myself and others to wake up and consider the course of our own lives.
But I quickly realized that my thinking was incorrect and a perversion of the truth. For to think this way means that I would have to believe that God caused the accident to happen. It would mean that God actually did it. But this is not true. God did not cause the accident, but rather I believe that He allowed it to happen. I am not sophisticated enough to dive into deep theological thoughts about the sovereignty of God. What I know is that God is good. I believe this. I am content with this (for now at least) and do not feel that I need to understand everything about God's sovereignty in order to have faith. My experience has been that God is grieving alongside me. The accident happened specifically because a broken man committed an irresponsible act. He drank himself to intoxication, drove someone else's truck, and sped through a red light, killing my wife and son. Then he ran. The accident happened more generally because we live in a fallen world where sinners sin and rebel against God. And there are consequences to our rebellion. Namely, we live in a world that is cursed with death. Now don't get me wrong. I believe that this man is solely responsible for what he did and that he should be punished. But whether he is caught and punished or not will not change things for me. My wife and son are dead. But it isn't as though some harsh punishment is going to make me feel good about the justice system. What I do and how I live does not in any way depend on whether or not this man is brought to justice.
I'm stronger now. And others are starting to seek God in their lives - some for the first time and some are coming back to Him. And we shouldn't feel guilty about it because God did not cause the accident to happen so that we would grow. He is not some disgusting cosmic manipulator. The truth and the beauty of God is that He is the Great Redeemer. He only can make something good out of something so awful. He doesn't leave me to just suffer for no reason. I am grateful to God for my relationship with Him. It is because of this that my suffering will lead to endurance, endurance to character, character to hope. I only wish that Midi and Nathan could experience this new and improved Mark that is being formed.