Automobile accidents can be very tragic events. We have been reminded of that truth with the recent death of Julie Kurrle and her son Timmy, part of a missionary family in Paraguay, in just such a collision. Many congregations around the country and, indeed, around the world are mourning the loss of this young woman and her very young son. Please continue to remember Norberto Kurrle (Julie’s husband) and their daughter Anahi as they rebuild the pieces of their lives, a process which will take a very long time.
This comes at a significant time of the year for me, personally: six years ago yesterday, a van full of Taylor University students and staff members was struck by an oncoming truck on an Indiana highway. Four students and one staff member died in that collision, which occurred while I was on Taylor’s faculty as a math teacher. Recently, the brother of one of these students wrote a good reflection on the aftermath of this difficult event; you can read his thoughts here.
Many inspirational stories can come out of these kinds of tragedies. For instance, one of the Taylor students who survived the collision was in a coma for some time. When she finally awoke, everyone began to realize that she was not who they thought she was; there had been a case of mistaken identity at the scene of the crash. The two families – one who thought they had lost a daughter but found her alive, and one who thought their daughter had survived but realized she was gone – have been drawn together by their common Christian faith. It’s a beautiful story of healing, sorrow, and the strength of Christian relationships.
More recently, Norberto Kurrle gave a moving speech at the memorial service for his wife and son. He spoke about searching for God’s plan for his family, trying to make sense of all that has happened, and being grateful for the many blessings of these two lives that God has shared with him. (You can read all about the memorial service here.) According to eyewitness accounts, Norberto’s faith in Christ shined through even in this darkest of times.
When Christians struggle with real-life situations, I hear people quote two verses very frequently, almost without fail: Jeremiah 29:11 and Romans 8:28. Look up those two verses and read them to yourself, even if you have them memorized. These verses seem to promise good things to those who trust in the Lord. So why do tragedies happen? Are we supposed to look at the hard times of our lives and search for meaning, value, purpose, and good in them?
I don’t know why tragedies happen. I do know, however, that they happen. And I do know that God walks with us through the valley of the shadow of death (see Psalm 23). I know that having faith in Christ is no guarantee that we will avoid trouble, hardship, loss, or tragedy. In fact, if we truly are following Christ, then we should expect to suffer for the cause of Christ (see Matthew 16:21-28). And that is not just idle suffering or having bad things happen to us or our families: it means actively giving witness to our faith in Christ even when the world is falling apart around us. It means denying our desire for good things (as we might believe Jeremiah 29:11 and Romans 8:28 promise for us) and giving glory to God for his faithfulness to us in all circumstances.
Are we able to exercise our faith in God during the good times and the hard times? Or are we only fair-weather Christians?