I have been reminded over the last few weeks that life isn’t fair. It’s easy to forget that sometimes, especially when you have two healthy boys, a beautiful and supportive wife, and you’ve just started a new job that you absolutely love. In the good times, we too often allow ourselves to believe we are the creators of our own blessings and that we somehow control how fast and plentiful they flow. But we don’t.
A couple of weeks ago I started my morning catching up with all of my Facebook friends. I came across a post from a friend, Skip, who I hadn’t heard much from in a while. His post simply stated that he missed his son. I had picked up from a post that previous weekend that his son was home from college, so I assumed he had returned and Skip was missing him. I thought that was pretty cool of a dad to post that. But as I read on, I discovered it was more than that. His son had died in a motorcycle crash two nights before. More than missing his son, Skip was grieving his passing.
I met Skip nearly twenty years ago when he hired me to work as a counselor at Eckerd Youth Alternatives. I had only been there a little over a month when I found myself out on a river in South Carolina with Skip, two other counselors, and 10 of the roughest boys I had ever met at that point in my life.
There is one particular incident that always sticks out in my mind about that trip, and really, it’s the first thing that comes to mind when I think of Skip. There was a young man having a particularly hard day, which wasn’t uncommon. But sometimes these bad days led to kids doing things that put those around them in danger, and they had to be physically restrained. This young man got to that point, and Skip restrained him. I don’t remember much about the actual restraint. But as clearly as I remember anything, I remember that incident when it was over. I remember that young man breaking down and talking about life without a father. I remember that boy’s tears. And I remember Skip’s tears as he held that boy and the two of them stood crying together in front of the rest of us, Skip assuring this young man that life was going to be OK.
It was on that trip and over the years that followed that Skip helped me find a calling in life. He helped me discover a passion. I think if we’re lucky, our upbringing and our experiences and our own personal struggles all come together at some point and we can only hope someone is standing there to make sense of it all. I was lucky to find Skip standing there for me.
That’s why I wondered when I heard the news about Skip’s son: why God? I spent several days processing the meaning of life – again. I was reminded that in the good times, I really give God way too little credit, and in the bad times equally too much blame. The truth is, though, the world is full of evil and pain. Whether we give God all of the credit or all of the blame for them – neither are going away, which is exactly why it is in times like these that I feel God strongest and I see the proof of his existence the clearest.
I know there are unbelievers who like to use the tragedy of a wonderful man losing a son he dearly loves as evidence that there is no God, and if there is one, he is a cruel and heartless one. But to me, I’ve wondered how on earth I would possibly get through the type of tragedy Skip is dealing with. And my answer is this: outside of the presence of God in my life, who came to this earth to be crucified so that I might have hope, that I might have a way of dealing with the inevitable tragedies and evil of this world, and outside of his promise that all of our loss in this world is gain in his – it would be impossible.
I’m praying for you Skip. I often think of the song below when I wonder where God is in my hours of struggle. It is very appropriate this day.