Monday, September 05, 2016

A Life-Changing, Life-Shaping Trial

Here is the opening story to chapter 9 of my book. It tells the story of one of the greatest trials I have faced and how God shaped me through it. It is a testimony of God sustaining me in the midst of great loss, God bringing good out of bad, and God guiding my every step, even when I didn't realize it.

When my father woke me up on the morning of August 14, 1988, I knew immediately that something terrible had happened. I could see it in his ashen face. My mom and brother stood in the doorway behind him, their watery eyes staring right at me. The look on their faces, more than anything, drove me from early-morning grogginess to total and instant alertness. I sat up in bed. A hundred horrible, imagined possibilities flashed through my mind.

Tears welled in my dad’s eyes as he sat on the edge of my bed. I held my breath in anticipation, afraid to ask. After a seeming eternity, he choked out the terrible words. “Trevor has been in a really bad car accident. He didn’t make it.”

For a moment, the full reality didn’t hit me. I pictured Trevor lying in a hospital bed, injured but still joking with the nurses and doctors, complaining about hospital food, and aching to get outside to shoot a few hoops. Then the rest of my father’s words caught up with me, and my stomach lurched. It felt like the floor had just disappeared from beneath me. I fell back onto my pillow and closed my eyes in the sudden confusion and despair.

Not Trevor. Not my best friend.

Trevor and I had been inseparable from the time we were toddlers growing up on the same rural, New Hampshire road. For as long as I could remember, we’d been playing together: battling imaginary spiders or battalions of ferns in the forest behind my house, challenging our older siblings to baseball or basketball, or just sitting around on rainy days playing Stratego or Monopoly. As childhood had given way to adolescence, our friendship had matured and strengthened. We carried our love of sports onto the court and ball field in middle school, where our previous years of teamwork and practice gave us an enduring ability to predict each other’s moves and play off each other’s strengths. Off the field, we spent countless hours discussing school, movies, and sports.

Our last conversation had been at Trevor’s house three weeks ago, the day before I left for a long family vacation. It was the summer before our senior year, and we spent a lazy afternoon hanging out in the sun, talking about our memories of the years gone by and our hopes and dreams for the year ahead. It was a rich conversation, one of the best Trevor and I ever had.

And now, sitting in my bed surrounded by my grief-stricken family, I realized it was the last conversation we would ever have. I broke into tears.

As the days passed, we learned more about the circumstances of the accident. After a night of video games and bowling with some of his coworkers, Trevor had caught a ride back to the restaurant where he’d left his car parked. They were traveling too fast over a narrow, twisting back road, and they failed to make a turn. Despite having their seatbelts on, they were both killed instantly.

In the days and weeks after the accident, sadness and confusion grew in my heart. I didn’t understand why God had allowed Trevor to die. I knew Romans 8:28 and knew God promises to work all things for good for Christians, but I didn’t see how this was good. I’d recall Ephesians 6:1-3 where God says those who honor and obey their parents will enjoy long life. I knew Trevor well, and he honored and obeyed his parents, but he died at the age of 17. I asked, “Why Lord?” but I didn’t get an answer.

I firmly believed God was in control, but I wanted to know why he had let my best friend die. As I mourned, I took long walks in the woods, visited Trevor’s grave, and recounted the many great memories we had together. Many days I returned to the question, “Why, Lord?” Initially I was asking for an explanation, but my question grew to a dangerous demand for God to justify himself to me.

I knew I was headed down a slippery slope, and I realized that I needed to lay down my demands and trust God. Over time I began to notice a surprising change in my heart. Instead of becoming angrier, I found myself experiencing a growing sense of peace. Though God wasn’t fully answering my questions, I felt him gently comforting me.

God spoke to me through Isaiah 55:8-9, which states that his ways and thoughts are higher and better than mine. He gave me faith to believe that he does work all for good, even if I didn’t see the good. He enabled me to trust him and his promises, even though I didn’t know how Trevor’s death fit into his sovereign plan for Trevor, Trevor’s family, or my life.

I still don’t know exactly why God took Trevor to be with him in August of 1988. I do know that God used it to teach me the importance of trusting him, no matter the situation. He used it to give me a greater faith in him, and for that I am grateful.

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