This post was written by Michael Kinion, one of our pastoral Residents. It originally appeared here.
Around 12:30 AM on Saturday, August 6th, I was awoken by a call from my mother telling me that my niece was sick and my sister was taking her to the emergency room to have her looked at. Just a few minutes later I received another call letting me know things had taken a turn for the worst and they were starting to do compressions on my niece. After this call I went to another room and just fell down on the rug and started praying incoherent prayers. I could not collect a thought and for sure could not verbalize a thought so I just begged God to spare my niece’s life. After a short period of time, I received another call, this time from my sister.
I answered and asked what was going on but I already knew what this call meant. I dropped the phone and experienced the most sudden and intense grief I ever had. At 6 years old, my beautiful niece had passed away.
My wife and I, along with her parents who were visiting for the weekend, left around 1:30 AM to make the three and a half hour drive back to my hometown. During this drive my wife and I experienced an incredible dose of God’s grace as we reflected on the incredible, blessing-filled life of my niece. When we arrived at my sister’s house around 5:00 AM we expected to walk in to a devastating scene of family grieving. Luckily for us, most people were asleep or exhausted by this point so things were calm and quiet. So shortly after we arrived we laid down on the couch to get an hour and a half of sleep before waking up to the next day that would bring many questions and issues to deal with.
Now that I have set the scene for the weekend I will turn my focus to reflect on the beautiful things I saw and experienced during this terrible weekend. My hope is that one would read this and be able to find God’s glory in even the most tragic of events.
1. God Provides: The morning after arriving, I was woken up by my family discussing how we were going to pay for the costs of the funeral. This obviously wasn’t something that my sister and her husband were expecting, so they didn’t have money set aside to take care of expense like this. But within a few hours, the large majority of the costs and most of the plans were taken care of as a result of God’s provision and people’s kind generosity. We saw this trend continue throughout the next couple days as all of the planning and events went smoothly and without issue. But the most significant sign of God’s provision throughout this time was undoubtedly the sense of peace and comfort that God blessed our family with. It was a time full of grief and sorrow, but God made Himself known and provided comfort to a group of people in desperate need of it. Because of this, we were able to see God as the loving and comforting Father that He is and were spared from the false feeling of God being unjust for taking away someone that we loved.
2. Community is of Utter Importance: One of the best parts of the weekend was getting to see how family, friends and church family stepped in and served with love. Every minute of the day, someone was there visiting with the family or bringing food for everyone to eat. We truly got to see community in action. It made me reflect on the consistent effort of many churches to cultivate community. Sometimes cultivating community can feel forced or repetitive. But we’re not gathering together in small groups to just talk about a sermon or hangout. We are gathering together to build bonds that will help one another know each other and care for them in their darkest moments. The role the community surrounding our family played during this time is of insurmountable importance and helped constantly point us to God and His glory.
3. God is Good: Throughout the entirety of this weekend, my most consistent thought was that all theological discussions and attempts to correctly understand God’s word seem like they are drills preparing us for these moments. When all sense of peace seems to be lost, people are forced into the corner of bitterness OR God’s glory. This is why understanding the gospel is so important. When we experience tragedy we must be able to understand the gospel so that we can cling to the cross and know that God is good and that He defeated death so that we may live. A firm comprehension of the gospel also allows us to understand that God is holy and that His perfect will, will be done. Humans have a tendency to try and put themselves at the center of all things (especially during times of tragedy) but a solid understanding of the gospel helps us to step back and take a look at the big picture and realize that God is in control and we are here to see Him glorified, even if that means our ideas of what is good are stomped into the ground. When we process these realities, we are able to find rest in God’s comfort and celebrate a believer being delivered to glory.
This weekend was beyond question one of the most terrible weekends of my life up to this point. But God used a terrible event to show us his beauty, grace and glory. He took a broken situation and used it to remind us that He is beautiful and that He is faithful to us even when it does not look the way we want it to. I will forever mourn the loss of my beautiful niece, but will always be able to look back at this weekend and remember how God was faithful to me and my family.