Why do bad things happen? Living life with an eternal perspective.

It’s been over two years now, but I can still hear the phone ringing in my ears.

We’d just celebrated our second Valentine’s Day as a married couple. I loved my job. Life was good. And then I got the phone call that no wife wants to get.

My husband Joseph had been involved in a “work accident”. Of course, at the time, I had no idea what that meant. And, assuming the best about everything, I immediately looked for the silver lining.

But, I could not deny the reality for long. Joseph worked in construction. He was around heavy equipment all day long, operating saws and using tools while framing, roofing, and siding houses. He was exposed to a number of dangers at all points of the day.

Understanding God’s Purposes

Joseph’s co-worker put me on speaker phone, and, in the brief moments I spoke with my husband, I could hear the pain in his strained voice. He did not tell me what had happened, but he said it was bad. He said he thought he broke his leg. And he told me to meet him at the hospital. The ambulance was on its way.

I tried to comfort him. I tried to say a prayer over the line, but the commotion on the other end turned my lofty words into mutterings. I can’t even remember what I prayed… something to the extent of God feeling our pain, asking Him to be near, asking Him to be present.

Don’t panic!  That’s what my mom always told me. There is plenty of time to panic later!

The ambulance was bringing him to the major downtown hospital.  On my way there, I wondered why in the world the ambulance would insist on that hospital? There were plenty of others nearby. When I checked into the emergency desk, I asked the receptionist that question. And she told me that this particular hospital had a trauma unit. Ambulances insisted on bringing patients here if trauma was involved.

Trauma? What had happened exactly? God, what happened? My heart was racing.   

It wasn’t long before I found out he had fallen… almost 30 feet.

He was on a two-story roof, siding a house, and the jack holding the ladder gave way. The ladder started to slide and he rolled sideways onto the roof, spreading out on all fours trying to hold on. The electricians and co-workers on the job site heard him yell “No! No!” before hitting the ground milliseconds later.

The scene flashed before my eyes as a doctor from the trauma unit told me that the catscans, x-rays and ultra sounds did not show any signs of damage to his internal organs. The fact that was even a possibility shook me to the core.

Falling three times your height is considered fatal. But no internal bleeding. No brain damage. So what had happened? The doctor said he had just broken his femur. It was repairable. Surgeons can fix a broken femur. With enough surgery, time and effort, he will walk again.

It was just a femur.

“Jesus, thank you for the blessings upon blessings!” I knew I had so much to be grateful for. I prayed many prayers of thanksgiving, but I also prayed prayers of struggle.

It wasn’t just a femur.

I’m a young wife who had to see my husband experience the heights of the pain scale at 9 and 10. I watched him agonize for over 12 hours, trying to get comfortable, laying in traction, with IVs hardly touching the shooting pain. My starry eyes of love for this man could not do anything to heal his pain. I could only stroke his head, say sweet words, and ask the doctors for reassurance. But I could not fix it.

I prayed, “Lord, be near. Lord, Jesus, be ever present in this trouble.”

Why God let it happen, I cannot tell you. But I can tell you he did not will Joseph to die… at least not yet. He has plans and purposes for Joseph’s life that have not yet been carried out. As he numbers the hairs on our head, he numbers our days. And he uses whatever trials we face as part of the fabric of our story He is weaving. God knew Joseph was going to fall. I guess, He could have sent guardians angels to protect him during the 30 ft descent. Or He could have intervened by keeping him stable on the roof. But, is God’s purpose to keep our life free of pain or to use the pain we face for His purpose?

Even now, as I’m sitting here typing this, I can still hear the sound of ambulances rushing by in my memory.

Couldn’t God stop it? Couldn’t He intervene.

Yes. And he already has.

God cares so much that He took on all of our pain and suffering through an agonizing death on the cross. He bore the sin of the world in that moment on Calvary so that we could have access to Resurrection Life. He satisfied His own wrath with His own sacrifice because He loves us.

The book of John tells us we will have many troubles in this world. But, He has overcome. God’s plans are bigger than the things that happen on this earth. God’s not afraid of the trips, the falls, the breaks, or the bruises. And we shouldn’t be either. Life and death are all used for God’s glory.

Our lives are not just about what happens to us.

It isn’t just a broken femur. It’s a messy, painful witness to His ultimate glory.

We experience death, destruction, and broken femurs because we live in a world destined for hell. Just as Luke 13:3 tells us, we will all perish unless we repent. We must urge one another, through our suffering, to repent before our fate is sealed. Repentance is the only thing that offers true, eternal hope, a promise protected from anything this life throws our way. It secures our future and our eternity, regardless of what happens in this life.

When you give up the hope of deserving anything good in this life, we realize it’s never a bad day in the Kingdom. Every bit of trouble on this earth can be exploited for good. And what we may think is bad, God ultimately uses for good, whether here on earth or in heaven.

God’s Plans Will Prevail

For days after the accident, I fought with insurance companies to get Joseph moved out of the hospital and into rehabilitation. The doctors recommended he start rehab immediately, but the insurance companies wouldn’t pick up the bill. They were money hungry and I was frustrated. That night, Joseph got another fever of 103. He couldn’t take deep breaths. He was sweating and nauseous. The nurses read his vitals and his oxygen had dropped below 70. He had all the symptoms. Did he have a blood clot? Alarms sounded. Lights flashed. You would have thought he was going into cardiac arrest. The nurses responded swiftly and carted him off to an emergency cat scan.

The results showed the development of a collapsing lung.

Thankfully, he was still at the hospital that night. God’s provision comes in unexpected ways. He was just where he needed to be even when we thought it was a bad thing.

We are so arrogant. We think we know what is best. We pray for God’s will assuming we know what it is. But, when we pray, “not my will, but Yours be done,” we must humbly trust that His will is for the good in the end, even when we do not see it. And, often times, we will not see it in this life.

Hebrews 2:8 tells us, “but now we do not see all things subjected to Him.” We do not see a world as God intended. Instead, we see evil all around us because the world does not recognize God’s sovereignty. Death and suffering are the side effect of a fallen world. They reign here. But, thanks be to God, the story doesn’t end here on this planet.

What Joseph and I witnessed is nothing short of a miracle. He left the hospital after three weeks and with months of outpatient recovery, he can walk and climb and run. You’d never know he’d been in an accident unless I told you. We got our happy ending, but we still may never have an answer for why he fell off the roof in the first place. And that’s okay.

When we feel the temptation to conclude everything in life with a lesson, we must remember that some stories won’t be revealed until we reach eternity. We cannot be afraid to ask God why and stand in front of the great mysteries of life because God’s purposes do not always play out on earth but, in time, they always will.

1 Cor 3:12 “For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.”

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