In his book entitled, “Survivor,” Duane C. Miller recounts a life-changing event that took place in July of 1970. Twenty-three men and teenage boys set out on a canoeing and camping adventure in the wilderness of Ontario’s Algonquin Park. There was a high expectation as the campers sought to have a great retreat, get back to nature and focus on God. However, the excursion ended in tragedy. Early in the adventure, the weather became contrary; a terrible storm took them by surprise and became very dangerous. The wind assaulted their canoes, eventually capsizing some of the men and boys. Duane, a teenager himself, was left clinging to the side of his canoe, while three young men drown and lost their lives.
Even though this was a tragic event, the Lord used it to transform many of the individuals involved. To quote Duane: “Because of who God is, things never go wrong, they only go differently.”Duane survived the storm, but his friends didn’t. For many years he wondered what he could have done differently. When people experience these kinds of tragedies they can become saturated with feelings of guilt. The loss, the grief, and guilt that Duane lived with is not unlike many of the difficult sorrowful experiences I have felt when my loved ones died due to sickness, miscarriage or accidents.
After forty years Duane bravely decided to write about this tragic event. Duane tells us in this article, that God’s handiwork, His providential will, this hopeless situation was used to bring about His glory in the lives of many who were involved. The book’s subtitle is: “A Story of Tragedy, Guild, and Grace.” Duane explains that the incident was a tragedy. “It left such a gaping hole in three families. Don’s wife was pregnant with their first child; His son Aaron never had an opportunity to meet his dad.”
Duane felt an overwhelming sense of guilt down through the years as a result of this incident. He did not talk about it and failed to seek the inner healing of his soul. But how many of you know, “You can run, but you cannot hide.” Whatever you do not confront, will eventually show up in the affairs of your life. It was in a mock seminary counseling session, that the horrors and guilt of the event showed up. He began to confess any wrongdoing, the lying, and denial he had done to cover up the truth.
But our God is so gracious; He released him from the guilt, pain, and sorrow from this tragedy. He had to realize that God kept him alive for a purpose. “And we know that all things work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to His purpose. (Romans 8:29).
It is hard to reconcile in your head that something of value, something righteous could come out of such a dark situation. God did not rescue Duane’s friends, but He did save him! It is hard to look at your loved one in a casket, and give thanks to God or to say, “That’s God’s Grace or it’s His will.” We have to understand or try to understand, that there is never a mistake on God’s part when it comes to how He sovereignly makes decisions that govern and affect our lives both positively or negatively. As humans, we play the ‘woulda, shoulda, coulda scenario. But what good does it do to play the blame game, or to walk in senseless guilt and shame when bad things happen to us or to those we love.
I can testify that in my own life that things never go wrong in God’s scheme of things they just go differently. What can appear to be a tragic event or situation, God has a way of turning it around and making something beautiful or of value out of it. He makes something good out of our horrible experiences.
I often say that sometimes the best thing you can do or say when you lose a loved one is to be present but to remain silent. Your presence is what most appreciated by the bereaved family member is. Sometimes less is more. We in the faith community have been indoctrinated to be people who what to “Fix” people and things. But when your heart is broken through the death of a dear family member, you cannot “Fix” them or the situation! The person is dead and they are not coming back. We cannot take the pain away no matter how much we love the one that is left behind. You can quote scripture, prayer, pour anointed olive oil over an individual, but when the rubber meets the road, they are still in shock, numb to the core of their being.t takes the Holy Spirit and time to heal the deep wounds of bereavement.
We often think we are junior Holy Ghost, but there is only one “Comforter,” He is the Holy Spirit! We are not called to play God or be God in people’s life. The most that you can do is be present, run an errand, cook some food, wash some laundry or perform some useful drudgery that the grieving person is unable or unwilling to perform. We can do more damage to folk when we say things like: “It was all in the plan of God from the beginning.” It is not appropriate to say to a grieving woman that just lost a child that God will give them another child. You don’t say things like that when people are grieving, hurting, and bleeding.
We must not beat people over the head with religion and religious cliches! It is not that there is no truth in the words: “God is working things out for our good.” But timing is everything. And we need to allow people to gain Godly perspective as they grasp the fullness of what He is doing in their lives. Truthfully, I did not see any good coming out of the sickness my daughter, Danielle bore for fifteen months as she suffered from pancreatic cancer. I did not see the relevance and glory of her suffering, dying and leaving her infant daughter behind. It took prayer, the Word, coming to grips with my own wounded soul issues, counseling and much time before I would become whole again. It doesn’t happen overnight.
We have to understand that there is nothing that God’s grace cannot do to accomplish his best in our lives. Thank God for His faithfulness, compassion and redemptive transforming spirit. He can give you beauty for ashes and the oil of joy for mourning and a garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness.
Duane has gone forward in his ministry, his children are saved and he is now an author, equipped to share this life-changing experience with those who are ready to listen. He is able like so many of us, to bring his life’s experiences into his ministry. We must always understand that we can be the solution to someone’s problems. God allows us to be broken so that we can be poured out as a sacrifice, as sweet wine into the lives of others who have or are traveling a similar path. When we can truly pray, “Thy kingdom come, they will be done, we will have grasp a hold of God’s continual grace and mercy that is upon each of our lives as a Believer.
Excerpts from: Our Daily Bread: Encouraging Stories and More: Where is God When I Hurt? Article Written by Duane Miller 2018 No. 3
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