Friday, January 27, 2012

Faith and Hope in Tragedy: My Favorite Example

Eleven years ago yesterday, an event occurred that changed my life forever.

It was a Friday night.  I was in my last semester at Purdue University, and I had just finished my third week of student teaching.  After a long day at school and a commute to which I was still adjusting, I was exhausted.  A lot of friends of mine were getting together, and I decided to join spite of the strong inclination to head home for bed.

As we were hanging out, a friend came in from outside with a horrific announcement.  There had been a tragic car accident.  Three of our friends had driving home for a birthday party when the car hit ice and collided with a semi.  One of them, Matt Cahill, had been killed instantly.  The others, Matt and Jake Cushman (brothers), had been critically injured and were being transported to a hospital in a city.

Shock set in immediately.  There aren't words to express the pain that engulfed us as we cried together and sought to comfort one well as try to grasp the ramifications of what we had just learned.  Though we were all eager to make the trip immediately, the snowstorm that had caused the accident prevented us from driving across the state of Indiana to the hospital.  So, we waited until morning to set out.

I don't remember who was in my car as we were driving.  I don't remember how we received the news.  All I remember is that I had to pull over once we received word of Jake's death that morning.  The tears were falling so hard that it made driving impossible.

Two of our good friends had just died, and one was still in critical condition.

We arrived at the hospital broken and sad...heartbroken over the loss of such good friends and deeply concerned about Matt's condition.  I will never forget what happened next.  Matt and Jake's father, Tom, gathered us together in a circle to pray.  The words that came out of his mouth as he began to pray have impacted me in such a way that they have burned in my memory these eleven years: 

"Though He slay me,
yet will I hope in Him (Job 13:15)." 

How could he pray that?  How could he declare that he would continue to trust God when one son had died just hours before and the other son remained in critical condition with a traumatic brain injury?  This man's life and family had just been changed forever.  Yet, he was choosing to believe that God was still good.  And, in doing so, God was showing a group of young college students what faith looks like.

Eleven years later, the example of my friends' father challenges me still.  When the storm surrounds me and the circumstances of my life seem too painful to bear, I know that the One in whom Job hoped...the One in whom my friends' father the only One in whom I can place my hope.  He alone is my firm foundation...and He is so worthy of my trust.  "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose (Romans 8:28)."

In the wake of the accident, we saw His goodness and His faithfulness.  The Lord answered our prayers as Matt slowly recovered from his brain injury. And, in the midst of our mourning, we watched as God moved in countless lives on campus as only He can.

Three months earlier in the fall of that year, these three young men had been leaders in an innovative outreach that touched every single person on the campus of Purdue University: the Do You Agree With Matt? campaign. There was not a student in our school of 40,000 people who had not at least heard of Matt Cahill.  So, when news broke on campus three months later of his death, the story he had shared so often during that campaign became campus, city, and even statewide news.  And, people who had three months earlier declared they did NOT agree with Matt began to be impacted by the hope that he had so courageously and publicly shared three months earlier...a hope in Jesus Christ.

And, that hope was no longer necessary.  Faith had become sight.

Thank You, Jesus.

To read more about the Do You Agree With Matt? campaign, read this article and this article


amyfaith said...

God is so good to us, nothing escapes His care for us! love & prayers continue from coloado

jamie p said...

I still think of this time often and praise God for the ways He moves that seemed so mysterious and unbelievable and confusing at the time. Forever impacted. Forever in awe of God's work through this tragedy too. Thank you for posting it!

*jamie pickett

Jen said...

People who lead by example are the best leaders. A very hard task to do or to follow. Sometimes I am amazed at how strong some can be and how weak others can be but then I look at each person and the difference is their faith in God. Here lies the answer.... GOD, our Lord and savior, says it all. Reading stories like you have written helps me put life in perspective. Thank you, in some ways Matt's life is still impacting people today including me!

Kelly H. said...

I'm a little behind on checking in on your blog. But I still love reading what you write. And I love you! oxoxox

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