When The Unexpected Happens
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. For I am the LORD, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior….
It happened so very quickly! My wife and I had spent 16 hours on the overnight train from Donetsk, Ukraine to Kiev. For days the temperatures had hovered about 10 to 25 below zero centigrade. Everything was covered with frost and ice. We disembarked from the train and began to follow a friend through the crowd when trouble came very unexpectedly.
My wife, Darlene, was leading the way as I brought up the rear dragging two rather heavy suitcases. In far less time than it takes to tell, her feet went out from under her and suddenly she was lying on icy ground, stunned, as crimson blood began to flow and almost instantly froze on the snow and ice. This we had not expected. An accident was not written in the script, at least not in a country where we couldn’t speak the language and were far from medical help.
As I knelt in the snow trying to help, wondering what to do, out of the corner of my eye I noticed a hand had grasped the handle of my suitcase and the stranger was picking it up. Immediately I thought, “My wife’s not only in trouble but a thief is taking advantage of our misfortune to steal the suitcase as well. “I yelled, “Nyet, Nyet!” That’s Russian for “No! No!” The tone of my voice conveyed what I lacked in communication skills. He dropped it and turned away as others stared at him in disbelief.
Time has passed since the accident that day, yet the memory will always be fresh in our minds. Whoever expects the unexpected in life–the phone call in the middle of the night, or the pink slip in your pay envelope which means you have been fired, or the sudden squeal of tire followed by the deafening thud of one automobile hitting another?
Where is God when trouble knocks at our doors? Most of us never quite understand that God sends the sunshine on the just as well as the unjust, that snow and ice cover the path of the righteous as well as the sinners, that God never promised perfect health for His children this side of eternity while the sinner is faced with disaster.
If you have never read that powerful passage in Isaiah 43, take your Bible and make a great discovery. God said, “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. For I am the LORD, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior…” (Isaiah 43:2-3). In each phrase there is a word which you should underline and never forget because someday it will come to comfort you. It is the word, “when.” God never says “if,” only “when.”
Herb and Elsie Purnell know this truth, and they have learned this through more suffering and tears than most people know in a lifetime. While they were serving as missionaries, their lovely daughter was brutally molested and murdered. The home they had moved into just 12 days before, was destroyed by fire. One lesson Elsie shared with friends is that items like pottery which had been through a fire once, went safely through another fire. So is it with people. When you have been through the fire and by the grace of God have survived, what is there which can threaten or destroy you?
Thank God for the reality of His presence whether we face the fire, the ice, or the storm. Regardless of how you feel – whether it’s anger, frustration, or abandonment. He’s there. Remember, Jesus said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” And, that means we can trust Him.