We don’t have to look very far past our doorsteps to see that this world we live in is broken. We’re all aware of the things that happen around us. But until it happens to us, I don’t think we often contemplate why God would allow such painful things to happen. I didn’t either. Until that day.
I was a new Christian, married, raising three beautiful children ages almost 5 (Justin), 3 (Megan), and 20 months (Raelyn). Life was pretty good. We didn’t have a lot, but what we did have was each other. And a God who loved us. I was so thankful, after having been raised in a family with only one parent (my mom died in a car accident when I was 4), that I had a “complete” family. My eyes were focused on teaching my kids about the love of God, and just handling the day-to-day tasks as a young mom and wife.
July 13, 2002 was a beautiful summer Saturday evening, a day that had started with a morning Stampede breakfast with the kids, and then an afternoon play date for my kids at our house. I was taking care of my friend’s daughter to allow her some time to focus on her studies as she was in post-secondary school. I never minded having additional kids over at our house as my kids loved the company.
On this particular Saturday evening we made a change in our usual routine of staying in and chose to go to the Saturday night church service as opposed to Sunday. Wouldn’t it be nice to bring Kelsy* (name has been changed) to church so she could hear about Jesus? After church we packed up the kids and, to save my friend the trip, drove Kelsy* home after church. When we arrived at Kelsy’s* home, we were invited into the backyard to enjoy a lemonade while we visited with the grandparents. The kids joined us in the backyard to play while we had a brief visit.
It wasn’t long … we were maybe at the house for 10 minutes. I remember as I sat down, thinking, “Finally, a chance to sit down!” It had been a long, tiring day. The kids were playing in the back yard while we looked on. However there was one part of the L-shaped back yard that wasn’t visible. But it wasn’t an issue as the kids were gone from sight for 30 seconds in an enclosed back yard, right? Suddenly 3 of the kids came through the gate, and I stood up, noticing one was missing. And why were the kids going through the gate? I thought Raelyn was 1 step behind them. And this was the beginning of my nightmare. What started as a 30-second hunt turned into 2 minutes, then 5, then 10 … and then we were calling the police.
Raelyn was found about 30 minutes later in the indoor pool of the house. We found out later that a side door had been left open for air-flow. I remember when I was told, “They found her”, my initial thoughts were “Oh, thank goodness!” – with so much relief – only to be ushered into the pool room where I was stunned at the sight of a police officer trying to breathe life into my daughter. I fell to my knees. Nothing could have prepared me for the events that followed. Our daughter being flown to the hospital to try and save her life … A police officer driving at 160 km/hour to get us there to meet the helicopter … Waiting in a room while the doctors did all they could … Being told there was nothing they could do … Holding my daughter’s lifeless body for an hour after she died … Giving up Raelyn’s body knowing I would never hold my precious daughter again.
The agonizing time that followed the death of our daughter … it’s difficult to put into words and it can’t really be quantified in a specific time. Raelyn’s death changed our life and perception as we knew it. I was a new believer in Jesus and I had a lot of questions. But mostly I just poured my heart out to the Lord. Did God allow this? Did He plan this? Why did this happen to us? Whether it was late nights with thoughts I couldn’t get out of my mind (there were so many … why do the thoughts always come at night?), or trying to navigate the days with two children instead of three. The truth was there was a gaping hole in our family and every moment Raelyn’s little feet were missed. There was an empty crib, an empty room, highchair, car seat … and my arms ached to hold my daughter again. The months and years that followed saw me cry so many tears, I didn’t think I could ever buy regular mascara again (the non-waterproof kind).
And now we come back to the question … Why did God allow our daughter to die at such a young age? What I have come to understand is that God did not plan my daughter’s death but He knew it was going to happen. I believe we have an enemy … If it were not so, there would be no pain, no suffering in this world. God rules above all but the enemy is still at work in this world, and will be until Jesus returns.
Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. (1 Peter 5:8).
I believe our daughter’s death was an attack on our family and it was meant to take us down. And it did, for a time. But what the enemy didn’t know was that God is bigger and that the God of the universe can and will make a new thing happen even after our darkest hours. If we let him. The Word of the Lord says, “We know that all things work together for good to them that love God.” (Romans 8:28) This doesn’t mean all things are good. It means that despite the circumstances, that God is still sovereign. God didn’t stop Raelyn’s death despite the attack of the enemy. How can this be, if He loves us so? Maybe, just maybe, there’s something He sees that we cannot see.
Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. (Matthew 19:14)
Raelyn is in heaven and the rest of us still need to complete our mission to point others to Jesus. The fact is none of us are getting out of this world alive. And while it’s great if life is free of pain, I have to admit that in the deepest, darkest times of my life, the Lord has met me because I gave Him my pain. He has taught me so much about Himself and His heart for me, grieved alongside of me. And I know I will never have to walk alone. I have lived it. The Lord has also breathed new life into our lives with the addition of two more children, Evan and Kaitlyn. They could never replace Raelyn; she has a place in our hearts that only she could fill.
Because of Raelyn and Jesus my eyes are forever fixed on heaven and this is a gift. And the days are so much sweeter as I realize this is not all there is, and tomorrow on this earth is not promised. But what is promised is eternity if we commit our lives to Jesus. This is a truth I can look forward to.
I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me. (John 14:6)
My life was forever altered the day I lost Raelyn. I was changed, and I’m still being changed. I once thought my life was over but I have experienced new mercies to find joy again. He has promised He will do a new thing when we’re in the desert places of life, the extremely difficult and trying times of life.
See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland. (Isaiah 43:19).
The trees that grow the strongest have a continuous source of nourishment from the water, usually being planted by a water source or river. We need to be planted by the Living Water, the living God. There’s no guarantee that our lives will be untouched on this earth. We’ll experience pain and loss as long as there is an enemy. But the last word will always come from the Lord who is an ever-present help in times of need. How comforting to know we’ll never walk alone!
Are you in a difficult season? Could it be that during this time the Lord is asking you to seek His face, to seek His wisdom on what is next? Or maybe He’s asking you to give it all to Him, as it’s too much for you to carry alone. In scripture, on many occasions, Jesus showed us that He wants to take our pain. Whether it was through the act of actually experiencing physical pain on the cross and the walk up to the cross, or the excruciating agony He must have felt knowing His death was coming up, and there was no way around it (because He chose to continue in the Father’s will). Can we trust Him, when things don’t look pretty? Can we trust Him with the unknown? Can we trust Him through loss? Having walked a journey I never would have wanted, I can testify that He is the God of restoration and redemption. I know what some of this looks like for me and my family and I’m so thankful He’s brought us to the other side. We have experienced joy again. There are still some promises I’m waiting to see come to pass. But I choose to trust Him, knowing He is an ever-present help in times of need. I thank all those who have prayed for us through the years; those prayers moved mountains in our lives! What a gift you have given (and continue to give) to our family!
Written by Michelle Gruszecki
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