Turning to Christ in the Storm and In the Aftermath
A Tract for Troubling Times and Loss
On July 23, 1992 a typhoon (a Pacific hurricane) came across Hong Kong. The flash flood waters that resulted when that storm crashed into the mountains around the Pearl River Valley deluged a nearly dry bed of a river in a country park. That swelling river took away our twelve year-old son, Caleb. It nearly took away his brother, Matthew, at the same time, but a Chinese man was able to rescue him with a long bamboo pole. Three other children were at home. Caleb, who had been with us while we labored in missionary service to the Chinese people, was drowned, and fire-rescue divers were dispatched to retrieve his body from the subsurface whirlpool that held it to the bottom.
I was returning from Russia through China at the hour that Caleb went through the waters and out of this world to meet his Lord. I was home perhaps eight hours after he had drowned in those waters. That night, after learning of my son's decease, and after spending some priceless comforting moments with my wife, Caleb's dear mother, I lay down on an air mattress on the open-air balcony overlooking the narrow lanes of Saikung District. The typhoon had passed the region. In fact, I had been soaked by its rains in Guangzhou City, many hours north of Hong Kong while hurrying to get home. Yes, the typhoon had passed, but storms lashed and beat in the heart of this father and missionary.
Never Disappointed In the Lord
I prayed. I did not ask God, "Why?" I was not disappointed in my dear Saviour. But I did ask, "Heavenly Father, How do I now properly respond to you(?) Holy and True God-Who has never made a mistake, nor have You ever done any wrong to your children." I asked my Lord for His wisdom and guidance now, in a time when it would be very easy to make errors of judgment. God gave me rest that night; I mean such a measure of peace as to permit my complete sleep. The torrent within was arrested by my Lord's "Peace, be still!" "...he giveth his beloved sleep." (Psalm 127:2)
The following day Hong Kong police officers escorted Missionary Todd Lundberg and me to the Sha Tin Public Mortuary where I was asked to identify Caleb's body. The official there wanted me to sign the papers prior to viewing Caleb's body, because they are accustomed to the Chinese characteristically collapsing at such viewings and becoming unable to sign documents. I insisted, however, that I would view the body, and then sign the forms. As I was taking some time to view Caleb's body, the official stepped up from behind and whispered, "Is this your son?" "No," I answered, "This is only the tabernacle God allowed my son to use while he was here-my son is with his Savior, Jesus Christ in heaven." I signed the documents and we departed the mortuary truly rejoicing that Caleb had trusted Jesus Christ as his personal Saviour, and loved Him.
Caleb's body was prepared for return to the United States and was finally laid to rest in the Calvary Cemetery in rural Corder, Missouri, the town of his mother's rearing. A couple of months later, with God's sufficient consolation, we returned to China to continue our missionary labors. In all of the preceding, and in the subsequent events of our lives, we saw God's hand and His power. We continue to enjoy His comfort to this day.
We understand just a little of the suffering that is being endured by many people currently (2005, 2006) along the Gulf Coast after hurricanes Katrina and Rita. We can empathize with those who have given up loved ones and friends to the flood waters and winds of these storms. In our minds and hearts, we will sit at the grave sides with the relatives of hundreds who died. And many will have to be comforted at memorial services for the deceased whose remains might never be found.
As a family that has given up a child to a storm, may we give you a couple of Bible passages? One is in the Old Testament: Ecclesiastes 3:19-"For that which befalleth the sons of men befalleth beasts; even one thing befalleth them: as the one dieth, so dieth the other; yea, they have all one breath; so that a man hath no preeminence above a beast: for all is vanity." Does that sound cruel to you? Please don't be discouraged-read on. Please consider the New Testament, in Hebrews 9:27-"And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment: So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation."
Death, the word of God tells us, is an "appointment." The unconverted, the unsaved may not escape death. God's children, on the other hand, if allowed to undergo physical death, know that it is but a temporary condition of the body, while their soul is present with the Lord. This is the understanding and the attitude of the saved, born again believer-"(...we walk by faith, not by sight:) We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord." (2 Corinthians 5:7, 8) The true Christian believes the Saviour, Jesus Christ-"I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die." (John 11:25, 26) God's Holy Spirit had Paul write these words-"...I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep (believers who are deceased), that ye sorrow not, even as others (unbelievers) which have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him." (1 Thessalonians 4:13, 14) The genuine Christian believers may go to meet Jesus in the air without undergoing physical death. The Christian doesn't fear the grave, however, because it cannot hold him or her.
The Remedy For Sin
The unbeliever, the one who rejects the Lord Jesus Christ as his or her only remedy from sin, shall die the second death-"And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works. And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire." (Revelation 20:13-15) The unbelievers (the unsaved) include all who think that they are not bad enough to go to hell. The unbelievers (the unsaved) include all who think that they can perform a sufficient number of good works in this life to convince God to let them into heaven. All who think that their own good works can somehow positively impress God will have their day in God's court of justice at the Great White Throne (Revelation 20:11-15). But none of those people will hear their name read from the Lamb's Book of Life-they shall be cast into the lake of fire.
The Remedy-Christ Died Under God's Judgment for Our Sins
If we don't deserve to die, Jesus Christ would not have had to come to die in our place, for our sins. We do deserve to die! "All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way." (Isaiah 53:6a) "...for there is no man that sinneth not..." (1 Kings 8:46) "Jews and Gentiles, ...they are all under sin;..." "For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God." (Romans 3:9, 23) If we don't deserve to go to hell, Jesus Christ would not have had to suffer our hell for us. But He did suffer our hell! "He (God the Father) shall see the travail of his (God the Son's) soul, and shall be satisfied." (Isaiah 53:11) "...thou shalt not leave my (Jesus') soul in hell, neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption." We deserve much worse than the most severe wrath of a storm on this earth. We deserve the eternal wrath of God in the storm surges on the Lake of Fire. Our sins are a continual offense to the Holy God of Heaven. When He offers us good, which should lead us to repentance (Romans 2:4), we rebel and recoil against Him. Why do you not stop right now, Friend, and tell God that you understand that you deserve His judgment; you deserve hell forever? As long as you think that the storms of this life are the worst that you will ever suffer, and as long as you have the attitude that you deserve better, you will never humble yourself before God who judges righteously (James 4:6, 10)-you will remain in your own way, in rebellion, lost and confused!
But listen to these words. "For when we were without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly...God commendeth his love toward us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us." (Romans 5:6, 8) "Who (Jesus) his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree,... (1 Peter 2:24) "For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God,..." (1 Peter 3:18) "Surely he (Jesus) hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows:...he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities:...the LORD hath laid on him (Jesus) the iniquity of us all." (Isaiah 53:4-6) Talk to God right now and admit to Him that since Jesus suffered, as states His Word, then surely it was YOU who needed Him to die in YOUR place, as YOUR Substitute in Judgment.
Friend, if you have lost loved ones or friends in the storms that raged on the Gulf Coast, or elsewhere, our hearts go out to you. We understand the grief as we have suffered the same ourselves. As God's children, we have the comfort of His Holy Spirit; that extra measure of His grace that sustains us. We did not always know the Savior, and had we lost our son in that storm swollen river prior to being saved by God's grace, we might have responded with anger and bitterness. We have not responded to God in that way because we know from the promises of God's Word that we shall see our son again one day. He was a child of God by faith in Christ Jesus.
We would like you to know the same peace and comfort that we and all genuine children of God experience in troubling times. We also would like to see you in God's Heaven one day. Would you not re-read the passages of Scripture above about the redemption work of Christ, and trust Him as your only Remedy for your sin and only Hope of eternal life?
If we can be of some help to you in handling the grief of loss of loved ones or friends, would you please write to us? Please see our Contact page. Email us at email@example.com
Turning to Christ In the Storm by Robert Edgar Patenaude, Th.D. is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.
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