My wife and I were billet parents to two Humboldt Broncos players who were on the bus that crashed on April 6, 2018. One player survived and one was killed in the crash. We were told that night that both had survived and didn’t learn the truth until 2 days later when the misidentification was discovered. Those 48 hours were the most traumatic time of my life.
A few weeks later I was describing the events of the Bronco tragedy with a group of Christian people. I explained that I had been using Romans 8:28 for encouragement. It says “All things work together for good, for those who love him and are called according to his purpose.” If all things are used by God for good, then there must be something good and positive that would come out of the horrible tragedy of the Bronco bus crash. To my surprise, some members of the group responded that they could not see how God could use such a horrible event for anything good. They believed that some things were completely lacking anything good, and this was one of them. I had to admit that I didn’t know what God was doing or even what He would do that would be positive but that I had to trust Him. I also had to admit that I too struggled with completely trusting in the goodness of God.
When I was growing up, my family was part of a religion that didn’t believe in medicine. They believe that health is a state of mind, so we were to deny any illness and carry on as if we were not sick. It was a sort of self-hypnosis to deny our symptoms and pain. As a result, I became very wary of trusting people who said that they cared about me. When I became a Christian as a young adult, I struggled with trusting God’s promises, especially when I couldn’t see how things would work out. As I read the Bible, I was struck how many times people had to trust God before He would miraculously intervene on their behalf. It has been a long process of testing my trust in God and learning that He cares.
Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see (Hebrews 11:1). If we could see what God was doing before He did it, then it wouldn’t be faith at all. And trust is the companion of faith. Many Biblical stories of great faith started with people who believed in God’s promises despite their circumstances. Would I have trusted God with an army charging toward me and my children with my back to the Red Sea? We
know the rest of the story, that God was about to part the sea and rescue but in that moment of terror, they didn’t know that. Faith requires trusting God without knowing the rest of the story. God took Job’s wealth and children and then his health, but he refused to blame God. If I really trusted God, then like Job in the Bible I could say “Though he slay me, yet I will trust in Him.” (Job 13:15). He didn’t know that God would restore him when he said that.
Another impact of my childhood was an inability to process emotions. We were taught to suppress our emotions, especially negative ones. In a similar fashion to our physical health, we were to focus on having only positive emotions to feel better. However, we ended up feeling numb because we didn’t know or admit how we felt and weren’t taught how to express and process our emotions. As I did grief counseling work, the best advice I got was to lean into my emotions. Let the tears and grief flow. I re-read Psalm 13 many times: “how long must I wrestle in my soul, with sorrow in my heart each day?” By the end it says, “I will sing to the Lord, for He has been good to me.” I found music was helpful in expressing my feelings and lost count of the days where I sang Christian worship songs and cried at the same time. As I learned to process my emotions, I experienced improved mental health and increased strength. The intensity of grief began to recede and I found joy in life again.
One of the emotions that I felt intensely after the accident was anger. I was furious that the truck driver who caused the accident was so negligent. I wanted him to be punished to the full extent of the law. Then I was reminded that Jesus calls us to forgive because He has forgiven us (Matt 6:14, Eph 4:32). Forgiveness is not to benefit the guilty party but to release the victim from the anger and resentment that will ruin anyone who holds on to them. When I forgave the truck driver, I felt a great relief. He is still facing the legal consequences of the accident, but I no longer carry anger and bitterness toward him. I also learned that forgiveness is a means of radical acceptance. To move from trauma to healing, one must stop wishing that the trauma had never happened or trying to ignore it and deny it. Forgiving is an expression of acceptance and helps me move on to healing.
I have talked about building resiliency through trust, emotions, and forgiveness. I hope that you have caught my theme. None of these things are
done by me. All of them are done in me by God. He is working in me to bring me into a relationship with Himself and changing me through trauma. I believe that God allows us to experience tragedy, grief, pain and loss because He loves us and He wants to do something for us that we can’t experience, comprehend or appreciate when we are smugly satisfied with life. He wants to work in our weaknesses, so His strength is evident (2 Corinthians 12:9). He wants to change us on the inside to build our resiliency. When we believe in God, trust Him and obey Him, He gives us the hope, healing, and strength to be resilient even in these uncertain times.