Gratitude for when Tragedies Don’t Happen

Dr. Del Tackett was the “Tour Guide” for our The Truth Project group.  Through the series of lectures and some correspondence with him he became a friend in addition to teacher.  Following is a truly touching posting on the Colorado firestorm tragedy we just witnessed in the national news media.  RMF

Dr. Del Tackett

Dr. Del Tackett

 Tragedies Withheld

By: Dr. Del Tackett

When your wife calls and the first words are “I’m okay”, you know immediately that the rest of the conversation is going to be far from routine. In this case, I was in Phoenix teaching at the Blackstone Fellowship and had already gotten a text alert from our local TV station that a fire had started in the Black Forest where we live.

Little did I know at the time what that first little text would grow into.

My wife was calling to tell me that she was safe, but she was being evacuated…immediately. The fire had exploded into an uncontrolled inferno just to the northwest of our house. She grabbed a few things, loaded them into the Jeep and headed out. The police had already set up barriers on all the roads leading into the forest.

This was the event that all of us who live in the Black Forest had secretly dreaded. It is so dense and so carpeted with dry pine needles and tinder that we feared if anything got started and the wind was high, it would be impossible to stop.

I suppose that I should begin the same way my wife did. We are okay and our house was spared. 509 homes were not. Thousands of acres of the beautiful forest are now a charred wasteland of dead trees looking like black sticks that someone had stuck into an eerie smooth charcoal blanket.

After 10 days of being evacuated, I returned to find everything as she left it. The refrigerator and freezer stink and it will all have to be tossed, but our house is still standing.

For many of our friends and neighbors, their story is vastly different. Many have nothing but a foundation filled with ash…ashes they are sifting through to find anything of value…anything a 2,500-degree inferno would spare.

Which isn’t much.

Another close friend’s house was in the fire’s direct path, yet the firefighters took a stand around their home and were able to save it. They are heroes to all of us here.

I drove around early this morning and was grieved by what I saw. The reason most of us live here is because of the immense beauty of the dense forest. We love the sound of the wind blowing through the tops of the trees, the birds and wildlife that live here, the sweet smell of the Ponderosa Pines especially after a rain.

The Black Forest Regional Park is just a short distance from us. We have spent a lot of time there playing tennis, soccer, and I have run many of the vast trails that wind around in the timber. Most of those trees are now cinders.

But it was the remains of home after home of our Black Forest neighbors that grieved me most. There was nothing left. Brick chimneys, ash-covered foundations and charred car and truck skeletons were all that marked a family home.

There were several moments when we were sure ours was gone as well. The TV station initially read our address as one of the homes that had burned. I had driven to get as close as possible and stood for several hours looking in the direction of our home and saw nothing but raging fire and boiling black smoke. I was sure it was gone: the old china handed down from generations, the hutch from the 1500’s, the photos and videos of all of our precious moments, the financial papers, and a myriad of special things that would grieve you to lose just one. But I was especially focused on my library and all my notes and articles and teaching stuff. It made me sick to my stomach. But I had settled it with Him. If He wanted to take all of that and leave me with just Him and His Word, what more could I ask for?

But the point is, He didn’t.

Why?

I don’t know.

The wind was blowing east with a little bit of north in it. If there had been a little bit of south instead, today would be a radically different day for us.

I have long thought about the tragedies that never befall us. The tragedies that, for some divine reason, are kept from us. The Scripture records many times where the Lord averted tragedy…and times when He didn’t.

The answer is hidden in the deep recesses of the nature of God, His wisdom and purpose and plans and sovereignty…and love…either way.

All around the Black Forest you will today find signs written on cardboard, bed sheets, siding and whatever else that will contain ink—messages that say “thank you” to the firefighters and the 1st responders.

It is an emotional thing to see all of them.

But there was one that got to me. I will admit to you that I broke down and wept as I stopped and read this one. All the other signs were posted in front of homes that were spared. But this one was attached to a fence that was partially burned and in front of what was once the comfort of a home, a place of rest, a place of love and laughter, a place containing all the precious things that represent our lives, all the things that are dear to a family. A sweet home that was now nothing but a worthless pile of ashes.

“Thank you” it said “for trying. XOXO”

When tragedy strikes, how we handle it will directly reflect what we think about our Father. Joseph told his brothers: “You meant it for evil, but God meant it for good.”

When tragedy is averted, which is, no doubt, a daily occurrence in our lives, it wouldn’t be inappropriate to be on our knees in deep thankfulness for His grace and kindness.

Every once in a while, I thank Him for keeping me from tragedies that I am totally unaware of. But most of the time, for countless tragedies withheld, I go obliviously on without a thought.

But this time…for this one…He has made it abundantly clear.

And I’m filled with a deep sense of how undeserving we are of His grace.

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About ronfurg

Former naval officer, federal investigator, forensic scientist, senior executive service member and pastor. In retirement serves as volunteer and life group leader at New Life Christian Church (www.newlife4me.com). Devoted to beautiful wife, kids and grandkids. Looking forward to the time when every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord of all and that He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.
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