I can’t imagine. Have you uttered these words at some point in your life? You hear some shockingly terrible news and as you try to process the information, the only words that don’t escape you are, ‘I can’t imagine.’
You search the files in your grey matter. You come up with nothing. Your experiences thus far leave you inadequately prepared to provide an appropriate response so your mind spits out the phrase a few more times. ‘I can’t imagine, I just can’t imagine what your going through. You shake your head in disbelief. Your hand covering your mouth.
As a Pastor, I’ve spoken these words quite often, over the last 20 years, not always out loud.
I sat with people who had lost a sibling to suicide and said I can’t imagine.
I sat with people who lost a child to suicide as well and while my mind agonized over the thought of ever losing one of my children, I simply said. “I can’t imagine what you are going through.”
I’ve read stories of people being robbed at gun point and being in fear of losing their life.
I’ve read stories of people being in a life or death situation, staring down the barrel of a gun and having to make a decision to shoot someone.
Every time I read one of these stories, once again, ‘I can’t imagine’, was all I could muster.
Whenever I tried to comfort the broken people before me it was difficult because I really did not have first hand experience. Until you’ve walked a mile in their shoes you can’t fully understand.
Rough Few Years
The last few years God has allowed circumstances in my life to give me first hand knowledge of everything I’ve mentioned above.
In January 2013 my 42 year old younger brother, Rick, hanged himself.
I was devastated. We were extremely close. It knocked me down for months. My heart was fractured. I now understood the emotions of losing a sibling. I knew that as difficult and heart wrenching as it was, God would use it for good for his glory.
I have used this personal experience to minister to several people who went through a similar experience. It has made me even more compassionate.
In January 2016 my 19 year old son, Robbie, hanged himself. He could not get past the loss of my brother. That was 8 months ago and as I type these words, I’m not any better emotionally than the day I got the news.
My heart, already fragile from the loss of my brother, shattered into a million pieces. I could not get out of bed for days at a time. why was this happening to me?
What Was God Doing?
I knew I was under spiritual attack because I was on the front lines in a war for souls. Souls the enemy was not willing to give up without a fight.
I also knew that nothing touches me unless God allowed it. That was where I was having my issues. Why was God allowing it? What was he preparing me for?
I honestly shuttered at the thought of losing a child. A child is supposed to bury the parent. Burying a child is the hardest thing a parent can do. Trust me. I know.
If God was trying to get my attention, he had it. If he was trying to tell me something, I was listening.
Over the last 8 months since losing Robbie, God has opened doors and provided opportunities to minister to people who have buried their children. I knew what they were feeling. I knew what they meant when they said, “A part of me has died with my child.”
I knew what to say but more importantly, what not to say. God was using me to heal people in the healing process.
Less than a week ago as I was returning home from a Steven Curtiss Chapman concert with my wife and 12 year old son, I walked right into a nightmare.
As my son and I exited the vehicle a man stuck what appeared to be a sawed off shotgun in my face. He threatened to kill me and my son. This was taking place on the 8 month anniversary of my son’s death.
I was determined not to lose another son. After a brief struggle, being struck in the head with the gun, my wife ultimately shot the would be robber. He tried to escape. I pursued him at gunpoint and forced him to drop his gun.
I’d be lying if I said I haven’t questioned God and his plans. But then I realize his plans are not my plans. He sees the end from the beginning and he allows things to occur in our lives to bring Glory to his name.
I signed up to serve God regardless of whether or not he allowed bad things to happen to me. Jesus didn’t die to keep us safe, he died to make us dangerous.
I miss my son more than I can bear but I know that he was never really mine. He belonged to God and he gave him to me for an undetermined amount of time. I will not stop trusting in God. I will not allow these circumstances to effect my walk with Jesus.
If you are a threat to Satan, you will be attacked. This is a fact. You cannot control this but you can be prepared.
Paul told us how to be prepared:
Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground.
There is a bunch of great stuff that follows so grab a Bible or use your phone and look up Ephesians 6:13-17
When the man that tried to rob us approached, he pretended to be crippled. He was hunched over and dragging his feet. I did not feel threatened. He did not look dangerous. My guard was down.
That’s how the devil works. When he tempts us he does it with things that don’t look dangerous. Our guard is down. Then he strikes when we do not expect it.
When I turned my back on the “handicapped” man, he stood up to his full 6 feet. He was suddenly 200 pounds and holding a gun. By then it was too late.
The devil operates the same way. He tries to appear small and insignificant. He appears as an angel of light. But when you let down your guard and turn your back for a second, he strikes. By the time you realize what’s happening, it’s too late.
If you understand Satan’s mission, you can prevent his from accomplishing his plan which is this:
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
Don’t let the devil sneak up on you.
Everything that happens to me, good or bad, can be used to strengthen my walk with Christ or help someone else grow in their faith.
I just have to be willing to submit to God’s will and plan for my life.
So yes, I’ve had an extremely hard year and I honestly say I can’t imagine what the future holds, but I know who holds the future. I’m at peace with that.