Five Lessons Learned in the Fire

Call it insecurity or avoidance.  But there is a deep and honest part of me that wants to hide. 

The reason? 

I am different.  I have changed.  Not everyone understands it ...or likes it.

I have walked through fire and it changed me.

I would love to turn back the clock to before it happened.  I would block the doorway on July 6, 2006, to stop my 25 year old son from heading out on his bicycle for his normal fun training ride. It was the day he never came home.  Ever.  It was the day I was thrown into the fire.  It was the day a criminal driver ran Ben down.  He hit him from behind and my


good hearted,



amazingly talented,

sold-out for Jesus,


son... was killed. 

He crashed through the windshield fracturing his skull then was launched off the roof of the car before crashing to the ground.  It was the day that he died in a huge puddle of his own blood on the black asphalt.

It tore me apart.  I felt like I had been battered with a baseball bat. For weeks after, I moved in and out of a frozen daze.  I misunderstood that daze, along with  friends who patted my hand, “You are doing so well, you are so strong, you have such faith”.  It was three months before I started to thaw from the traumatic shock.  Then every night, I cried till there were no tears left in my tear ducts and yet I sobbed on.

I was a committed Christian but now wrestled with questions and doubts about God.  How could a good God let this happen?  When I voiced them in certain arenas, I got rote bible verses and nice pat Christian answers like “Have faith.  Trust and obey.”  That did not help, because my heart was broken, not my head and my head already knew those verses too.  A hurting heart does not mean faith has died, it means it has been swamped by a Tsunami of pain.  Deep down there still is solid ground but right then I was drowning in such deep, swirling water that I could not find it. 


Some people hinted that I was to blame.  They cross-examined my prayer life and concluded that I did not pray enough or didn't use the "right" ones to keep my son safe, as though God needed me to have it all right before he could keep Ben alive!  Some friends avoided me, and looked at me from across the room, acting like tragedy and questions might spread to them like a disease.  They still wanted to be kind and I am grateful for that and the wonderful meals and flowers but hurried off before the conversation got too deep.  Myself, I had no choice but to wrestle with these real doubts and questions, after all, I would not get to the other side of them unless I faced them.  I was already in the fire and I had to walk through it.     

As a result,  I withdrew from unsafe people and places.  Can you blame me?  The deep honest part of me will tell you that I felt victimized and pushed away, even by God.  But I also had some fabulous friends who really did listened and kept me afloat when I poured out my gut wrenching accusations and questions: 

“God, why did you let this happen when you could have easily stopped this!”

“Was I being punished and you’d actually kill him to punish me?”

“Did I not pray enough, declare enough, walk closely enough to you God?”

“Are you a good God or really mean?”

“I can’t do this any more God, my grief is overwhelming!”

Okay, if you have not been there and your life is going according to our American Dream: 2.5 kids, a house in the suburbs, an acquiring and comfortable life, then this may all sound blasphemous.  But sooner or later, we realize that the American Dream is an anomaly, sooner or later we face loss.  Look around the world at all the people struggling on one meal a day or less, and facing daily disappointment and tragedy.  Even many North American churches have also slipped into teaching a kind of American Dream formula to happiness:  Read the Bible + Pray + Serve = Happy Christian Life (with no problems).  It sounded good to me too, till, boom, my life was torn apart, and I was thrown into the fire.  

St Paul, with all his prayer and service still suffered too, “Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I suffered shipwreck…” 2 Cor. 11:12.  What about Job, of whom God himself said, “There is no one on the earth like Job, blameless and upright,” Job 1:8.  He lost 10 kids, his businesses and his health.  Job was forced to ask the profound, hard, faith questions and defended himself.  While in the fires of overwhelming, emotional loss and physical pain, he accused God but he came out of it like pure gold.

How do we make it through these horrific twists and turns of life? 

1.    First we face a crossroad of choosing to walk this messy life with him or without him.  I remember my point of decision, and I echoed the disciples’ words, “To whom would we go?  You alone have the words of eternal life” Jn. 6:68.  I choose to trust that sometime, somehow, He will make it right, and that he will truly wipe my tears and change my mourning to dancing. 

2.    Realize that all the days of our lives are not arbitrary but written in a book.  I slowly came to the realization that before Ben was sent from heaven, God knew him, Jer. 1:5.  All the days of his life were written in a book, and Ben was willing to say, “Here I am Lord, I will lay my life down early”, even though God never wanted evil to happen.  I realized that I was called in the same way, to be a Mom who looses a child.  God is a Father who also had his son die young, he understands.   This gives deeper meaning, purpose and victory in it all. 

3.    Release our ideal “Barbie and Ken life” expectations.  I expected my life to be a happy tale where I saw Ben get married and celebrated his family and success and hugged his kids but that was stripped from me.  Yes, I needed to express my anger for this loss and then  “forgive God” all my disappointments.  I had to give up my naïve church formulas and trust him to make it right in his time and his way but in the meantime, accept the new normal as hard as that was.   

4.    Learn gratitude even when it is hard - it changes your perspective.  Being thankful allows us to be happy for what we are given even when we are in deep sadness.  It lifts our eyes off the tragedy and gives us a mental break.  We can be thankful for our ears that can enjoy uplifting music and our eyes that can see our family.  I am thankful for the spectacular snow capped mountains out my window and for my heated parking on -40 C days!


5.   Rather then considering ourselves as victims of tragic circumstances, look at it from the outside, from a bigger perspective.  I began to realize, though I could not change that Ben died, I could choose whether I would let it serve me to make me a better person or get stuck in bitterness.  In facing that life ends,  I began to modify my priorities to make the best of my own life.  I did not have patience for the petty or the pretend.  I valued people and life and the "moments" more and I stressed less about ordinary problems, after all, no one died.   If you are in the worst days of suffering, I do not want to minimize it either.  However, eventually tragedy can produce unseen and unexpected new seeds and roads in our lives.

I learned more deeply about fighting the darkness, the importance of justice, forgiveness, giving time, being kind, loving while we have the chance, eternity and living with one foot in heaven and more.   We all learn that we have what it takes to get through the worst.    We discover a wealth of compassion and magnanimity toward others.  We are different, with different values and visions and with a different life rising out of devastation.  It changes us.

"A faith without some doubts is like a human body without any antibodies in it. People who blithely go through life too busy or indifferent to ask hard questions about why they believe as they do will find themselves defenseless against either the experience of tragedy or the probing questions of a smart skeptic, ...doubts, should only be discarded after long reflection." —Timothy Keller, The Reason For God

Fire purifies gold.  Unrefined gold goes into the fire as a mixed substance and it is changed by the heat to come out more beautiful then it went in.  Tragedy, loss and trauma are the hottest and longest fires that we can endure.  We will be changed.  We will come out different.   The unimportant is burned off,  we live more deeply.  We have no time or patience for for pettiness and use our energies in better ways to serve a higher way.

Not everyone likes that. 

“And when he tests me, I will come out as pure gold”  Job 23:10.  One day, God will say to us, “Welcome Shining One” and we will finally understand as we are understood.  

How about you too, what lessons have you discovered in the fire? 

Blessings, big hugs and keep moving forward, 
Check out other helpful blog articles on Helga's blog including :  Birthday Parties in Heaven, He is not here, Just tell Me What Happened and The Worst Nightmare plus helpful Renewing Resilience Tips.  
If you are facing loss, get the support you need.  For additional resources, including a no-obligation personal intake coaching session, on, "The Art of Findng Peace in an Imperfect World" with Helga Bender MThS, click here.  
© Helga`s Coaching Blog  2015. You are welcome to use excerpts and links, provided full and clear credit is given to  Helga Bender and Helga's Coaching Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.