What Breaks a Heart

The fleeting nature of mankind’s attentions means that it’s far too easy for our lives to become distracted with trivial things.  We become obsessed with our career paths, focused on what our next purchase will be, caught up in petty disagreements, or consumed with worry over our financial futures.

In the midst of all the distractions, God constantly sends us reminders that He desires to have a deep, personal relationship with us, and that He wants us to keep our focus on things that are of true, everlasting importance.  For some people, those reminders come in the form of grandiose revelations, and for some they come in the form of a still, small voice.

For me, it came in the form of a baby girl named Miranda Evangelene Cole.

Meet Miranda:

Miranda is a gift from God to an old friend of mine from college, Chad Cole, and his wife Sara.  They started chronicling their pregnancy from very early on.  You can read the progress at www.sadandchara.blogspot.com .  Chad and Sara were both very excited about their new arrival, as Miranda was their first child after having been married for roughly 14 years.

In God’s perfect plan, though, there would be a far different outcome.

On Saturday, February 5, 2011, Chad and Sara were in a car accident on a stretch of I-94 in south central Michigan.  Sara died from her injuries, and Miranda was brought into this world via C-section.  She had no heartbeat and little to no brain activity.  Over the course of the next three days, some of the best medical staff in the country did everything they could to save baby Miranda’s life, but her tiny body was unable to recover from the trauma of the accident.  Miranda Evangelene Cole was taken back to Heaven to be reunited with her mother and with God on Tuesday evening, February 8, 2011.

The degree of public response to the Cole Family story was unexpected.  Over 53,000 people attended a “Pray for Baby Miranda” event on Facebook.  Multiple hundreds sent their condolences through the blog site.  I attended the memorial service at a local church and was moved at seeing roughly 500-600 people in the sanctuary.  People from all over the world were moved (to tears, often times) at what seemed like such a sudden, illogical, dramatic upheaval of life.  I will admit that in my own human frailty, there were times that I wondered why God would allow something like this to happen.

It wasn’t until a few days after Miranda’s passing that I began to understand some of God’s design in this tragedy.  The simple, undiluted truth is this:  God’s ways are not our ways.  Sara and Miranda belonged to God before they belonged to this world, and if in His wisdom God decides that it’s time for Him to call them back to Glory, then that’s the end of the discussion.  I suspect that Chad understood this concept long before I did, because his blog entries during the ordeal constantly reflect the majesty of God’s presence, even in the midst of great trial.  The 23rd Psalm says:

“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.” (NIV)

There is no other way to maintain peace in the midst of such personal tragedy except to understand that there is an Almighty God, and he still reigns over this earth.  John 3:16 says:

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (NIV)

Sara loved the Lord, and she is in Heaven now.  Miranda was an innocent child, and I believe that she’s in Heaven as well.  For those who are their brothers and sisters in Christ, we can know that we will be reunited with them someday, and it gives a sense of continuity to our existence and takes away the sting of death.  We can rejoice in the knowledge that there is eternal life for those who accept Jesus Christ as their savior.

So for myself, the remaining issue is learning what lesson God wants me to hear through this event.  I suspect that I’ll be dwelling on this for a long time to come, but a few thoughts have made their way to the surface.  The first thought is that life is short.  Chad’s loss has reminded me that our physical bodies are extremely frail, and that it doesn’t take but a second to have our bodies broken.  We simply don’t have tomorrow promised to us.  We don’t even have the next five minutes promised to us.

Another thought is that there’s only one thing on this earth that God considers important, and that’s relationships.  Jesus Christ didn’t die on a cross so that we could have better politics, nicer churches, more possessions, or a higher wage.  God made himself man and took upon himself the sins of the world because we humans are a fallen, sinful race in need of a savior.  Jesus Christ paid the price for all of mankind’s sin so that we can have a restored relationship with our creator, and so that we can have restored relationships with each other. Proper, God-centered relationships are the only thing that matters.  Everything else is empty filler.

The final thought (at this point, at least), is that the only things that are worth doing in life are the things that are done for the glory of God. That’s not to say that we can’t enjoy such simple things as a well-cooked meal (a skill that my wife possesses in abundance) or a ride on a nice motorcycle, but it does mean that when we consider the work that we dedicate our lives to, we should ask ourselves if we’re doing it for the glory of God or for the glory of ourselves.  The questions that flow from either answer will start to guide the rest of your life’s decisions.

For my part, what you’re reading right now is a response to that very question.  For far too long, I have lived my life largely in the pursuit of my own interests.  To be honest, it hasn’t taken me anywhere worthwhile.  It took the loss of a friend’s wife and his beautiful baby girl to help me see that what I thought was important wasn’t really important at all.  Lord, forgive me for being so blind and so slow to hear.

To my old college friend I leave this thought:

I’m so sorry for your loss.  Sara and Miranda’s deaths have affected me as deeply as if it were members of my own family.  I thank you for letting me be a small part of your life, and for letting me watch you from a distance as you have walked (and will continue to walk) through this valley.  Seeing you face these days with God’s grace so evident in your life has caused me to realize that there is so much work to be done in my own life.  I never even met your wife or your daughter, but their effect on my life is profound.  I know that your heart will continue to break for a time, but God will continue to be with you.

When some time has passed, we will talk again and I will share some personal thoughts with you in private.  Until then, know that I have not forgotten you, I will continue to pray for God’s grace, comfort, and strength in your life, and that I love you.

When we were in college and worked at the radio station, there was a song that we played to sign off at night.  It was an a cappella song by the group Glad.  Throughout your loss I’ve been constantly reminded of the lyrics:

The Lord bless you and keep you.  The Lord make His face to shine upon you and give you peace.  The Lord make His face to shine upon you and be gracious unto you.  Amen.