When Life Tumbles in… What Then?

We have just published The Story of Samuel, about my son who died in a house fire 18 years ago. Samuel was 12 years old.

Over many decades of pastoral ministry I have come to understand that in this life almost all will have painful and tragic experiences, even those who possess extraordinary faith.

The great Pentecostal healing evangelist and faith teacher, Smith Wigglesworth lost his son George at 12 years old. A spiritual father of mine, elder Larry Carroll, from the congregation where I received salvation at 12½ years old, lost his son in a terrible accident. He also was 12. Five young people from the youth group of Pascack Bible Church in Hillsdale, New Jersey died in that accident. Larry was a great man of faith in the promises of God. The death of his son was a mystery. However Larry rejoiced that his son was with the Lord and continued on in the same faith and ministry as before, while carrying the pain of loss on this side of eternity.

My wife Patty and I have experienced few personal tragedies, but they have been big ones. For me, the first was the loss of my father to a brain tumor before I was nine and seeing the depth of my mother’s grief and tears over many years. For Patty, it was the loss of her beloved brother, an Air Force Academy cadet, at the age of 19 in a car accident which also took her best friend Karen. Over the course of the next months her roommate at Wheaton died, as did her grandfather. But the death of our son has certainly been our greatest trauma.

The story of Samuel began with a very amazing miracle of healing at the age of one year from a fatal heart disease, then the battle for his spiritual life, and finally his death just when we thought we had the breakthroughs we sought. Even while Samuel was on life support at the hospital, we were convicted that we were called to pray for his total restoration and not to give in to his death. Those whom we knew who had the greatest prophetic accuracy were of one voice that we were to seek God for his recovery.

During his hospitalization, we had a massive level of prayer. Amazingly, we were given an empty ward next to his ICU room for a 48 hours continuous prayer meeting that sometimes included up to 75 people. Churches and individuals from around the country, in Israel and from the nations, Asia, South America and Europe were praying. Famous international spiritual leaders joined us in intercession.

After we disconnected his life support, we were convinced that we were to pray for his resurrection from the dead until the finality of burial. Yet in that time, we never had a word from one credible prophet that Samuel was to be raised, only that we were to seek it. Several said that as we prayed for Samuel, we were praying for revival in Israel. And significantly our sense to move to Israel came after this.

So pray we did, but Samuel did not revive, neither while on life support, nor at the services for his resurrection, nor at the gravesite. This raises that question, one that will be raised again and again.Where are the promises of healing and protection? We quote Psalm 91:9-10:

“Because you have made the Lord your dwelling, even Adonai who is my refuge, no evil will befall you, nor any plague come near your tent.” (TLV)

On the issue of healing, we read Psalm 103:3:

“He forgives all your iniquity and heals all your diseases.” (TLV)

We know that people seek healing when they go to doctors. They pursue the most unlikely cures for cancer. Should we not seek to position ourselves to receive supernatural healing and to walk in health to the fullest extent that we can? Yes, I believe so, and we practice this. We have seen good results. But only God can grant the faith that reaches the goal of supernatural healing or a resurrection. We can only place ourselves in the Word in such a way that we maximize the possibility of receiving it. Hyper-faith people blame the one who experiences the tragedy. We have nown instances of this that are almost too painful to recount.

Though Samuel did not rise up, his friend, surviving the same fire, was restored from what looked like certain death. We were the instruments of prayer. After our prayers at this young man’s bedside, his condition turned around. Indeed, we saw several amazing signs of God’s intervention after Samuel died. We still heard the voice of God with clarity on important matters that were before us. I cannot explain it, but this is what we experienced.

Patty and I learned that there are times when we must simply rest in God’s sovereignty and the mystery of His goodness in spite of the pain of tragedy. There are trials that test our faith and require proof of our ultimate commitment. Do we surrender like Abraham who was ready to sacrifice his son? Mike Brown wrote one of the best books on this, Compassionate Father or Consuming Fire.

Patty’s book Refined by Fire explains how we overcame from her perspective. The Story of Samuel is my side of the story. I wrote this the week after Samuel’s passing, but it is only now available. The book helps give us a biblical theology for such suffering. It is not long.

*The title of this article was taken from one of the greatest sermons I have ever read, by Arthur John Gossip in Scotland, over a hundred years ago. It can be read online here.

This article originally appeared in Israel’s Restoration Newsletter, August 2016 and reposted with permission.

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Dr. Daniel Juster, founder and director of Tikkun International, has been involved in the Messianic Jewish movement since 1972 and currently resides in Jerusalem, Israel, from where he serves and supports the Messianic movement worldwide. Dan was the founding president and general secretary of the Union of Messianic Jewish Congregations for 9 years, the senior pastor of Beth Messiah congregation for 22 years, and a co-founder of the Messiah Bible Institute in several nations. Dr. Juster serves on the board of Towards Jerusalem Council II, provides oversight to 15 congregations in the USA as well as overseeing emissaries in Israel and the Former Soviet Union. Daniel has authored about 20 books on topics ranging from theology, Israel and the Jewish people, eschatology, discipleship, and leadership.