Thinking The Unthinkable
“Never thought of it.” That remark blew me away.
How could it be? Of all people, surely he was capable of thinking this.
But, no, it hadn’t crossed his mind. Unexplored territory, terra incognita. “Here be dragons” as marked on ancient maps. And we left it at that, pursuing the next item on the agenda. So we live and so we learn. If we do not entertain the “thinkables”, where would the “unthinkables” leave us?
Life has its ups and downs, but not necessarily in equal proportion. Then something emerges on the horizon, unpleasant and undesirable, unexpected. Dreams and plans can change in an instant. We can’t control the future. We can’t predict how the future will look or feel.
The unthinkable happens. As someone has observed, people cope, heal and live to see another day. Some succumb to it. Others emerge stronger from it.
Abraham faced the unthinkable. In one instance, his obedience was tested: God was asking him to offer his son, his only son, as a burnt offering (Gen 22:2). Isaac had been a miraculous provision, to be a channel of blessing to the nations. Surely something uncharacteristic was emerging in the narrative? It doesn’t make sense, but it does make faith grow. Abraham never wavered in believing God’s promise. Or in His power to bring the dead back to life (Rom 4:17).
I imagine it must be horrendous that a mother would die at childbirth.
In 1 Samuel 4:20, concerning the daughter-in-law of Eli, it was recorded: “And about the time of her death the women attending her said to her, ‘Do not be afraid, for you have borne a son.’ But she did not answer or pay attention.” Her husband Phinehas and her father-in-law the priest were dead. And most devastating, the ark of God was captured. She named the child “Ichabod” – meaning “Where is the glory?”
Tragic. The baby is born, but the mother is gone. Happiness is nipped in the bud. Sadness is tinged with suppressed joy. Mixed emotions of guilt and grief rise and fall in unsettled hearts.
Recognising that life is unpredictable, can we be ready for it?
There is no substitute for trusting in God – understanding and accepting His perfect purpose and will for each of us. Life has meaning and is to be lived to the fullest.
Many of us are touched by the soul-stirring hymn “It is well with my soul”. So beautiful but it came out of a great tragedy. Horatio Spafford was a successful lawyer and a devout Christian who lost a fortune in the great Chicago fire of 1871. Around the same time, his beloved four-year-old son died of scarlet fever.
The family was under a lot of stress and his wife so overcome with grief that he decided to take the family to England for a vacation. Owing to a last minute business development, he was due to join them later. However, his four daughters all perished when the ship was involved in a collision while crossing the Atlantic Ocean. His wife, Anna, survived.
Spafford left immediately to join his wife. On the Atlantic crossing, the captain of the ship, aware of his tragedy, alerted him to the spot where the shipwreck had occurred. As Spafford thought about his young daughters, words of comfort and hope filled his heart and mind. It is said that Spafford returned to his cabin and penned the hymn, still sung today, as he passed over their watery grave. Barnabas Piper said, “The hymn does not diminish or gloss over pain and tragedy but rather proclaims that God is present in them and greater than them.”
When an unthinkable strikes, there is still a choice and a community (of family, friends and church) for support. We can only stay present and be grateful for what we have now. Choose God – His way is perfect (Ps 18:30). There is no substitute for trusting in God – understanding and accepting His perfect purpose and will for each of us. Life has meaning and is to be lived to the fullest.
And He’s not through with you yet. How do I know? You woke up this morning, right?
Dr Andrew Goh is the editor of Impact magazine.
VOL. 45 NO. 1 of IMPACT Magazine
THE ADSENCE OF THE BABY'S CRY
... GOD is still in the redeeming business by Lina Soh
WOUNDED BUT HEALED
... Three personal journeys by Ivan, Grace ad Cheryl
WHAT HAD THE CHURCH DONE FOR THESE LITTLE ONES?
by Chris Chin
A FUTURE REWRITTEN BY GOD
... Children beyond our dreams by Dickson Lim
... Given by God by Adelyn and Isaac Peter
A CROSS TO BEAR, A LOVE TO CHERISH
by Steven Tan
ROOTED IN CHRIST
... Called to be spiritual fathers and mothers by Lynette Shek
DON'T JUST WALK AWAY
... Loving our children as long as THEY live? by Kee Siew Poh
- When the unthinkable happens -
CHURCH AS FAMILY
... Journeying through life together by Darius Lee
FACING THE RELUNTANT REUNION
... Is "real church" still worth the effort? by Lynette Lim-Teagle