Is God cruel when He allows a life to be lived for just a short time? From our earthly perspective, it is easy to jump to a conclusion that brings God into our own judgment. We wonder, how can anything good come from tragedy?
Three years ago, my friend Marc lost his 13-year-old son, Ethan, in a tragic accident. Because Ethan loved to share the gospel by passing out tracts, I asked my Facebook audience to join me in honoring Ethan by accepting a challenge from Marc encouraging people to witness to 13 people in 13 days. Many of you responded and engaged in the challenge. Here’s an email I recently received from Ethan’s father.

The children grow; they play, they learn, and another year has come and gone. Even though they are young, we still imagine just who they will become. We pray that in all that they do, they will do it for God’s Glory. We pray for their future spouse, their future children and look forward to that day when we ourselves become grandparents. We look forward to family reunions while we share how God is working in our lives in a location yet to be determined

The one thing we never imagined was losing a child, and yet that is the very thing that has happened. It’s not something that you can prepare for, and if you’ve gone through it, you understand that it’s not something that you get over. It’s a moment when time stood still yet trudged forward. A time when your life has been altered, never to return to what it once was and all the while, Christ is there, bringing an indescribable comfort.

People were trying to comfort us over the loss of Ethan, and we couldn’t help but notice the hopelessness that many of them had. What a strange feeling it was to have hope when you are the one grieving, and those that are trying to comfort you are the ones without hope. It reminds me of the hymn:

My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.
I dare not trust the sweetest frame,
But wholly trust in Jesus’ Name.

When darkness seems to hide His face,
I rest on His unchanging grace.
In every high and stormy gale,
My anchor holds within the veil.

His oath, His covenant, His blood,
Support me in the whelming flood.
When all around my soul gives way,
He then is all my Hope and Stay.

On Christ the solid Rock I stand,
All other ground is sinking sand.

During that difficult time, The Lord allowed our family to share that Hope with others. And as difficult as it may be to comprehend for some, even in the midst of such pain, our joy was and continues to remain in Jesus Christ. So much so, that we can’t imagine what it would be like to go through such an event without our Lord and Saviour.

We often think back of the things that Ethan did while he was here and like many kids, he had a vivid imagination. On one hand, he did many typical goofy, fun kid things and yet on the other, he had a deep compassion for those that didn’t know Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. Whether they were young or old, he would go out of his way to share the good news with people. My wife observed him one day when he was out playing with a friend, and while they were playing in the sand, Ethan was unashamedly using his toys to describe the gospel in a way that even his little friend could understand. Talk about convicting the rest of us!

The life we have here is only a brief moment in time. That time may be little for some, may be more for others, but it’s never much. And when such a tragedy takes place in your life, you are reminded to redeem the time, to bring glory to God in all that you do.

Even though we cannot begin to comprehend all that Ethan has seen, we often think of what he must be doing in the presence of God. Spending eternity with Jesus and all the believers that have gone on before. The amazing discussions! The amazing worship! The amazing life! What an amazing God!

And now we get to look forward to a family reunion in Heaven where we will forever be with Jesus.

“O death, where is your sting? O grave, where is your victory? The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” 1 Corinthians 15:55-57

Marc and Sarah are not alone. David wept for the life of his child and cried at the death of his rebellious son. Many of you reading this have had to ponder life and death at a time when, from our perspective, it was “not the right time”. I think of my friend Frank Zitzman who leads tours of the Creation Museum and Ark Encounter. He reflected on life after the loss of his 17-year-old son in an Answers in Genesis article Living After Loss. With Frank and Sue, as with Marc and Sarah, they saw through the tragedy into the realm of God’s Glory. This is the hope of Christianity.
This past month I had the privilege of meeting Marc and his family here in Pensacola. We had a great time and great fellowship and it was a blessing to be with a family that used a terrible tragedy to the Glory of God. There is no doubt that Ethan is still missed here on earth, but like Marc wrote, “when such a tragedy takes place in your life, you are reminded to redeem the time, to bring glory to God in all that you do.”

It is my prayer that Ethan’s Challenge will continue to live on. Life is fleeting. Tell someone about Jesus Christ today!