This article was originally published by Hometown Journey Magazine.
Q: Why does God break us and allow bad stuff to happen?
On July 15, just a few weeks ago, lives were forever changed. I was just about to sit down at the long table in the conference room of our church building when I received the phone call. I told our staff that we wouldn’t be able to meet and asked them to pray. Moments later I left the building, unsure of exactly what I would be find when I reached my destination.
That was the day that Kameron Skinner, 15 years old, was in a car accident with her boyfriend, Aaron, and his mom, Nicol. Kameron and Nicol both lost their lives as a result of that accident. Aaron is broken and banged up, but—praise God—he is okay. This past April marked ten years that I’ve served our church as pastor, and this was the first time I’d been faced with a tragedy so sudden, so jarring.
Many times over those first few days I found myself in total disbelief.
Even now I can’t believe I’m writing this article.
Kameron, along with her sister Shelbie and her parents, David and Terry Beck, have been attending my church for ten years. In fact, their first Sunday to worship with us was my first Sunday serving as pastor. I had the privilege of baptizing them all and seeing each one of them grow into devoted disciples of the Lord Jesus.
Kameron was a faithful church attender, and at least over the last year or so I don’t think it was just because her parents made her come. She was always extremely attentive as I preached. I rarely saw her face because she was looking down taking copious notes. After the accident, her parents let me see some of the sermon notes she kept in one of her Bibles. Amazing stuff. You can tell what is important to someone by what they choose to write down when taking notes. Judging from what Kameron chose to write down, I feel very confident in saying that this young woman got it.
By “it” I mean the gospel: the good news that God has loved us through his Son, Jesus Christ, sending him to take our place as sinners, to bear the holy wrath of God for our sins, to pay the price for sin fully in our place, and to rise from the grave as the One who has defeated sin and death. The gospel promises that if we turn away from our sin and trust in what Jesus has done for us, his great work on the cross is applied to us and we are spiritually raised with him: forgiven, made new, indwelt by the Holy Spirit, sealed for eternity with God in heaven.
The gospel comes with many implications. One of them is laid out by the Apostle Paul as a rhetorical question in Romans 8:32, “He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?” In other words, if God was willing to give his only begotten Son for us, we should be confident that he will not withhold any other good thing from us, for nothing is as precious as the gift he gave in his Son!
That’s easy to say when life is good. But what about on July 15? Was that promise true on that day? When God takes someone who radiates such joy and who is loved so much by so many, can we believe then “that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28)?
I admit it is a hard question. I wrestled with it (still am, if I’m honest). I was wrestling with it the day it happened, sobbing and without any words to offer her hurting family. And then I got to read her sermon notes.
On June 15, exactly one month earlier, I was out of town for my ten year college reunion and my friend, Thomas Cheevers, filled the pulpit for me during our church’s Sunday worship service. He preached a sermon entitled “There is Hope” from Mark 5:21–43. It was three points long, and his last point printed in the bulletin that day read, “When all appears lost, Christ remains.” Under those words, in the white space left for notes, Kameron wrote the following:
God breaks us and lets bad stuff happen for a reason(s).
- There’s still sin in our world.
- To draw you closer to him.
- To strengthen your faith.
- God will always get your through it.
God doesn’t follow our expectations.
When I read those words, I wept again, this time tears of joyful hope.
Sin is still in our world. Listen, I’m not saying that Kameron’s death is at all a result of her own personal sin. That’s not the case. But the whole reason why suffering and death exists at all is because this world is sin-sick. Romans 8 tells us that all creation is groaning in bondage to sin, waiting for the day when it will be finally and fully set free from this captivity. In the mean time, these tragedies remind us that we’re not home yet. Kameron is at home. She is with her Savior and Lord. I have to remember that I’m the one away from the home God has prepared for his children.
I was closer to God on July 15 than I was on July 14. I found myself singing, “I need Thee! O, I need Thee! Every hour I need Thee!” and meaning those words in a way I had not felt in some time. I prayed more. I surrendered more. I asked for more. I felt my need for my heavenly Father in a way that I hadn’t in some time. And he showed up.
My faith was strengthened even as it was faltering. Did you know that sometimes even pastors doubt their faith? It’s true; we do. But even as my mind searched for answers to that hard question—“Why?”—in my heart my faith was being strengthened. God did this largely through my church family. They prayed for me, and I felt those prayers. They sent me texts and emails quoting the promises of God. They came together and pulled off a logistical miracle coordinating Kameron’s visitation and funeral service at our church. And beyond our church family, our community lent support. God shows his love powerfully through his people. As I watched people haul chairs and scrub carpet and run wires and bake casseroles and shed tears and lift up prayers and run errands just to have the chance to show one small act of love for Kameron and her family, I felt the warmth of God’s blazing love.
God is getting us all through it, because that’s what a faithful God does. My prayers are especially now with the families of Kameron and Nicol. Our job is now to be tools in the Master’s hand, to be channels of his grace, to offer them our prayers and our devotion, to comfort them with our love. And together we will walk with them through this valley of the shadow of death.
“God doesn’t follow our expectations.” That’s what Kameron wrote. And in this truth we have hope. I would have never expected God to so quickly, so abruptly allow a sweet young lady on fire for him to be taken from this world. Of course, I’d also never expect him give up his Son on a cross to save a wretch like me. I pray that this amazing grace will carry all who grieve today, tomorrow, and forever.
In lieu of usual remembrances, the families of Kameron Skinner and Nicol Campise have requested contributions may made to First Baptist Church Mont Belvieu, designated for the “Kameron Skinner Fund,” which will support students to attend Super Summer Camp who would otherwise be unable to go. One can give online by clicking here or by mailing contributions to First Baptist Church Mont Belvieu, P. O. Box 1167, Mont Belvieu, TX 77580.