Why Sarah? Why Us?

When Scott and I wake each morning it still seems incomprehensible that Sarah is gone.  Also incomprehensible is that 38 other students and adults on the very same bus have already made or will make full recoveries.  I have avoided seeing the crash footage for the most part and don’t want to know any more details than what I already know, but based on what I do know it is safe to say that the hand of God delivered those 38 other people on the bus from physical death.  Not only did He deliver those 38 people from physical death, He also miraculously delivered each of them from severe injury (severe injury meaning life altering spinal cord or traumatic brain injuries).  It is undeniable that the hand of God clearly protected those other 38 people, so why not Sarah? Why are we left grieving the absence of our daughter when the hand of God was clearly delivering others at that exact moment?  Did He abandon her and ultimately us as her family?

I suppose one could be tempted to think perhaps Scott and I had not prayed adequately for her safety, perhaps failure to pray on our part or hers is the reason she alone did not survive?  Thankfully, I can confidently report that is not the case at all.  Her journals testify she had prayed over this trip for months.  In addition to Scott’s and my prayers in the days and weeks preceding the trip, I was so fearful and burdened about Scott not driving the bus that I spent a particularly prolonged period in prayer the afternoon before the crash.  The Lord led me to Psalm 91 and I prayed it at length over my precious Sarah.  As I prayed through that Psalm as well as other scripture that afternoon, evening and the next morning before they left I walked through the process of entrusting her to Him once again.

I cried out to God that afternoon, praying verses 9-12 specifically.  I reminded the Lord that we as a family love Him with all of our hearts and that we have made Him our refuge.  I entreated Him to honor the prayer of this Psalm in our lives, that He would protect Sarah as she traveled, that He would set His angels guard around her, that they would bear her up in their hands and protect her from harm.

“For you have made the LORD, my refuge, Even the Most High, your dwelling place.  No evil will befall you, Nor will any plague come near your tent.  For He will give His angels charge concerning you, To guard you in all your ways.  They will bear you up in their hands, That you do not strike your foot against a stone.”  Psalm 91:9-12 [NASB]

I thought about that prayer after the accident, at first thought it broke my heart that He had apparently chosen to disregard the very prayer I felt He led me to lift to Him.  I had believed as I prayed Psalm 91 that He had specifically led me to it, that He led me to pray that prayer for my child, to entrust her to Him as I put her on that bus.  I obeyed in prayer but He had apparently not honored the very requests He led me to bring before Him, had He?  In the days following the accident I prayerfully went back to Psalm 91 and reread it once again.  God opened my eyes and spoke to my heart to show me how in His faithfulness He had inspired, heard and graciously answered the cry of Psalm 91 in the life of Sarah that day, though painfully not at all in the temporal way I had intended.

God did indeed set His angels guard around Sarah the day of the crash, just as I had petitioned through Psalm 91.  I believe that, though Satan was allowed to sift us by taking Sarah’s physical life, God Himself set limits on what was inflicted on her, sparing her physical pain and suffering, and for that we are all deeply grateful.  He has consoled me that He honored my prayer that His angels be set guard around her, and that she was no less held and protected than any other person on that bus.  He commanded them to bear her up in their hands, and I am confident they obediently did just that as they ushered her directly into His presence.

The day before she left, as I prayed Psalm 91 over her, verse 14 struck me, “Because he has loved Me, therefore I will deliver him; I will set him securely on high, because he has known My name” [NASB]. I remember requesting of the Lord as I prayed that day, “you know how much Sarah loves you, so please deliver her, keep her safe as only you can.”  However, as I look back I am struck by His promise there, that He “will set him securely on high,”  which of course reminds me of the verse Sarah chose for this mission trip, “Lead me to the rock that is higher than I” (Psalm 61:2).  Sarah was already crying out to Him and trusting Him to set her securely on high, safely upon the Rock that is higher than us. When His angels ushered her into His presence He fulfilled that promise, she was swiftly and safely led on high to “The Rock that is higher than I.”

As I prayed Psalm 91 for Sarah the day before the crash,  I prayed for His provision and abiding presence with her through the words of verse 15, “He will call upon Me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble; I will rescue him and honor him” [NASB].  How precious it is that even as sweet Sarah was on that bus she was doing exactly what this verse said.  She recorded in her journal that she was nervous and she called upon Him, seeking Him through His Word.  She even testified in her journal that He answered Her in her trouble at that moment.  He kept His promise in the Psalm prayed over her the day before, and He quickly answered her on that bus setting her at ease.  This mommy’s heart agonizes that her child was not rescued physically as every other mother’s child was on the bus that day.  Even so, I can testify without a doubt that He did “rescue” her from death, delivering her to Life everlasting through the blood of Jesus, and He has most definitely honored her.  The testimony of a quiet little girl few knew has been propelled around the globe by His faithfulness and for His glory.   She set her heart in the preceeding weeks and days to be on mission to be used by Him, saying she knew He would do “something incredible.”  Indeed, He has been faithful to do something incredible, and as He has brought glory to Himself through it, He has also graciously and mercifully honored our precious Sarah.

Verse 16, the final verse of Psalm 91 that I had prayed over Sarah before she left is,  “With a long life I will satisfy him And let him see My salvation” [NASB].  Of course my heart as I lifted this prayer to God was for Sarah’s physical life to be long, but I also acknowledge that is a finite perspective.  In spite of being painfully grieved at her absence, we rejoice that, like Sarah, we all know that this physical life is like a “wisp of smoke,” but the greatest is yet to come.  Praise God that His Word is clear that when we are in Christ Jesus we live even though we die (John 11:25-26).  Sarah is enjoying eternal life, the epitome of “long life,” she is no longer constrained by impending death, it is powerless over her.  Lastly and most importantly, God has allowed Sarah to see His salvation.  As she has seen her Savior and God face to face, her faith has become sight (Matthew 5:8; 1 Cor. 13:12).

So, Why Sarah?  Why us? I guess I don’t really have a good answer to those questions, except to answer with opposing questions, why not Sarah? Why not us?  God through His Word has prepared us, He has forewarned us that we live in a fallen world far from his original intent of perfection for us.  He told us in Genesis of the entry of sin and death into the world and He warns us throughout His Word that we will face trials and tribulations as a result.  He warns us, as Sarah pointed out in her last journal entry, that we have an adversary, the devil, who prowls around longing to devour, scheming and devising ways to steal, kill and destroy (1 Pet. 5:8, Eph. 6:11, John 10:10).  In the midst of all that bad news, though, God offers a sea of rich promises for us, all available through the blood of Jesus Christ.

I’ve shared before but will share again, that in the moments after learning of Sarah’s departure God clearly impressed on my heart that Satan had asked to sift us, and God spoke to my heart that if we will cling to Him, He will carry us through.  God clearly impressed this on my heart and ultimately on the heart of each member of our family.  We don’t know why Satan requested to sift us specifically, and we don’t know exactly why God said yes, but we accept and trust His decision.  Now we, like Peter, long to persevere through this excruciatingly fiery trial, through this sifting, and allow Him to not only use it to refine and sanctify us, but also to strengthen our brothers and sisters in Christ (Luke 22:31-32).  And so we share, and I write, knowing that He will redeem it in His time, that He will eventually exchange our ashes and mourning for gladness and praise.  May He enable us to stand as mighty oaks for Him, that He may be glorified.

To grant those who mourn in Zion, Giving them a garland instead of ashes, The oil of gladness instead of mourning, The mantle of praise instead of a spirit of fainting. So they will be called oaks of righteousness, The planting of the LORD, that He may be glorified. [Isa 61:3 NASB]

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Because she has loved Me, therefore I will deliver her; I will set her securely on high, because she has known My name.

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12 thoughts on “Why Sarah? Why Us?

  1. Sarah’s journey to the Rock is done. May we all have lives as influential and faithful as hers. Thank you for sharing your eternal perspectives; looking back from the higher rock.

  2. Thank you Karen so much for sharing your heart and all that the Lord is revealing to you through this. I want to testify that the Lord is using your family in mighty ways, more than your will probably ever know, certainly in my relationship with Him! He certainly has delivered Sweet Sarah and continues to honor her beautiful faith and love for the Lord just as His word promises. I struggle with worry/fear over my family versus standing on God’s word and promises for protection, so thank you for sharing your feelings and God’s answer to your questions. He is trustworthy and good even when we don’t understand fully His ways. We continue to pray for your family. To God be the Glory.

  3. Again, you testify to the love our Lord has for us and that He does not abandon us. He does not promise us an easy journey, but promises he will be there with us. Continuing to pray for you all!

  4. Dear Karen, thank you for these profound thoughts and precious scriptures. May the depth of your walk with our Father spur the rest of us on to also walk as passionately. I have recited Psalm 91 many times in the night as my heart was burdened. God has truly given us himself in his precious Word. May our Father continue to hold you all closely in his loving hands. “All the paths of the Lord are steadfast love and faithfulness to those who keep his covenants and his testimonies.” Psalm 25:10 ESV

  5. We lost our 15 year old son on May 7. Your writing has helped me tremendously. I will continually pray for you and your family.

  6. Thank you Karen. I am being strengthened through your sharing of Christ’s comfort during your excruciatingly painful, fiery trial. It sure seems to me that God IS being glorified in and through you; I will pray as you said, that He will eventually exchange you and your family’s ‘ashes and mourning for gladness and praise’.
    I have Sarah’s picture, from a paper, in my family room…I pray for you and your family.

  7. I needed this today, Karen – brought tears to my eyes. Have been perplexed as to why things in my life have not turned out like I had hoped – unanswered prayers, broken relationship.. Your blog has given me renewed hope and faith in God even though I may never understand why things have turned out this way. Thanks for using your gifts to inspire others and draw us closer to the Father. This may sound crazy, but singing hymns has helped lift me up – guess because Satan hates it when we praise our Lord, especially through our tears. May God hold your family securely in His loving Arms.

  8. Same here, tears in my eyes have been welling all throughout the time that I read this to Buddy. My stomach hurts because it has been clenched again and again as I read and tried to hold back my tears. Karen, Thank you for sharing all of this with others. I know it will make a great deal of difference. There are two ways we can deal with tragedies like the one you and Scott have been working hard to assimilate into your lives. You can be angry and let that anger consume you and hold your fists up to the Lord. As some would tell you, the Lord understands the anguish you feel. He can deal with your anger. OR you can deal with this terrible “chasm in your hearts.” (That is how my eight year old grandson and twin of Xander referred to the loss of his little brother, who was only goodness and light.) Crying out to the LORD for understanding as you and Scott have done and gleaning from the Word of the LORD, is the only way to approach your loss of such a special young lady. One of my other students who had sent one daughter off on a mission to China to work in an orphanage had just sent the younger one to join her that very day. He contacted me by messenger after he saw the post about Sarah. He was having a panic attack. She has since returned home safely, but her older sister is still there. We don’t always understand why the LORD chooses to make one child whole and full functioning and another to struggle to breathe, to swallow, to endure seizures, unable to walk, sit, stand, or speak. The Lord makes another incredibly bright, active, and funny beyond measure. We are HIS. L.B. Cowman writes in her book of devotions, STREAMS in the DESERT on February 12th of a man going to visit a school for deaf children. That person asks a seemingly cruel question of those children. “Why has God made me able to hear and speak, and made you deaf?” One can well imagine the scene. One child was said to have made her way to the chalkboard, and with a trembling lip and eyes brimming with tears wrote, “Yes, Father, for this was your good pleasure.” (Matt. 11:26). You and Scott are mature Christians and you have pondered this questions as many other parents who have lost children or seen them in such agonizing states of illnesses. We are left with the question that is asked repeatedly: Why? Why her? Why us? Why now! Why did THIS happen? I am so glad that we have God’s Word with us, to us, for us to fall back upon. It might not fully give us that answer. We may get glimpses of His reasons or we might not. I don’t think it will matter whether or not we get answers when we arrive to live with Him forever. There will be no tears in Heaven. Mrs. Cowman says the child who answered with the chalk upon the board claimed the eternal truth, “God is our Father.” She ended with a quote from Arthur Christopher Bacon, “I still believe that a day of understanding will come for each of us, however far away it may be. We will understand as we see the tragedies that today darken and dampen the presence of heave for us take their proper place in God’s great plan–a plan so overwhelming, magnificent, and joyful, we will laugh with wonder and delight.” That statement is a great deal too cheerful for this time in your lives.

    Tomorrow at 2 pm in Trussville, another mother will lay her six year-old daughter to rest after a car accident. She is the daughter of the sister of one of the young ladies whom I taught at Hewitt Elementary School. Her father Shawn Bowles was driving his daughter home on a Saturday when their car was struck from behind. Maggie laid in the hospital for almost a week before they took her off of life support. I have shared your writings with another former student (Scott’s age) who happens to serve as a Minister of Music at a nearby church.

    You and Scott were on my heart yesterday morning as I began my day. I have no right to call upon you and Scott now, but it is my hope that you might meet Kelly and Shawn Bowles one day and help each other. I said the other day that this summer has been one of tears and rain, more aptly one of a rain of tears for many people I know.

    I cried and cried as I was in the shower yesterday morning because the Lord laid it upon my heart to ask you and Scott to speak with Kelly and Shawn Bowles. Not immediately. Not by August. Not by September, but at a time in the future of your own choosing and by their acceptance. My young man who had the two daughters working at the orphanage in China told me earlier this year I am a connector of people, of ideas, of things that need to be shared. I have fought saying anything. I had wanted to call you and speak with you personally. As your former pastor warned you, people will ask things of you, they will say things to you that you are unprepared to hear or act upon. I said I would lay out the fleece. I feel the time is right and proper for me to mention this, but not to expect a thing. It is odd that all of this has happened in such a short time frame. It is odd that there is a connection between your two families. Kelly Roberts Bowles is the daughter of the principal who brought me to Rudd. Her sister was so angry with her father for taking me from the elementary school where I had been that she would not speak to him for months.

    Only you and Scott will know when and if this is right for you. You have taken up a journey of your own in writing. You have picked up Sarah’s banner. There is a balm in Madison and at Mt. Zion. You have a gift, Karen, unlike any I have read before now. God is using you to help others. I know that.

    This has happened during more than one summer. God has His reasons and I trust Him to know the why’s and wherefore’s. He tells us He knows the plans He has for us. They are for our good. I know you and Scott know you are not the only parents to have lost children. This is unique to each of you and to your daughters and to your parents. We grieve because we love so dearly.

    There is also a poem included with Mrs. Cowman’s devotional for February 12th.

    Chance has not brought this ill to me;
    It’s God’s own hand, so let it be.
    For He sees what I cannot see.
    There is a purpose for each pain,
    And He one day will make it plain
    That earthly loss is heavenly gain.
    Like as a piece of tapestry
    Viewed from the back appears to be
    Only threads tangled hopelessly;
    But in the front a picture fair
    Rewards the worker for his care,
    Proving his skill and patience rare.
    You are the Workman, I the frame.
    Lord, for the glory of Your Name,
    Perfect Your image on the same.

    I do not know if Mrs. Cowman wrote this. All she specified was “selected.”

    I have been told never allow anything to take the place of your Bible. To mine I add this book written so long ago by the wife of a missionary to China, STREAMS in the DESERT, which I have mailed to you. May it give you comfort as it has me. You and Scott remain in my prayers as do your parents and your daughters. I told Jane I would send a photo of me wearing the “SERVE LIKE SARAH” shirt Jane mailed to me. I am another who doesn’t feel worthy to wear it. Peace to you and yours.

  9. You and Scott provided eternal protection for Sarah and for your other three daughters by bringing them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. By encouraging Bible study, worship, and by modeling how Christians should live you model a path she chose to follow. I hope that parents who are following your writing will seize the opportunity to provide that direction for their children as well. Nothing else we can provide our families is important compared to the knowledge of our loving Savior. God bless you all as you continue your courageous, difficult journey through the fiery trial. God hold you in His righteous right hand daily.

  10. Karen, my heart goes out to you and your family. God will strengthen you day by day through the prayers of his people. I know, because we were pruned on June 7, when God called our barely 18yr youngest son home. It was sudden without the slightest clue that anything was going on. We just thought we’d be a threesome until the Rapture since Chris had Asperger’s. But we see it as a pruning in order to produce more growth and bear much fruit for His honor and His glory. Chris’ home going has opened more doors to share the gospel with the lost and helps us to more freely talk to believers about the return of the Lord for his Bride. Yes it is tragic in one sense but victorious in another. Sarah and my Chris are in the presence of Jesus Christ never to experience tragedy or sin again. So look up sister Karen. This is a very short separation from your precious daughter. Use her life and both hers and your testimony to add jewels in her crown .

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