The day began like any other, but during the afternoon of September 18, 2015, the tiny heart of 22-month old Moriah Constance Wimberley would stop beating - to never start again. The Dunn Family released balloons the color of sunshine into the sky at the memorial service for 22-month old Moriah. If you see a yellow balloon floating in the sky, say a prayer. Somewhere a family is mourning the loss of a loved one. A yellow balloon has come to symbolize hope effortlessly drifting into the expansive blue abyss above.
Nothing can prepare us for when tragedy strikes. It sneaks up like a thief in the night. And while we cannot do anything to completely avoid tragedy, we are not destined to be destroyed by it. Our inability to prepare, to control, is only equaled by our ability to respond.
Do you recall Moses’ journey of leading the Israelites to the promise land? In the book of Deuteronomy, we learn the hardships and adversaries Moses dealt with. But most importantly, we see God’s faithfulness for His people. We all know the popular verse in Deuteronomy 31 where God tells Moses to tell the Israelites, “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid…For the Lord your God goes with you; He will never leave nor forsake you.” This is the truth of God’s promise to His people (and to us, His children): He will never leave us. Even when we are going through the worst day of our lives, the worst tragedy that our hearts have to endure, God is with us.
Deuteronomy 31 is about Moses passing the mantle to Joshua. Moses is already old, too old to lead the Israelites, but he is aware of the fear and hardships. Not only does he tell Joshua to not be afraid, but he tells him, “The Lord Himself goes before you and will be with you.”
When tragedy strikes, it is the way in which we respond that most determines the effect of the tragedy on our lives. There is room for sorrow. Plenty of room. There is room for anger and confusion. These are natural responses to tragedy. Necessary responses. We often try to gloss over the pain, thinking there is only room for either acknowledgement or healing. The truth is we have the space for both.
We cannot prepare ourselves for tragedy. But in its wake, we can keep breathing because our God is holding us in His hand. He will not leave us. He was big enough to part the Red Sea, big enough to guide Joshua to the Promise Land, and is still big enough to hold you through your tragedy. He is going before you, guiding and not letting go.
Listen to “Yellow Balloons” by David Dunn