BY DR. RICHARD D. DOBBINS
When bad things happen to good people, we are left in shock and our hearts cry out to God for an understanding of why or how.
Bobby Petrocelli, a coach and high school teacher from Texas, is someone good who suffered an unbelievable tragedy.
Bobby and his wife Ava had a good life. They had been married about 2 years, had recently moved into their first house, and were happy and serving the Lord. One night they went to bed as usual, not suspecting that life would be changed. At about 12:30 a.m. a 3/4-ton pickup truck crashed through their bedroom wall at 70 miles an hour.
Bobby woke up in the dining room window. He was seriously injured. Ava was trapped under the truck in the living room–she had died of suffocation due to the mattress and bedding which had wrapped
tightly around her in the crash. The driver who had crashed through their house was drunk.
“It was a horrific experience,” Bobby said. “I was lying in my hospital bed the first night after it happened and found myself in shock, hoping I was having a terrible dream.”
Although a Although a person is usually in shock after such an such an experience, he does wake up and has to come to terms with the reality of what has happened. Bobby reached that place in the moment at
the funeral when he faced his wife’s burial.
“That’s when it really hit home,” he said. “In a moment I was going to be burying my wife. Yes, she was a Christian. Yes, she loved the Lord. Yes, I knew she was in heaven. But, this still meant taking a precious gift from me.”
During the weekend after the wreck and leading up to the Monday funeral service, Bobby said, people tried to comfort him. “Brothers in the Lord would come up and say, ‘Bobby, she’s with Jesus in heaven and
you should be happy.’ My thoughts were that I was ready to lay hands on them–and it had nothing to do with prayer! The Word of God tells me you mourn with those who mourn and rejoice (see Ro mans 12:15). But I learned you shouldn’t try to rejoice with somebody who’s mourning.”
He said that God spoke to him as he walked back to his car, telling Bobby that he would experience the most difficult times of his life, but that he would know God was with his wife.
It was a tremendous ray of hope from the Lord, Bobby added, as he looked back at the cemetery and saw 900 students who had driven 100 miles round trip from the school where he taught and coached. “And
somehow God was showing me even at the most devastating, tragic time of my life that there was a little, bright ray of hope.”
Bobby Petrocelli, whose wife had been taken away from him so tragically, knew from the start that somehow, for Christ’s sake, he would have to find a way to forgive the man whose drunken driving had
taken his wife and fumed his life upside down.
The man who wrecked the Petrocellis’ lives with his truck had been drinking most of the day in three different bars. He lived in the same neighborhood as they did and was on his way home. He served 4
months in jail. His wife left him, his family left him, and he lost his job. So he, too, experienced tragedy–reaping the fruit of his lifestyle.
One of the important things we Christians can learn from Bobby Petrocelli’s experiences is that grief is a natural, important part of dealing with tragedy. We must, as the Scripture says, rejoice with those who rejoice and mourn with those who mourn–and we must not confuse the process. Be careful and use some wisdom trying to comfort people who are mourning. Do not try to focus on something you think will cause them to rejoice, because when they are mourning, they need to mourn.
Many times, just being there, like the 900 students were for Coach Petrocelli, is enough. Let them know you are praying for them.
There are cases referred to as “aggravated grief,” cases where the circumstances are so terrible that mourning just takes longer than we might think.
Despite the awful tragedy surrounding his wife Ava’s death, Bobby Petrocelli knew God was not the one to blame.
“I try to break everything I do in life down into basic fundamentals,” he explained. “And the two simple fundamentals are this: 1) there is a God who loves and adores us; we are to love Him and live in harmony with each other; and, 2) there is an adversary called Satan. the devil; and his goal is to steal, to kill and to destroy. God gives us the choice to follow Him or to choose the devil. The man who wrecked his truck into my house chose to drink, and what you sow you’re going to reap.”
Bobby added that, although he does not understand why this tragedy happened to him, he chooses to trust God and not fill his life with self-destructive resentment and hatred for the man who caused it or the circumstances of his life.
God has brought rejoicing into Bobby Petrocelli’s life now. Within 4 years after Ava was killed, he was remarried. “And I have two beautiful sons that God has blessed me with.”
Just as Bobby discovered, the Bible makes it very clear that the devil is a real person. And this enemy knows how to get into our lives and try to destroy us.
So bad things are going to happen to us, regardless of how we live. It is in whom we trust and how we deal with our own attitudes once those bad things happen to us that determines whether we come out of them bitter or better.
Bobby Petrocelli learned that there is no future in trying to “get even” or wreak vengeance when someone harms us. People who want to get even really turn out to be the losers in any tragedy. Resentment really is a canker. It becomes the cancer of the soul. All the resentment we harbor toward people who hurt us really hurts only us.
Adrenaline, a powerful chemical, runs rampant in our blood stream when we harbor resentment and desire revenge. It constricts the arteries, the heart works much harder, and we experience physiological responses that have a tremendously destructive impact on our health and can even shorten our lives.
We must do as Bobby did when others wrong us–surrender our resentments and hatred to the Lord and allow the Lord to give us the capacity to forgive. There are no simple answers to the question of why bad things happen to good people. But these truths are worth considering:
If bad things never happened to good people, it would mean that God would have to deprive human beings of the freedom of choice.
If He were to forbid such things from happening, we would have no freedom in the universe.
God brings redemption and good even out of bad things that happen. Even though evil men took the life of God’s Son, in His redemptive providence God was able to bring about good–good for the world, good
for the church, good in our lives when evil happens.
A good philosophy of life is to prepare for the worst but hope for the best. Never close the window of hope, even in the worst tragedy. Hope is the seedbed of faith. If we have lost our hope, we have closed the door on the possibility of miracles. Nothing is more important than the attitudes you have toward life. Paul says this in Philippians 4:8: “Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things.” The storms of life are going to come and the winds will blow. If your house is built on a set of negative, destructive attitudes, the tragedy will be compounded.
But a life built upon the solid foundation of the Lord Jesus Christ will stand the test of pain, the test of storms, the tests of life.
THE ABOVE MATERIAL WAS PUBLISHED BY GUIDELINES FOR GOOD LIVING, VOL. IV, NO. 42. THIS MATERIAL IS COPYRIGHTED AND MAY BE USED FOR STUDY & RESEARCH PURPOSES ONLY.