Have you ever witnessed or experienced a tragedy? Something that was so life altering, it completely changed the direction of your life or the life of someone you love?
Allow me to share a story with you about a man who experienced such a tragedy and three amazing things he has taught me since his fall.
First, the Fall
Jeffrey was a healthy twenty-one-year-old cadet at the United States Air Force Academy. In high school, he was a cross country standout as well as a track and field star. While at the academy he was a member of the triathlon team. If you were to put Jeffrey’s favorite activities on a list it would be:
- More running
Then one day, his life changed forever.
In February of 2009, Jeffrey and a few friends went rock climbing at a local park in Colorado Springs. At one of the rocks, while repelling down, something malfunctioned with the ropes and he plunged five stories onto a concrete sidewalk.
As his panic-stricken friends searched for help, a man Jeffrey and his friends didn’t know named Jesus Rodriguez (yes, a man named Jesus!), a former Army medic, was able to help until the ambulance arrived.
Jeffrey suffered from fifty-three broken bones, four brain contusions, a partially severed spinal cord, and partial left leg paralysis. He endured a three-month hospital stay and nearly a year of reconstructive surgeries. He could have been in a vegetative state the rest of his life, but through a series of numerous miracles, Jeffrey is alive today.
The most extensive damage is to Jeffrey’s left leg. He only has partial control and has to wear a full leg brace in order to walk. Unless God intervenes, he’ll never be able to run again. He can also never return to military service. His number one passion and his main goal in life were shattered in one fell swoop.
Can you imagine? Just think about having your favorite hobby and the career you’ve always dreamed of being stripped away in an instant.
What Came Next
The first time I met Jeffrey was in 2012, three years after his fall. It was on a blind date, and less than a year later we were married. (It’s true! But that’s a story for another day.)
Even after three years, his life was still in the rebuilding process. He had to transfer to a local college that did not offer the degree he was pursuing at the Air Force Academy. He had to choose a new major and a new career path along with his new life. Through these challenges, Jeffrey has taught me so many lessons about God and tragedy. Here are a few of them.
It Matters What We Think
Despite being reminded of his fall every time he puts on his brace, Jeffrey has an unbelievably positive attitude. Jeffrey could sit and sulk every day about the fact he can no longer run and that he never achieved his dream of being an Air Force pilot. Instead, he chooses to take each day as a gift and a chance to impact others.
If you need help thinking positive, take a look at Philippians 4:8:
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.
Thinking about truth of God’s Word and aspects of life that are still good can help turn your mindset in a positive direction.
Be Thankful for What You’ve Got
Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you (1 Thess. 5:18).
Jeffrey still wishes he could run, and we still pray for God to restore his leg. However, he is thankful that he can walk. He is thankful he has a sound mind. Despite what went wrong, he realizes what still works right and focuses on that most of the time.
If you find yourself being negative, make a list of the gifts God has given you. It can do wonders for your mood and outlook.
Know That God Works Tragedy for Good
One of my favorite verses is Romans 8:28 that proclaims, “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.”
Despite this terrible situation, Jeffrey sees God working his fall for good in the following ways:
- When people see his brace, some will ask what happened and it gives him the opportunity to tell strangers about God.
- He can truly empathize with those struggling with a major tragedy.
- He is an inspiration to those who have seen his journey, and it has hopefully caused them to grow deeper in their faith. (I know mine has!)
Our Hope in Tragedy
Tragedy cannot keep us from the goodness of God.
No matter what situation you may be facing, know that God is there with you on the good days and in the midst of horrific tragedy. My husband is living, breathing, walking proof that tragedy cannot keep us from the goodness of God.
Have you or anyone you know ever experienced a tragedy like this?
Are there any particular things you think about during a hard time that lifts your spirit?
Any favorite Bible verse to help you consider what is good?
Let us know below!