Seth, Tragedy, and God


I think whenever I see Seth in my mind, I will picture him with a smile on his face. That’s the way I remember him on Sunday, before he was killed that afternoon. He was standing  close to the pew in front of me chatting with some of the rest of the intermediate Sunday school boys.

When the youth group was over at the Miggiani’s house for the singing Sunday evening recently, he seemed like an enjoyable kid to be around. He and his siblings showed and played for us their various instruments and some of us admired the new little Taylor acoustic guitar that Seth had gotten recently. I can’t imagine how much his siblings and parents will miss him.

I personally didn’t know him that well. He was friends and went to school with my younger brothers Darren and Travis. I cannot comprehend the sorrow they and the rest of their peers at school feel after going to school with him the previous week and knowing they will never again enjoy what he added to life at school. It’s something I never experienced.

They won’t have another chance to play games with him at recess. I’m sure the last games they played, the last activities they worked on together, the last laughs they shared will be treasured memories in their hearts. I think those memories will be forever enshrined in their hearts as personal memorials to the Seth that once worked, laughed, and played with them every week at school.


For me, this weekend has had a surreal quality to it. I don’t think the depth of the tragedy will strike me completely until the funeral. I have not seen the grief of his family. My parents are pretty close to his parents and they have told me quite a bit about it.

The way in which it struck closest to home for me was the fact that a good friend of mine, a guy in my youth group, was driving the tractor when the accident happened that took Seth’s life. To respect his privacy I won’t go into detail about my conversation with him. I will say however that I did my best to share his pain and to understand how he feels. It feels pathetic to say that. I cannot possibly come close to knowing the terrible pain he is feeling right now without having experienced the same thing. I hope I never have to.

I feel strange right now–a melting pot of numb emotions, I guess. That’s about the best I can describe myself at the moment. I am currently teaching in Copeland, Kansas. I was at home for the weekend, but left Monday afternoon. It feels strange because with everything that happened, I feel like I should be at home.

Times like this make me remember what the important things in life are–God and people. I wish I could be with my family, my church, and my youth group as they all cope with varying degrees of grief and as they work together to focus on God through the pain and tears. I wish I could be there for my friend, who is trying to cope with the pain and guilt of accidently taking a life.

God & An Attempt At Conclusion

How do you really conclude thoughts like this? Can I really conclude something I am so far from understanding? Even though my thoughts are whirling about and running into each other, through the confusion, I have come to a few conclusions.

First of all, I know that God is still good. I feel weird saying that. I say I feel weird because I know that it’s much easier for me say that than it is for people that are directly affected by the situation.

God is good because He is perfect. He knows everything and everything is His own. God does not ask our permission. He is perfection and He carries out His purposes at the perfect time, in the perfect way, and precisely when He plans to. He is never early or late and He never makes mistakes.

We don’t understand God. Sometimes it would be nice if we could, but I am glad that we don’t. If we understood God completely, would it be worth serving Him? Why should we serve someone that is no bigger than us? God wouldn’t really be God at all if we understood everything about Him. How can our limited and finite minds even begin to figure out someone who is so limitless and infinite?

God decided that it was time to take Seth home. He wanted to have Seth to be in heaven with Him. From my point of view, Seth should have lived many more years. But what can I say? He is better off than I am. Seth is experiencing perfect joy, beauty, and happiness in ways I can’t even begin to comprehend with my earthly mind. He won’t ever be sick, or hungry, or unhappy in any way. The stuff of this life doesn’t compare.

I also know that God will use this situation to glorify Himself. That’s the amazing thing about God. He can redeem some really nasty situations and make beautiful things out of them. How does He do it?

Right now, it’s beyond me how anything about this situation could be good enough to redeem it. But God has shown time and again, that He can. If we just cooperate with Him, He will show us amazing things. The question is not: Will He glorify Himself? The question is: Will we put aside our questions and doubts and allow Him to make us a part of that glorification? He will work through us if we let Him.

What Is God Saying?

Finally, I am sure that whenever stuff like this happens, God is trying to tell us something. What is He trying to say through Seth’s passing? I won’t pretend to know all of what He is saying. Through the confusion though, I think I may have picked up a few.

I think He wants us to know that life is sacred–that it is a gift He has given every person. It His to give, and His to take. Our days are numbered by our Creator. He knows before we are born how long we will live. None of us is guaranteed a tomorrow. We don’t know when God has decided our time is up. I think He is saying, “Life is short. Don’t waste it living for yourself.” Seth didn’t waste his life. He gave it to God. That’s why he’s in heaven.

He wants us to love each other. People are the most important thing on the entire planet. He wants us to learn that we work best when we help each other through things like this. That is the beauty of the way the body of Christ works. When one member hurts the whole body feels it. We work together to help the healing of the injured member. Christ knew what He was doing when He started the Church. People need other people and healing won’t be complete if we’re not there for each other–to share the pain. To me, He says, “Love each other. Life’s too short to spend any of it hating.”

Things like this help us know what is important. It’s interesting to observe that often differences in people’s opinions and beliefs stop mattering very much when something horrible happens. We put aside our differences and help out where we can. We realize that we often do agree about the most important things. It’s tough for us to help properly and do our jobs when we allow little disagreements to irritate us. Those things suddenly seem insignificant compared to the task at hand. I think He’s saying, “Help each other. Life is too short to spend any of it hindering the body.”

These are the things that have been running through my head since Sunday evening. It took me a while to sort enough of them out to write about them. Case and point: last night I tried to write, but couldn’t, so I stopped. I still feel confused but it was time to get some of this stuff written down. Apologies if it raises more questions than answers them but I felt like it was time. Feel free to comment.


5 comments on “Seth, Tragedy, and God

  1. Andrea Mast says:

    I echo what you said about healing only taking place when people band together and share the pain. Tragedy opens our eyes to what is truly lasting and important. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  2. I think we experience the same thing: writing seems necessary to processing events like this adequately. It’s worth it, even if no one reads it, but yours was worth reading.


  3. Randall Nisly says:

    Well stated, RJ. I think you came to some very good conclusions.

  4. Carla Barkman says:

    Very well stated…I’ve been thinking about that alot the last while w/ Amber’s death last week. I don’t understand and yet I believe that God is good even when my circumstances don’t feel good.

  5. Connie says:

    Those are some really good thoughts… put into words some of the things that have been flying around in my mind. Isn’t it wonderful that we can keep on trusting God’s heart even though we CANNOT understand?!?

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