Question: Dr. Dobson, I've often heard that God will not abandon us when we go through the fiery trial. But I don't know what that really means. He still lets us go through some hard times. What can we expect from Him in the stressful moments?
Answer: I may lack the words to describe what occurs to the faithful in times of personal crisis. Let it be said, simply, that there is often a quiet awareness in the midst of chaos that the Lord is there and is still in control. Millions of people have reported this persistent presence when life was systematically unraveling. On other occasions, He permits us to see evidence of His love at the critical moment of need.
I recall today that tragic time in 1987 when four very dear friends of mine were killed in a private-plane crash. We had been together the night before, and I had prayed for their safety on the journey home. They took off early the next morning on their way to Dallas but never made it. I can never forget that telephone call indicating that the wreckage had been found in a remote canyon--but there were no survivors! I loved those men like brothers, and I was staggered by the loss.
I was asked by two of the families to speak briefly at their loved ones' funeral. The untimely deaths of such vibrant and deeply loved men seemed to scream for an explanation. Where was God in their passing? Why did He let this happen? Why would He take such godly men from their families and leave them reeling in grief and pain? There were no answers to these agonizing questions, and I did not try to produce them. But I did say that God had not lost control of their lives and that He wanted us to trust Him when nothing made sense. His presence was very near.
As we exited the sanctuary that day, I stood talking with loved ones and friends who had gathered to say good-bye. Suddenly, someone pointed to the sky and exclaimed, "Look at that!" Suspended directly above the steeple was a small rainbow in the shape of a smile. There had been no precipitation that day and no more than a few fleecy clouds. Yet this beautiful little rainbow appeared above the church. We learned later that it had been hovering there through most of the funeral service. It was as though the Lord was saying to the grieving wives and children, "Be at peace. Your men are with Me, and all is well. I know you don't understand, but I want you to trust Me. I'm going to take care of you, and this rainbow is a sign to remember."
One of the people standing there had the presence of mind to take a photograph at that moment. When it was developed, we saw what no one had recognized at the time. There, cradled near the center of the rainbow, was a small private plane.
Cynics and nonbelievers will say the rainbow and the plane are coincidences that have no spiritual significance. They are entitled to their opinion. But for every member of four wounded families, and certainly for me, the Lord used that phenomenon to convey His peace to us all. He has fulfilled His promise to take care of those four courageous widows and their children.
There are other examples that beg to be shared. Sandra Lund and her family survived Hurricane Andrew in south Florida by spending the night in a shelter. Then they returned to their home the next morning to find everything destroyed except some of the interior walls. As a bewildered Sandra strolled through the rubble, she found a note she had taped in what had been the kitchen. It was still in place and read, "For I have learned in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content." On the remaining bathroom wall was another verse she had penned, "O give thanks to the Lord for He is good." Sandra got the message.
Examples of God's presence and assurance in times of tragedy would fill many books. This is the promise we find in Scripture: "Yet I am always with you; you hold me by my right hand. You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will take me into glory. Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever" (Psalm 73:23-26).