Finding Hope in the Midst of Tragedy

By BJ Rudge, Ph.D.

This has been a very sad and difficult week for the community that I live in. This past Sunday (February 10th), four high school students from our school district were in a severe accident. The accident led to the tragic death of two of the students. As I write this blog, the other two students are in the hospital dealing with a range of injuries. This tragic event has impacted me personally as my family knew these girls and, being the high school girls’ soccer coach, I use to coach one of the girls who died. In simplistic terms, this has been an emotionally difficult situation to deal with as it has brought me face to face with the reality that no one is immune from the tragedies of life. But despite this reality, it is in these moments where we learn the most valuable life lessons. For instance, I was reminded of the importance of community. As I spent time at the school on Monday talking with faculty and students, I was encouraged and comforted to see everyone come together as one. Despite our differences, there was singularity in purpose. A powerful reminder that not only do we need the support and love of others, but we also need to return that same love and support. We need to bear each other’s burdens. I hope and pray that you have others in your life that are helping you bear your burdens, and in return you are coming alongside them to bear theirs.

Along with the idea of community, this situation has reminded me of the importance of being intentional with my loved ones: to never walk away angry, or let the sun go down without letting them know how much I love them. I need to live each moment with appreciation for the time that I have with my family and friends. Life can truly change in a moment, so we all need to let others know, through both our words and actions, how much they mean to us.

A final impression that I have gained from this tragedy is how important it is to live our lives with purpose. As I stood watching the students flow into the room that was set up at the school for them to come and grieve, I was overwhelmed to hear their stories about how their lives were enriched by knowing the girls who had died. One particular staff member told me that when they first moved here, her daughters had a hard time adjusting to their new surroundings, but that the transition was made easier because one of the girls who had died introduced herself to her daughters and made them feel valued and accepted. This is a great reminder how just a simple word and action can make the difference in the lives of others. While our school has lost two remarkable young ladies, their memories will live on through those they impacted. Their lives were taken from us way too early but they leave a legacy that will continue for years to come.

In the uncertainty of this tragedy, I do see God actively involved. From the love and support of surrounding communities to the unity displayed by our faculty and students, I see God working in and through each one of us. As in any tragedy, the WHY will continue to knock us off our feet, but it is the WHO that will enable us to stand back up. Though our faith in Jesus Christ is shaken, it will not be destroyed.  His loving arms are embracing our community and bringing comfort and hope in our time of pain and sorrow.

God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble (Psalm 46:1).

Powerful and Effective Prayer

“The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and wonderful results.” James 5:16

by BJ Rudge, Ph.D.

PrayerBookCoverDraftRev_1Do you desire to be a man or woman of great faith? Do you want God to use your life so as to leave a lasting legacy? I recently read a book entitled 50 People Every Christian Should Know. This book presents the biographies of 50 men and women who have left a lasting impression upon the Christian faith. As I read about their lives, I discovered several common traits which defined how they lived. One of these traits was that they were people of prayer. They all understood that their effectiveness in serving God was directly connected to the time they spent on their knees. Just like these individuals of the past, God wants to take ordinary people today and raise up another generation of spiritual giants whose lives are marked by powerful and effective prayer.

After calling his readers to pray in times of trouble and sickness, and to confess their sins one to another, James asserts that, “The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much” (James 5:16). To illustrate, James refers to the prophet Elijah as an example of a person who had an effective prayer life. James tells us that Elijah’s prayers both began and ended a three-and-a-half year drought on the nation of Israel (see 1 Kings 17 and 18). James also reminds us that Elijah was a man with a nature just like us (James 5:17). In other words, according to Donald W. Burdick, “He [Elijah] had no superhuman powers; he was by nature a human being and nothing more. However, when he prayed ‘that it would not rain … it did not rain’…so James assures his readers that such answers to prayer are within the reach of any believer.”

If it is true that we can have a powerful prayer life like the prophet Elijah, then the obvious question is, “How?” Many writers propose answers to this question by suggesting we do things such as recite a verse or a word repeatedly, sit in silence (an altered state of consciousness), or walk a prayer circle. Prayer, however, is not some magical incantation or manipulative tool we can use to control God. As Jesus Himself taught,

And when you are praying, do not use meaningless repetitions as the Gentiles do, for they suppose that they will be heard for their many words (Matthew 6:7).

Instead, prayer is communicating with God through means by which He has revealed in His word. Recognizing that we are dependent upon the Bible to understand prayer, in upcoming newsletters I will be sharing biblical principles that can enable any believer to have a powerful and effective prayer life just like Elijah.