Columnists > Soul Food

Our certain hope

Just because God's grace is sometimes invisible, it's not impossible

Issue: "Children of Chernobyl," April 13, 1996

Trina woke with a start, sucking in her breath and trying to calm her heart. It was the same nightmare, for the third time. Been there, done that, she told herself trying to get back to sleep. The next day she mentioned it to her mother: I am driving a car. It is night. I see headlights coming. Everything is normal. Then just before we meet, the car crosses the center line aimed right at me. I try to avoid it. I am slamming on the brakes and screaming, but it keeps coming all the way to my seat. That's when I wake up.

Three weeks later Trina was driving home from work. It was dark and rainy. She met a driver who was having a heart attack. His car collided with hers and she was killed instantly. She was 18 years old.

A few days later, I learned of this accident from Trina's aunt. Her grief was compounded by several things. Trina was an only daughter, an only niece, and had made no profession of faith. Was there any hope that Trina could be with the Lord?

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We don't know, but we do hope because nothing, not even sudden accidents, can thwart God's grace in redemption. He doesn't always allow us to glimpse evidences of his work in another's life. Trina's salvation depends on grace, not on our having heard her confess Christ. Even in the final seconds of life as the body cools, there could be time to repent. It is not impossible.

Sometimes God is pleased to assure us of his faithfulness during circumstances completely beyond our control. On the night Trina was killed, a woman witnessed the accident. She got out of her car to check on the victims. The man was unreachable, and Trina was unnaturally draped across the front seat, her hand reaching for the opposite door. She had no pulse. Still, Dellarosa leaned in through the broken glass and grasped Trina's hand in both her own. Della assured Trina she would not leave until help came. Then Della lovingly prayed and quoted Scripture to this young woman she had never met. Only when the ambulance arrived did she finally let Trina go.

This does not prove that Trina came to faith during those final moments of her life, but it does remind us of something far more important-whether we are allowed to see God at work or not, he remains faithful. We can trust him with Trina's soul and say with Abraham, "Will not the Judge of all the earth do right?" (Genesis 18:25).

My grandfather died in his chair after lunch on Dec. 12, 1980. He sat with clocks all around his feet-he was making them for Christmas gifts that year. An open Bible sat on the stand beside him. He had made no profession of faith. In fact, he was quite hostile to Christianity. So what was the Bible doing there? My grandmother, who was a Christian, hadn't put it there. She hadn't the time because after she discovered him dead, she called my mother, and then died from shock before my mother arrived.

When Christ was on the cross he told one of the thieves hanging beside him: This day you shall be with me in paradise. The thief didn't have time to get down off the cross and pay restitution to his victims, or apologize to his mother for ruining her dreams. Salvation is a gift; it requires no work from us. We receive it by faith alone.

It wasn't until my grandfather died that I came to love this passage so much. Normally we bristle a little when people get something for nothing. We think they should pay. We want them to work and sweat a little. No one deserves something for nothing. But when it comes to eternal salvation-none of us deserves anything.

I would give a lot to see my grandfather in heaven. My friend feels the same about Trina. Sometimes we can see evidences of grace, sometimes not. Thankfully, God's grace does not depend on our awareness of it. Salvation is freely bestowed on those whom God has chosen according to his time, not ours. It doesn't matter whether we experience it for a lifetime or one nanosecond. God will judge rightly by every person because he is faithful. This is my certain hope.

John W. Alexander
John W. Alexander

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