TobyMac’s Son’s Death Reminds Us That Faith Doesn’t Protect Us From Pain
I just read an article that made the cause of TobyMac’s son’s death public. Since his passing I have found myself torn, wondering, “Should the public know or not?” Toby’s career has made his life very public; it’s the nature of the music industry. When I worked with him as his personal manager in the early days, that was the goal. He was supposed to be on the stage sharing his heart and his songs. The way to do it well was to become a recognizable name.
When we were young and building the early stages of his music, we didn’t really think life would touch us. At least not in the ways that it has years later. I think we believed that as Christians, surely, some of the heartbreak would pass over us. We were striving to serve a faithful God who, by his very nature, loves us perfectly and wants the best for us.
What I believe we didn’t understand is that no matter how committed we are or how passionately we proclaim truth and compassion, we still live in a fallen world. And we will feel the effects of it.
I felt it when my father, a man who proclaimed his faith as long as I can remember, committed suicide. It seemed as if he failed in the belief he held. The words at his memorial, “Don’t mistake the man for the moment,” became a banner cry in my life.
We feel it when our daughters become pregnant. When our sons pursue drugs. When cancer strikes the young mom who is taken from her children who need her in their lives. In all of these and in so many other heartbreaks, we wonder why.
No matter how committed we are or how passionately we proclaim truth and compassion, we still live in a fallen world.
When we are young, we often believe if we do everything right then these things won’t happen. Our faith will exempt us from these roads that we see others traverse. As we experience life, we realize that is far from true. An honest reading about the humans in God’s word spells this out in living color. They, as well as those they loved, experienced life, all of life.
Our natural response is to place blame. On ourselves—what did we do or not do that would have made the difference? On the culture—surely it had a place in what happened or the surrounding circumstances. Or, we may be angry toward the one whose action caused such grave results. I know that was true for me when my dad died.
Or, are we angry at the God we have served who could have prevented it? Weren’t we faithful enough? Didn’t we choose to follow him with all we are? Doesn’t that count for something?
What I know now is this: no matter what we do, this world will bring heartache because of the state it is in. The sin that entered it when the first of us disobeyed is still present, and it will have an impact on our children, our marriages, and our health.
When it does, we are not less Christian; our faith is no less secure. Nor does it make us more of a Christian when we are the one on the outside who is able to say that our family escaped the problems others face.
What real-life shows us is this: none of us is exempt from the heartbreak Toby and Amanda are facing. Not one of us will escape this earth unscathed by the pain it can bring. Our God warned us that pain would come. “I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth, you will have many trials and sorrows.” Yet he didn’t end that revelation there, “But take heart, because I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).
No shame or guilt should be carried by the heartbroken. And neither should we condemn or judge. Instead, we must step back and remember John Bradford’s famous words, “there but for the grace of God, go I.” Let us love one another, standing together side-by-side. Facing what we didn’t see coming and looking beyond. To the hope of our faith, to a new world, a new life, “where tears will be no more.”
But for today, hold those you love dear. Stand with the prodigals, offer hope to the hopeless. Never give up, for “weeping may last through the night, but joy comes with the morning” (Psalm 30:5).
“Writing this song felt like an honest confession of the questions, pain, anger, doubt, mercy, and promise that describes the journey I’m probably only beginning. One thing I know is that I am not alone. God didn’t promise us a life of no pain or even tragic death, but He did promise He would never leave us or forsake us. And I’m holding dearly to that promise for my son as well as myself.” – Toby
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Is your faith being challenged by life? Here’s an episode from This Grit and Grace Life podcast that might help: How to Handle Real-Life Struggles That Challenge Your Faith – 112!
Image from USA Today