This is a question that most people grapple with from time to time and it has largely been on my mind this past week.
You see one of the best people I know — my Uncle Carl — had a very bad accident this week. While working on the wood lot with his son, his hand got caught in a log splitter. In the end the damage was so severe that his left hand had to be amputated.
Although no longer a young man, my uncle is very active and enjoys working with his hands. He is right handed but clearly the use of two hands was an important part of his former life and just as clearly that will have to change.
I was devastated when I heard the news and am still shaken by it — even more so when I think about how much worse the accident could have been. My whole family is upset, especially Uncle Carl’s wife and children, most notably my cousin John who was with him at the time.
As I worked through my worry and grief I kept asking myself that question: Why Do Bad Things Happen To Good People?
I know people often say this when tragedy occurs, but this is not simple lip service — it is fact. My uncle is a good man.
He is a very strong family man who is still married to his high school sweetheart. He loves his four children as well as his grandchildren and great-grandchildren. He was a devoted son when his parents were alive and is loved by his siblings, nieces and nephews. He and his wife opened their home to many children and young people over the years and continue to open their home and hearts whenever family, friends, or community require it.
He has worked hard all his life — using his hands to service the land and master machinery and using his broad shoulders and strong muscles to complete every task set before him.
He has played an important role in his community serving as a volunteer firefighter as well as a cornerstone of his church congregation.
Yes, he is a good man, but his life has not been easy though and I had to question why one more burden needed to be added to his heavy load.
Many Christians will say that God sends us trials to test us. And there might be some truth in that. Many of us are stronger than we think and it takes difficult challenges to make this clear. But I didn’t think this applied to my uncle — he has had many challenges over the course of his life and I think he has a good handle on his own strengths.
However loss also highlights what we have and perhaps have taken for granted. Yes, my uncle has had a difficult life but he has also had a tremendously rewarding one. I don’t think there really is much that my uncle wishes for or envies in others. Yes, his siblings may have more money and professional success, but I am confident that Carl would not trade his wife and family for that money any day of the week. And I secretly suspect that if he did in fact have more money that it would be spent in large part on his loved ones.
And he is greatly loved by a great many people. Not just by his immediate and extended family but by the many people whose lives he has touched. I know there are prayers on his behalf winging from coast to coast. I don’t think he’d trade that love and the respect that accompanies it for all the professional success his siblings have enjoyed.
We can grieve with him for the loss of his hand, but we can’t pity him when we look at the many gifts that God has given him.
What is more, when you step back and take a look at the man he is then you do not even notice the missing hand. He is so much more than the simple sum of his parts and in the end it is the size of his heart that one notices most.
It is important to note that it was his right hand that was preserved — the very hand he has extended so many times to others to offer love, friendship, and help.