Several days ago, we had some sleet and ice that caused very slippery conditions on the streets and driveways. We were expecting a delivery and so I went out and started to clear off the driveway. Of course, when I was finished, I brought out the salt spreader and was about to fill it when I decided to make sure that everything worked before I began.
Sure enough, it wouldn’t work – the cable that controlled the flow of salt out of the spreader was rusted shut – completely. In other words, no salt would pass through the bottom of the spreader to the ground. I was frustrated.
Throughout the whole experience, I was reminded of the worst snowstorm that I was ever involved in. It was in Chicago – January 26th and 27th, 1967. That’s 54 years ago yesterday. It was a horrible storm. The temperature was 15-20 degrees, the wind was 53 miles an hour and more than 23″ of snow fell during the storm. The city was absolutely crippled. We have all seen photos of bad storms and this one was worse than you can imagine.
I remember Dad and I walking down the street to the local small grocery store in the hopes of stocking up on staples. It was only a block away or so and we were exhausted when we got there. The walk home with some groceries was even worse. And it was days before the streets were cleared and things started to return to normal.
During this time my brother, Doug, and I decided to make some extra money shoveling snow. We got a job around the corner from our house. We were going to shovel a two car driveway from the house to the street – it was impassable. This was one of those times when the only way to win the race was to go slow and steady. It was backbreaking work. I was thirteen and Doug as twelve at the time.
There was a family on the next block who had a very sick child – something with the child’s nervous system that didn’t function right. She didn’t feel pain and so she couldn’t express when something was wrong – she didn’t feel anything to warn her. Imagine that… no headaches or pain from broken bones; or even a stomach ache. Anyway, we noticed the girl’s parents carrying her down the street in front of the home that we were shoveling.
They were walking as fast as they could and looked like they were on a mission. They were… to the hospital with their daughter. The closest hospital, Little Company of Mary Hospital, was about 1.5 miles away – a huge distance carrying a child in a brutal snowstorm. It turned out that there wasn’t a rush. We later learned that the young girl had died at home earlier that morning and her parents were taking her to find out what happened. It was one of the worst tragedies we had during our childhood.
I have experienced other horrible events during my life – but thankfully, none of them have happened to our own family. And none have stuck with me as vividly as this singular event that is permanently etched in my mind. Maybe it is because we knew the family and when crises hit, people band together to help one another. Maybe it was because I was tired from shoveling and then watched this couple carrying their child in a brutal storm. Whatever it was, it made a deep impression on me.
The good news is that God, the Creator of everything, has a plan for each of us. And there is a special place in heaven for those children who are too young to profess their own faith. I am sure that is what happened to that innocent little girl. Of course, God had already ordained the number of days for her and we know that God’s plan will ultimately prevail. Our verse for tonight comes from Dr. Luke, the author of the Gospel that bears his name.
The good Dr. Luke tells us, in Luke 18:16, “But Jesus called the children to him and said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” I have derived great comfort from this verse throughout the years when I have heard of young children who have passed away.
My encouragement this evening is that we will all experience hardships and grief. God already knows this as He is the architect of our lives – even knowing each hair on our heads. My prayer is that when we endure hardships, we must still turn to the Father and His Son for comfort and understanding. And when we put our trust in God, especially during the exceptionally difficult crises we all face, we will be sustained with divine strength that can help us get through these almost unendurable times. Have a great day in the Lord, grace and peace…