About the Author
The late ISABEL FLEECE was married to Dr. Allen Fleece in 1934, and together they ministered in three churches as pastor and wife. Mrs. Fleece is the author of Not By Accident: What I Learned from my Son¿s Untimely Death. Many have come to love Isabel for her wise council and for her ministry to grieving parents.
Read an Excerpt
Not by Accident
What I Learned from My Son's Untimely Death
By Isabel Fleece
Moody PublishersCopyright © 2000 Isabel Fleece
All rights reserved.
I LEARNED ...
that God is good and that all things work together for good to them that love Him.
In that first moment, when word came that there had been an accident—a bad accident—we knelt in anguished prayer. I could only say, "Lord, let it be good for everyone concerned. Let it be as good, Lord, as it can possibly be." And it was. Before I called He answered. It was good for Ned: He went immediately to be with Christ. It was good for Katherine, his eleven-year-old cousin who rode with him: She was not seriously injured. There was no other car or person involved, and that was good. And then, strangely, it was good for us. For in the eternal greatness of our Father's love this is one of the "all things" that is working together for our good.
"Oh how great is thy goodness, which thou hast laid up for them that fear thee" (Psalm 31:19).CHAPTER 2
I LEARNED ...
that God is fully trustworthy and that in the vast realm of His knowledge and wisdom there is no room for the faithless question, "Why?" With God there is no "if" If I had not sent Ned on the errand, if we had not let him have his driver's license, if we had never gone to the beach, if he had only gone elsewhere for the summer as he had once considered. An endless line of "ifs" could stretch before us — an "if" for every moment of our lives. If we had only done it differently, But up above each "if" and beyond each finite thought stands One who is the eternal God, and from the realm of His abode He sees the end from the beginning and charts the course that leads us. His purposes are sure, His will absolute, His foreknowledge supreme. Before the foundation of the world His plan was made, and no unexpected accident has ever taken Him by surprise. His hand—His loving and almighty hand—was in control of that car that day. And when the sixteen years of Ned's bright life on earth were completed, God took him home where now a brighter life has begun.
"O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out!" (Romans 11:33).CHAPTER 3
I LEARNED ...
that all the things I have believed are true. Since becoming a Christian years ago, I have believed in the Bible—that it is the inspired, holy Word of God, and that God has not harbored any error in its pages. I have read the Word and trusted it. I have had no doubts concerning God and Christ, His blessed Son and our Savior. I have stood in this same place with many heartsick souls and read to them the Word of God and prayed, believing God when He said, "My grace is sufficient" (2 Corinthians 12:9), and trusting Him to fulfill His Word when He said, "I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee" (Hebrews 13:5); "Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid" (John 14:27). John 15:26 speaks of the Comforter, "whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth."
But in the hours that followed Ned's call home, I suddenly and silently found an awakening within my soul that declared that all the things I had believed true, were true. The silence of eternity crept upon my waiting soul, and I was stilled before its limitless ages. Time rolled before me in its endless sea, and my soul moved to touch the fringes of the firmament, while my being bowed in quiet reverence to the greatness of God.
God seemed not far away but near, and in His mercy and faithfulness He reached across the universe to touch my life that I might acknowledge the magnitude of His power. All that God is overcame the little that man is, and my spirit was released into the infinite ways of the almighty One.
Whither shall I go from thy spirit? or whither shall I flee from thy presence? If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there: if I make my bed in hell, behold, thou art there. If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea; even there shall thy hand lead me, and thy right hand shall hold me. (Psalm 139:7–10)
There was no psychological release of prayer that somehow vaguely stilled my heart that day. Let scientists sneer, agnostic souls contemptuously lay their man-made claims to peace of mind through the universal tuning of their spirits to the meter of transcending thought. My hope was "built on nothing less than Jesus' blood and righteousness"; and in that hour of my great need all the power of heaven was ready at God's command. A supernatural summons from the throne of God let angels speed their way to minister by my side, and the Holy Spirit came and comforted me.CHAPTER 4
I LEARNED ...
that the Word of God is an anchor to the soul, and to flee to it is to find strong consolation from God. As the hours dragged their weary way across the stillness of that first night, it seemed as if time had ceased, and we were held suspended in deep despair. No rest or sleep, no quietness or light—nothing but the deep, deep pain—nothing but that and God. As our senses began to take in what had happened, and we began to believe that Ned was gone, I closed my eyes and asked for help. And the great Lover of our souls, our blessed Savior who is Himself the Eternal Word, poured into my listening heart the sweetness of the Word of God, and I was quickened. It was my comfort in affliction, and each soothing sentence became sweet to my taste. I did not take a Bible in my hands and read it, but I lay in quietness and listened. And it was as though Jesus Himself drew near and spoke to me, for my mind pored over verse after verse.
The Shepherd's Psalm was there, and as I walked through the strange valley of the shadow of death I knew the comfort of His rod and His staff.
The Holy Spirit took the things of Christ and showed them to me: "I am the resurrection, and the life"—this verse is underlined in Ned's Bible—"he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: and whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die" (John 11:25–26).
Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid. (John 14:27)
The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: and if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together. (Romans 8:16–17)
God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away. (Revelation 21:4)
Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. (Matthew 11:28)
In all their affliction he was afflicted, and the angel of his presence saved them. (Isaiah 63:9)
For hours the gentle voice of the indwelling Christ brought healing to my soul, and I was stilled. There is a balm in Gilead; there is a Physician there (see Jeremiah 8:22). "He sent his word, and healed them" (Psalm 107:20).CHAPTER 5
I LEARNED ...
that to trust God is to trust His way, not mine. I came to realize that my intended way is made by human plans and therefore faulty in its principle and frail in its exercise. But as for God, His way is perfect. On the day of Ned's death, I asked God for protecting care, and I believed Him for it.
Through the years I had read Psalm 91 many times and applied its glorious truths to our family's needs. In the safety of our home we had seen our children grow before the Lord and become His own. And as they went out into the world, we did not fear that they were doing evil, but we constantly prayed lest they be tempted, and we had the assurance from the Lord that greater was He that was in them than he that was in the world (1 John 4:4). We sought the Lord that they would not be tempted above that which they were able to bear (1 Corinthians 10:13). And as they went about the various activities of their lives, our prayer was unceasing that they would be kept from evil and that the Lord would preserve their going out and their coming in (Psalm 121:7–8). The promises of God ever rang within my listening heart: "Because thou hast made the Lord, which is my refuge, even the most High, thy habitation; there shall no evil befall thee, neither shall any plague come nigh thy dwelling. For he shall give his angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways" (Psalm 91:9–11).
What happened on June 21 at five PM.? Ned left with joy to do what I asked. He wasn't far from home; he wasn't speeding. Where were the angels who had charge over him that day, and why did they not bear him up? Had God forgotten His promise? Was my trust misplaced, my faith in vain? Oh, blessed answer straight from the heart of God: "He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty" (Psalm 91:1). "The angel of the Lord en-campeth round about them that fear him" (Psalm 34:7).
The angels were there that afternoon—only this time they were sent from the throne of God on an errand of mysterious importance. The Lord Jesus leaned from the battlements of heaven, opened a door, called a name, and waited while the angels bore into His presence our young son. Ned had been accident-prone. He was constantly getting hurt—or nearly so—and always before he had come through all right. But this time the curve, the threat of an oncoming car over the center line, a sudden wrench of the wheel, a sand pocket on the shoulder, the overturn of the car, and Ned was gone. God's purposes are sure. There were more angels with Ned that moment than there had ever been before. There were the angels who took care of Katherine and kept her from injury, scar, or death. And there were other angels who had, I feel, a sacred privilege, for they carried Ned and presented him before the throne. I wonder if, as he suddenly stood before his Savior, he did not say, "How do you do, Sir? I am Ned." And I am sure the welcoming smile that greeted him banished all fear, all strangeness, and all questions. I can only imagine this scene; but I wait with longing for that time when I too will be there, and Ned will tell me about it.
For thou hast delivered my soul from death, mine eyes from tears, and my feet from falling. I will walk before the Lord in the land of the living. (Psalm 116:8–9)
The Lord is my strength and song, and is become my salvation.... I shall not die, but live, and declare the words of the Lord.... Open to me the gates of righteousness: I will go into them, and I will praise the Lord: This gate of the Lord, into which the righteous shall enter. (Psalm 118:14, 17, 19–20)
The Lord shall preserve thee from all evil: he shall preserve thy soul. (Psalm 121:7)
Father, I will that they also, whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am; that they may behold my glory, which thou hast given me. (John 17:24)
The Lord opened a gate and bade His child, clothed in His own righteousness, to enter in. He asked that Ned, one of those the Father had given Him, be with Him where He is to behold His glory. Who am I, that I would say no to Him? Or what am I that I would keep from that blest Presence this one I love so well? Ned—our Ned, closely cropped hair and crooked smile—in that glory His heart at rest, his journey done. His last enemy conquered. He does not have yet to die!
Yes, God was in control that day and the angelic hosts were there to carry out the perfect will of a loving heavenly Father.CHAPTER 6
I LEARNED ...
that the grace of God is sufficient, as He said, but I also learned that grace is not an anesthetic. The hours and days—and even months—that followed Ned's death were so intense with pain that, looking back, I wonder that we did not die. The hurt was so great, the suffering so extreme, that I am amazed that the human frame, frail as it is, can survive such a blast. And I believe it was only possible by the grace of God.
"All thy waves and thy billows are gone over me" (Psalm 42:7). When beside that funeral home my heart suddenly turned gray with gloom, there was breathed the words "Ned is with the Lord." My heart broke; my spirit died within me. It was as though a mighty wound deep inside my being opened like a yawning cave and into its gaping mouth poured pain as white-hot as molten metal. But God was there. And as my fainting faith looked up to Him, the searing pain from that chastening rod became the softened stroke of the breath of His love, and suddenly there was peace. "When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee: when thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned; neither shall the flame kindle upon thee" (Isaiah 43:2). In the furnace of our affliction, as the flames leaped high and hot, there walked One as the Son of God, and we were not consumed. That is grace — God's grace. Full, glorious, true—promised in His Word, provided in His life, and constantly available to any trusting child. That grace is sufficient for you.CHAPTER 7
I BEGAN TO LEARN ...
the greatness of the love of God. God is love, and therefore anything that emanates from Him has love as its source. No thought can come from God but that it be encased in love. No act can ever be culminated except God on the throne laid its plans in love. Love surrounds every principle that God puts forth for life. Love permeates every breath God breathes upon His creatures. Love is eternal; therefore it never changes. Love is complete; therefore it takes in everything. No circumstance can go beyond the love of God or find itself without the realm of His abode. God so loved the world that He gave His only Son; God commended His love to us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us; God loves us with an everlasting love, and it is that love that traced through all its history the plan that brought redemption to the souls of men. Love foreordained that Christ should die, and it was love that made the Father lead His beloved Son to Calvary and let Him die. The Father forsook the Son so that His love might never forsake us.
As we began to taste in all its sweetness the love of God in the hour of Ned's sudden death, somehow the bigness of it became overwhelming. God loved Ned—far more than we could ever do. He gave him to us in the first place; and in the giving He made him so winsome, sweet, and loving that every moment he was ours was one of joy. He let us have him for nearly sixteen years, and in those years He permitted us to see His own transforming work lay hold of every part of Ned's life. Then suddenly—before Ned was involved in anything or with anyone to whom his death might be too complicated, too confusing—God quickly took him home. Why do I think love did that? Simply because God is love, and He can act in no other way.
There are wars and rumors of wars today, all caused by the selfish sinfulness of unregenerated man. Has God's great love spared Ned in that respect? Sickness and disease is prevalent. Has Ned been kept from some long, lasting illness? There is sin today throughout the world, so dark and devastating in its effect that only those who keep themselves close, close to Christ escape its awful pull. Has Ned been kept from some dread act or scene?
Oh, love of God, Thou hast traced the course of this event, and Thou hast placed above each sad detail, to mark it for Thine own, a banner that is love.CHAPTER 8
I LEARNED ...
that as we embrace the will of God, we find it sweet; and as we take up this cross to bear it for the Lord, we are enabled, by His grace, to plant our lilies at His feet. Before the words that told Ned's death had sounded their finale in our ears, we let our spirits bow before the Lord and say with hushed but real assurance, "Thank You, Lord, for this."
To be able to do that was a miracle. It is God's doing and even in my own eyes marvelous. God laid His hand quite suddenly—and certainly heavily —upon us that day. We had no warning that would prepare us. We could not see a reason; we could not find a cause. But we could trust the Doer, and we knelt and told Him so. As we repeated the words that were our sacrifice of praise, our beings reached out to the Lord who does all things well, and we were able to say, "Naked came I out of my mother's womb, and naked shall I return thither: the Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord." As we said that with our lips and experienced it with our hearts, we were not offended in Him.
Excerpted from Not by Accident by Isabel Fleece. Copyright © 2000 Isabel Fleece. Excerpted by permission of Moody Publishers.
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