Therefore, I Have Hope
About the Guest
Everyone dreams of a life free of trouble, and Cameron Cole seemed to be one of those lucky few who actually achieved the dream. He lived a trouble-free childhood and adolescence and even married his high school sweetheart. But in one day Cameron's illusion of charmed perfection was shattered by four shocking words: "Our son is dead." How can someone who's life seemed so blessed continue to exhibit a vibrant faith in a God who seems to have slipped up?
Cameron ColeCameron Cole (MA, Wake Forest University) serves as director of children, youth, and family at the Cathedral Church of the Advent in Birmingham, Alabama, and is the chairman of Rooted, a ministry dedicated to fostering gospel-centered student ministry. He is the coeditor of Gospel-Centered Youth Ministry.
Kim AnthonyKim Anthony is an author, speaker and leadership coach, who has a passion to help others walk in the fullness of who they were created to be. As a part of Athletes in Action's Pro Staff, Kim served as Chaplain for the Miami Dolphins wives for 10 years and continues to coach and mentor the wives of NFL players, head coaches and executives around the League. She also travels the nation sharing her message of hope, forgiveness and purpose with audiences ranging from inner-city youth to corporate...more
Cameron Cole seemed to be one of those lucky few who actually achieved the dream of a life free of trouble. But in one day Cameron’s illusion of charmed perfection was shattered by four shocking words: “Our son is dead.”
Therefore, I Have Hope
Bob: When his son was three years old, Cameron Cole got a phone call from his wife, who was sobbing, saying that, in the night, their child had died.
Cameron: I thought that my faith in Christ could not handle a tragedy of this magnitude; and I found that the Lord had, in fact, been preparing me my whole life and that, in that moment, the Holy Spirit met me and brought me to the truth—that Jesus Christ rose from the grave and, because of His resurrection, that means that all the promises of the gospel/all the promises of Scripture—they are, factually, true.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Friday, May 24th. Our hosts are Dave and Ann Wilson; I'm Bob Lepine. Where do we find hope and comfort that sustains us in the midst of tragedy? We’ll learn about that today from Cameron Cole. Stay with us.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. We’ve got a lot of people, who have started plugging into the FamilyLife® Podcast Network. They’re starting to listen to Ron Deal’s podcast and listening to the FamilyLife Marriage podcast. They’re downloading FamilyLife Today as a podcast and then Kim Anthony’s program, which is called Unfavorable Odds. People have started listening to that; and it’s encouraging to us to hear back from folks, who say, “I love having these podcasts on my device so that, when I’m traveling or wherever, I can just pull one up and listen to it wherever—just super convenient.”
Dave: Yes; a new day. I mean, how many people watch a TV show when it’s on that moment?—not that many any more. To have the flexibility to grab a great program any time you want—that’s the world we live in. What a beautiful way to give people great content.
Ann: I actually work out and listen to a podcast as I work out. I did listen to you and Dennis a lot.
Bob: Did you?
Bob: So now, you try to pick short podcasts so that the work out doesn’t last long. [Laughter]
Ann: Yes; the shorter the better. [Laughter]
Bob: Well, we’re going to hear an excerpt today from a great podcast that Kim Anthony is producing called Unfavorable Odds. She is talking to people, who have faced the hard spots of life/the hard moments in life, and who have persevered—it’s part of her story. She is telling some great stories/interviewing some great folks.
In fact, what we’re going to hear today is an excerpt from Episode 5 of her podcast, where she talked to Cameron Cole, the author of a book called Therefore I have Hope: 12 Truths That Comfort, Sustain, & Redeem in Tragedy. As we’re about to hear, Cameron and his wife experienced the kind of tragedy that no parent ever wants to experience.
[Unfavorable Odds Podcast]
Cameron: Every parent has their wildest dream, and every parent has their worst nightmare. Our family experienced both in, like, a 48-hour span. You know, for us, as Christian parents, our wildest dream is that our children would come to know Christ as Savior and Lord.
Our little boy, Cam, was sitting around; he was playing with Legos®. He lost his Lego axe; and he asked his Mommy and Daddy, “Can we ask Jesus to help me find my Lego?”
Kim: Oh! So sweet.
Cameron: Yes; [Laughter] we prayed—we prayed and said, “Lord, God, we know that nothing is lost in Your sight, and we ask You to help us find Cam’s Lego axe.” We looked, and we found it. Cam said: “Thank You, Jesus; thank You, Jesus.”
That really kind of started to kind of develop into a longer conversation—he said: “I want to go see Jesus. Can we go see Him today?” We said: “Well, buddy, you can’t exactly—Jesus is here with you. You can’t see Him, but He is with you now.” He said, “Well, when we go get in the car and go see Jesus.” We said, “Well, you’ll see Jesus when you go to heaven; but right now, we just have to know and trust that He’s with us, even though we can’t see Him.”
He, then, started to ask a lot of questions about heaven. He said—you know, he asked if he would see Adam and Eve in heaven, and he pledged that he would not eat from the tree. [Laughter] We said: “Well, you know, buddy, everyone eats from the tree. That’s why Jesus came. We’re all sinners.” Then, he said, “Jesus die on cross. Jesus die for my sins.”
Little did I know, at that point—two things—I started to kind of realize, a little later that day, that, “Wow, I think I just heard my three-year-old child profess faith in Christ,”—one thing; but I didn’t realize, at that point, that was the last meaningful conversation I’d ever have with him.
That night, I went on a youth campout. I woke up that next morning, and I had received three missed calls from my wife in the span of a minute. The fourth call is coming in, and I answered the call. My wife—and really, in a shriek of terror—informed that she had found our son dead in his bed. He had just mysteriously passed away in his sleep, which is very, very rare for a child, over the age of one, to die in their sleep. It’s about 1 in 100,000 chance that will happen.
Like I said—our worst nightmare was that—any parent—is that your child would die; but you know, that happened within 24 hours of him also professing faith in Christ.
Kim: Cameron, take me from that moment—that you received those phone calls, and spoke with your wife, and heard those words come through the telephone—what was going through your mind?
Cameron: For me, my worst nightmare was that my child would die; but it was kind of compounded with the fact that I worked in student ministry. You know, I’ve had a really—up to this point—had a really nice life/a really charmed life—nice parents, nice home, school and sports. Everything had kind of gone my way. Things had been very easy for me, and I had this fear: “What if something really bad happened? Would I lose my faith?” I kind of had determined that, if my child died, I was afraid that I might lose my faith.
I really had kind of a fixated recurring nightmare that Cam would die. I would kind of envision and see myself turning my back on God, and losing my faith, and becoming bitter; and you know, just running out the shot clock on my life. Then, it happened. Like you said—when the call came in and I heard that my worst nightmare had occurred, it was so surprising to me what came out of my mouth when my wife delivered this horrific news. I said: “Jesus rose from the grave and that means that God is good. This doesn’t change that fact.”
It was interesting—what I was finding was—in reality, God had been preparing me for this moment my whole life. I thought that I was not prepared; I thought that my faith in Christ could not handle a tragedy of this magnitude. I found that the Lord had, in fact, been preparing me my whole life and that, in that moment, the Holy Spirit met me and brought me to the truth—that Jesus Christ rose from the grave and, because of His resurrection, that means that all the promises of the gospel/all the promises of Scripture—they are, factually, true; they are, factually, true.
Even when something as bad as your child dying occurs, the possibility that God can heal you, that God can redeem you, that God can use this for His glory, that the Lord does not leave you/that He accompanies us at all times, that there is the possibility of joy in the midst of suffering—all of those things remained intact, because of the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ. That was the—that was the thing that I really clung to in that moment.
Kim: Your book is divided into three sections/three different stages of grief: the initial shock, the new normal, and then the long haul. Let’s talk about that initial shock. Describe the common characteristics that take place in this stage.
Cameron: Yes; you know, honestly, especially when it’s a sudden tragedy/it’s not something that you were expecting, it is honestly almost like you are crazy. You know, it’s like you are living in a cloud. I think there are just lots of really intense fears that you encounter, feeling like: “My life is ruined,” “My life is over,” “My marriage may fall apart,”—so on and so forth.
I found—you know, in the month after Cam died, that I would say to my wife, over and over again, “Man, if a person didn’t know about the sovereignty God,” or “…a person didn’t know about the presence of God,” or “…didn’t know about the possibility of joy in suffering,”—and so on and so forth—“I have no idea how they could survive something like this.” I was finding that it was God’s truth that was really the anchor of the hope that I had. Even though I was in a tremendous amount of pain/indescribable anguish, I still really did have a sense of hope, even from the moment that I heard that he had died when my wife called.
In the initial shock, I kind of identified these truths that I felt were really essential, right at the beginning. You know, one is the resurrection—that just knowing that Christianity is factually and historically true, based on the bodily resurrection of Jesus. I found that the gospel—knowing that God can redeem anything—especially when we look at the cross. What a failure and a travesty the cross appears; and yet, through the cross, our sins are atoned for; and God is redeeming the world.
I found that the daily grace of God was just utterly instrumental—that you have to have this blinder’s mentality of: “Don’t worry about tomorrow. Just trust God’s grace for right now.” I found that to be utterly instrumental.
Kim: Cameron, how do you help encourage someone, who may not share your same faith in that initial stage? Maybe, they don’t understand the resurrection—that grace that God gives. How would you walk a person through that?
Cameron: Yes; you know, that’s a tricky pastoral situation—whether you are a pastor, whether it’s a friend, or a family member. I think you have to be cautious not to overwhelm them with—overwhelm them with content, so to speak. I think ministry of presence is probably the most important thing I would say at the beginning—just to be a person, who is there—who is with them/who hears them.
But you know, one thing that I have found myself saying to people—who I’m not sure if they are a believer or if I’m not sure they have a tremendous amount of depth in their faith is—first off, I tell them that the God of the Bible/the God is an empathetic God, who feels their pain. I say: “You know, perhaps, the most helpful thing for me, in clinging to God in this, is knowing that my God lost a Child. My son died in his sleep very peacefully. The Son of God died a violent death, and He was a victim. He was a victim of our sin; He was a victim of the evil in the world.” The first thing I do is I tell them that the God of Christianity is an empathetic God, who suffers with them and feels their pain, who can actually identify with what they are going through.
The second thing I tell them is that we serve a gracious God, who knows that we are human beings, who are very flawed, very limited, and sinful. As a result of that—like He can handle our lament. I encourage them: “You need to be honest with God. You need to tell Him what you are feeling. You need to tell Him about your confusion.” There is an audience that they can say anything to.
I’m not encouraging sin—
Cameron: —we also serve a holy God, to whom we approach with fear and reverence; but to a person—I think it is helpful for them to know that, in God, there is a person that they can actually have an authentic relationship and with whom they can be honest about their pain and their anguish.
Kim: Well-said, Cameron.
As you were talking, I was thinking about—how a lot of times, even we, as Christians—we think that we have more power than I believe we have when it comes to overcoming tragedies. We come at it with this mindset of, “With God’s help, I can do this,” as if there is something that we can do; but in my own experience in grief and tragedy, I realized that: “You know what? As the Lord has brought me through those dark places, there was nothing that I could do. It was all Him!” I can’t even explain how He did it.
Cameron: Absolutely. You know, I think—one of the chapters in the book, Kim, is “Faith.” I talk about how, if you have a mentality that Christian faith is: “Jesus is my copilot,”—it’s a partnership/like an equal partnership—you’re done. You are in real trouble; because you—I mean, you said it so well, Kim—we have no power apart from the saving power and the saving grace of Christ in these kinds of situations—and especially—and the term I use is “your worst”—
Cameron: —you know, when you are going through your worst nightmare. One of the reasons that those situations are so sanctifying—is it brings us into the reality that we have no resources within us—like our hope/our resources for comfort and redemption all come from the outside. They all come from God.
So, to your point, we have to have a mentality of rescue. We can only be rescued by the Lord and daily rescued. You know, daily rescue is what we need, especially when we are in just deep, deep pain and sorrow.
Kim: Oh. But Cameron, we want to be so strong; and we want to be so involved and have a part in overcoming. I guess there is something about saying, “I have overcome this tragedy”; but is there a danger living with that copilot mentality?
Cameron: I say this with a little bit of caution; because there are some moments, where you do just kind of have to put the next step forward.
Cameron: You know, I can remember the day after Cameron’s funeral, just crying so hard that I had shards of carpet in my teeth. I just sat there; and I’m like, “I don’t know if I will ever be able to stand up off the carpet.”
The nature of our sin is, at the core—is we want to be our own savior—
Cameron: —we want to be our own lord. That’s the essence of sin. So, coming into saving faith, as a believer, is when you stop trying to be your own savior, and you stop trying to be your own lord, and you look to Jesus. Jesus, now, becomes the One who saves you from your sins; Jesus is the One who is the Lord of your life.
You talked about this impulse that we have to want to be strong and want to pull ourselves up. I think, a lot of times, that’s really just our sin nature. I think we first have to rest, and wait, and trust in Christ; and then out of the grace that Christ gives us, to walk out of that.
Kim: You write that there is one deadly sin of grief. What is that, and what makes it so deadly?
Cameron: One deadly sin—and that’s to deny reality—deny reality. You know, I think it’s a very human thing—and it’s actually increasingly easy, in our culture, to withdraw—you know, just to pretend that things didn’t happen—and to get busy, or to get over medicated, or whatever it may be—and to just try to avoid the pain and the difficulty of what you are facing.
Unfortunately, you’ll never heal unless you cry the tears and unless you feel the pain. You have to enter into the sorrow and enter into the pain. You know, there is a theologian, FitzSimons Allison, and he has this wonderful, wonderful accent. He says [using a Georgian accent], “Everybody wants to pole vault over Good Friday and land on Easter Sunday; but without a cross, there is no resurrection.” Now, that’s the truth; you know? Jesus—
Kim: So true.
Cameron: —God is very clear in His Word—particularly with the Apostle Paul—that if we are united with Christ, we’ll be united with Him in death and in resurrection. We will be united with Him in pain and suffering in this life, and we’ll be united with Him in resurrection and redemption.
To reveal just how, from Alabama, I am, you know: “The grease comes with the gravy.” If we’re going to heal, we have to acknowledge the depth of our pain. We have to acknowledge our questions. We have to cry the tears/feel the feelings—as hard and as painful as they are—because the Lord meets us in that, and the Lord heals us through that.
Bob: Well, we’ve been listening to just an excerpt from Kim Anthony’s Unfavorable Odds podcast, Episode 5, with Cameron Cole. We just heard a portion of it. In fact, I’d encourage our listeners to listen to the entire podcast and hear how Cameron addresses what he calls probably the toughest theological issue in the world, which is: “Where is God in the midst of our suffering?” and find out what happened one year after their son died.
You can go to FamilyLifeToday.com to get information about how to download Kim’s podcast and find out more about the other podcasts that are available through the FamilyLife Podcast Network.
Ann: It’s so interesting—as I listened to Cameron and his voice, I’m struck by the idea of losing a child would be one of the most devastating things anyone could go through. And yet, he still has hope that Jesus is there, and He’s in the midst; and that’s pretty commendable. I can’t imagine how difficult that was.
Dave: Yes; and you know, as a pastor, I’ve done funerals for little children/teenage children. It’s devastating, you know, to walk through that dark valley; and yet, what Cameron got into is embracing that pain. Don’t run away from that pain; step into it, which is what he did.
It’s so hard to do, but I remember reading Levi Lusko’s book about him losing his five-year-old daughter. He tells this story about how lions actually stalk their prey. Do you know this Bob?
Dave: It’s really fascinating. You think the king of the lion—you know, the male lion—is the most dangerous; it’s actually the female lion. The male lion roars; the wildebeest, or the animal he’s stalking, runs away from the roar to where the female is; because she’s more agile, and she attacks.
The whole point is—if the wildebeest would run to the roar, that he’s afraid of, he’d actually be safe; but we run away. It’s so what we do in pain—we run away; and Cameron is saying, “Run to it.” Again, I know that sounds so hard to do; but if you will lament and embrace it, and have a community around you to live there, God’s going to be there to heal you.
Bob: Well, for those listeners that would like to check out Cameron’s book, it’s a book we’ve got in our FamilyLife Today Resource Center. It’s called Therefore I Have Hope: 12 Truths That Comfort, Sustain, & Redeem in Tragedy. You can order it from us, online, at FamilyLifeToday.com; or call 1-800-FL-TODAY to order your copy.
Let me encourage you to listen to the entire podcast with Kim Anthony and Cameron Cole and hear how Cameron tackles what he calls the hardest theological question in the world—which is how we reconcile God’s involvement or participation in the tragedies we go through—and find out about what God did exactly one year after his son, Cameron’s funeral, to the day—all of that is in the podcast.
If you’d like to subscribe to Kim’s podcast, Unfavorable Odds, or hear this particular episode in its entirety, again, go to FamilyLifeToday.com; and you can sign up for the podcast there. Again, Cameron’s book, Therefore I Have Hope—order, online, at FamilyLifeToday.com; or call 1-800-FL-TODAY to order.
You know, we’re pretty excited here about the response that we’ve been getting in the last few weeks to the new FamilyLife Podcast Network—a lot of listeners, who have started subscribing to some of the podcasts that are available. David Robbins, the President of FamilyLife, is here with us. This is all about reaching more people; isn’t it?
David: Yes; we want to take the biblical principles—and the help and hope—and the hope of Christ to as many people as possible. You know, who we can thank, in order to help us expand to these new places, is our Legacy Partners—our friends, who invest alongside us, month in and month out—to help equip marriages, and parents, and families to impact our world for Christ, both now and for generations to come.
If you are not a Legacy Partner, please consider becoming one. Your ongoing commitment allows us to plan wisely, whether it’s a big commitment or a small commitment—whatever you can give monthly—it allows us to expand our reach; because we know what will be coming in and how we can grow. Everything we do exists to help families, just like yours, change the world one home at a time. We pray that often—FamilyLife Today does that—we pray the podcast network, as a new part of that, we want to help people encounter Jesus and help people experience transformation that pours out to those around them.
Bob: May is a great month to make a donation to FamilyLife, either a one-time donation or—as you said, David—to become a monthly Legacy Partner; and here’s the reason why. We’ve had some friends of the ministry, who have offered to match every donation we receive this month, dollar for dollar, up to a total of $645,000. We hope to take full advantage of that matching gift, and we’ve got less than a week to try to make all of that happen. We’re asking FamilyLife Today listeners, “Will you either make a onetime donation, online, at FamilyLifeToday.com or by calling 1-800-FL-TODAY?” Or if you’re a regular listener, “Would you consider becoming a monthly Legacy Partner?”—be a part of the team that really undergirds all that we do, here, at FamilyLife?
When you become a Legacy Partner today, your donations over the next 12 months are going to be matched, dollar for dollar, as long as there is money still available in that matching-gift fund. In addition, we’ll send you, as a thank-you gift, a gift card so that you and your spouse—or another couple you know—can attend an upcoming Weekend to Remember® marriage getaway. This card covers the registration fee for the getaway. It’s our way of saying, “Thank you for partnering with us as a monthly Legacy Partner.”
By the way, pray for the Weekend to Remember that is happening this weekend in Jacksonville, Florida. Next weekend, we’re going to be in Charlotte, North Carolina, and Houston and Indianapolis. We still have additional getaways this spring or into next fall.
To become a monthly Legacy Partner, go toFamilyLifeToday.com to sign on; or call 1-800-FL-TODAY to sign on. Then we’ll see you at one of our upcoming getaways and maybe have a chance to say, “Thank you,” personally, for partnering with us, here, in the ministry of FamilyLife Today.
And we hope you have a great weekend. I hope you and your family are able to worship together in your local church this weekend, and maybe enjoy a little extra time together because of the upcoming holiday. On Monday, we’re going to talk about what submission in marriage is and what it isn’t; because a lot of people are getting it wrong. We want to talk about what it is supposed to look like, so I hope you can tune in for that.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, along with our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our hosts, Dave and Ann Wilson, I’m Bob Lepine. We will see you back on Monday for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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