Where is God when your world is shattered?
By Bennett Rolan – BSF Editorial Manager
Catherine Barker can still picture 7-year-old Samuel’s “jaunty run.” With arms outstretched, jacket flying and rain boots splashing through the field behind their South Wales home, Samuel’s “cheeky” grin radiates pure joy.
But as quickly as Samuel is there, his image fades into a memory. Just nine months ago, Samuel was involved in a traffic accident outside their home. Samuel did not survive, and his mother’s grief is still raw.
In the early days after her son’s death, Catherine found solace in the nearby field as a place to wrestle with her thoughts.
“I wasn’t feeling angry at God. I knew God was angry too. But I did feel a general sense of anger, a sense of ‘Why?’” Catherine said. “Why is he gone when I can see him so clearly in my mind’s eye?”
During one of those quiet walks, with her anguish exposed, Catherine realized she was not alone.
“God spoke to me very plainly in that moment. He gave me the Bible verse when the women go to look for Jesus in the tomb, and He’s not there. The angel says, ‘Why are you looking for the living among the dead?’ It was as if God said to me, ‘Don’t conjure him among the fields. Why are you looking for him here?’
“It was God’s way of saying to me, ‘Don’t be sad that Samuel isn’t here anymore. He is better off where he is. He is alive!’
“There have been so many times when God has put an unexpected verse or Psalm into my head. Only He can do that.”
Another surprising moment with the Lord came just hours after Samuel’s death.
“Words can’t describe how I was feeling that first night. But God put joy into my heart to the point that I was actually smiling eight hours after it happened. That’s not human. No amount of human willpower can do that, it was just from God.
“What put that smile on my face is the assurance of where Samuel is. As a parent, you’re never happier than your saddest child. If your child is unwell, you hurt too. Samuel will never be my saddest child. To a grieving mother’s heart that is the best balm you can give. I do get really, really sad, and I miss him. But what I can also do is tell myself the fact that biblically he’s not lost. He’s with Jesus.”
For Catherine, her husband, Jim, and two other sons, Samuel’s death revealed the gravity of pain in a fallen world. Now, more than ever, they cling to the assurance of God’s promise to restore all things.
“This world is a shadow, a beautiful shadow, but a shadow nonetheless of what is to come. Life is very precious, but life is not all there is. No matter how much I used my head knowledge before, I couldn’t long for the hope of heaven. But my experience of suffering has widened the difference between this life and how brilliant heaven is going to be – no death, no grieving, not distracted by our own sinful desires. We will be dressed in clothes of righteousness standing in the holy presence of God.”
Though her grief runs deep, Catherine’s joy and hope run deeper. Through the loss of her precious son, Catherine’s relationship with Christ is her lifeline to wake up in the morning, snuggle with her sons, laugh with her husband and comfort Samuel’s friends.
Prepared by His Promises
Pointing to distinct moments before Samuel’s death, Catherine fully believes God prepared her to shoulder the sadness and glorify Him in her pain.
Through years of in-depth study as a BSF children’s leader, God equipped Catherine through His Word. He planted His promises in her heart and built a faith to weather the storm.
Studying Genesis several years ago taught her obedience and reading through the Gospel of John deepened her conviction of God’s love. In 2019, while studying 1 Samuel 1, Catherine’s Teaching Leader posed a difficult question.
“She asked, ‘Are you willing to give God the thing that’s most precious to you?’ and of course, my children immediately came to mind,” Catherine said. “I was thinking, ‘Can I really offer my children to God?’
“At the time I couldn’t, and it really bothered me. Weeks later, I clearly remember going through my routine of praying in the boys’ rooms after they went to bed. I was in my older son’s room, kneeling to pray, and I was finally able to let go of my children and give them back to God. I had my hands up. I said, ‘Take them Lord, they’re Yours.’ In my heart, I accepted that God could look after them better than I ever would. I knew that to surrender them to Him would be the best thing I could do for them.”
God used that moment to strengthen Catherine’s dependence on Him, and after Samuel’s death, Catherine held onto His unshakable promise in Genesis 8:22: “While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night, shall not cease.”
“God promised springtime and harvest for generations to come. Every time we get a load of acorns on the oak tree, I know I can cling to the Maker of heaven and earth,” Catherine said. “Sometimes at night I go out to look at the silhouette of a tree against the night sky and see the stars. It’s so comforting to know He made those stars and we’re not out of His control. My experience isn’t outside of His experience. He’s got this, and he’s also got Samuel.”
Faith in His Future
As we study God’s words to Noah in Genesis 8–9, we reflect on the familiar sign of the rainbow, signaling that God keeps His promises in spite of our sin.
Noah’s sacrifice in Genesis 8:20 and God’s controlled wrath in Genesis 9 remind us of a later covenant, forged by the blood of the ultimate sacrifice. Instead of an altar, we can cling to a cross and instead of a rainbow we look to an empty tomb. In His covenant with Noah, God promised restraint. But in His covenant through Christ, we are promised redemption.
And with that assurance, Catherine can rest in the mercy of her Heavenly Father.
“I knew I could trust Him. If He sent His son to die for me, I could trust Him with mine,” she said. “When God took Samuel, He had already prepared my heart. He waited until I was ready to trust.”
Though Catherine’s grief cannot be undone on this earth, she clings to the promise of eternity.
For each of us, suffering is real and loss is inevitable. Like Noah, waiting for God to open the door of the ark, we may feel the storms of life tossing us in every direction. But the words of Genesis 8:1 give us insight into God’s character:
“But God remembered Noah …”
As His people, we too have confidence that God remembers us.
“For those who feel like they’re stuck in the boat, I would encourage them to remember who God is,” Catherine said. “Remember how He has already shown His faithfulness to you or others you know. Read stories from the Bible that remind you of God’s faithfulness. Very often, God gives us work to do while we wait for Him. Trust the Lord and His timing, He won’t forget you. The rainbow in the sky is a message from God to all creation that says, ‘I’ve not forgotten you. I remember you.’”
Having attended BSF from his infancy, Samuel was grounded in God’s Word. At the age of 6, Samuel wrote a Psalm. In squiggly pencil handwriting, he captured the purity of God’s love for His people. After his death, Samuel’s Psalm circulated through the Barker’s local community, international friend group and beyond. As we thank God for Samuel’s life, we must also thank Him for Samuel’s faith.
“I used to pray for Samuel, that he would be a great man of God,” said Catherine. “That God would bless him early with a true faith that would stand the test of time. He was never the great man of God I expected, he didn’t become a minister or anything like that. But what he’s done has touched more people than we could ever have imagined. I’m grateful for that.”
Bennett Rolan joined the BSF staff in 2017 after working for several Christian ministries and non-profits. She loves to combine her passion for God’s Word and her journalism background to share stories of God’s Work in and through BSF. As a wife to a busy college football coach and a mom to four young children, BSF studies keep her relationship with the Lord grounded and focused. She loves to learn from fellow believers as God faithfully grows her each day.
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I was touched by the witness of a mother who took consolation by the mere living fact her little boy touched the hearts
of many people . What a witness.This testimony uplifted my soul.
Thank you for sharing your story of how the Lord sustained you through the pain. Day by day may He continue to encourage all of us as we face the hard situations that each of us go through.
Thank you for sharing your story to strengthen and encourage each of us of the Love God has for all His children and there is hope, faith, trust and the promises of God to sustain us in all things.
“ He waited until I was able to trust “ God is patient with us.
I enjoyed that stirring story from a mother who have lost a sweet child and is able to share her true feelings in such a candid way.
Thank you for this ,I list my son and I did not understand how to bear the pain .God has been faithful and am inspired by this message
I thank GOD for Catherine sharing Samuel with us and his letter. My daughter is now with the LORD and has been now for 25 years. I too am glad that GOD prepared me for her going to be with HIM. HE gave us a closer relationship before she left to be with HIM. HE also allowed me of HIS assurance that she was with HIM through a picture that looked like an angel that I had taken at her gravesite. She is with GOD and I will see Marlynn when I go home to be with the LORD.
What a cool auto rainbow around a beautiful ray of sunshine. Children are such a wonderful gift from God to be cherished forever.
Catherine, Such a Beautiful tribute to your son and Glorifying God through your faithful testimony!! Because HE lives…. you can face tomorrow. Because Samuel lives you can face today. Amen Amen my faith is increased. XXOO
what a wonderful testimony I know it’s very painful and will often be painful but the fact that he wrote this some at such a young age that’s also amazing I will share this with others God bless you comfort you. And multiply to you blessings as he did to to Hannah when she gave up her Samuel
So refreshing to read how this mother used faith in God to help with a grieving spirit.
I can relate to much of Catherine’s grief and How God showed His Love to me through BSF. In March of 2017 I got the call from my daughter that the doctor’s could not find the heartbeat of the baby boy she was carrying. He (Luke) was the first grandchild. She was due in three weeks. This was not supposed to happen. My Son in law is a Music Minister,his dad was our pastor and my boss, my daughter is a nurse, my husband taught Sunday School for 20 years. I work at my church. Our lives were centered around church and God. The year this happened we were studying John at BSF. I’ve been in BSF for almost 20 years and taught in the preschool program at one time. Because of being in the word so much God comforted me in just a miraculous way. That week’s study was written just for me. I learned that 1.) Bad things happen to good people and God still loves you, cares for you and provides for you. The passage we studied that week was John 17- Jesus was praying for me in the midst of my circumstance. 2.) from the lecture,what i heard the night before, I learned He will not let anything in my life that He won’t be glorified in. 3.) From the notes I learned Our Father has sufficient power wisdom and love to remove us from this world. It was the three fold approach BSF uses to layer truth upon truth. Also what I did not know was that I was prayed for by the local BSF leadership about being a group leader.WOW more prayer! We now have another grandson, Samuel and a testimony to God’s faithfulness and love. My daughter and Son in law has used their testimony to help others also. Thanks for letting me share. #MyGodReigns
Celyn, thank you so much for sharing! The way God comforted you and used the prayers of others has me in tears.
Thank you for sharing how God has ministered to you through His Word at just the right moment. He is so good. He will definitely use your story to minister to others. Praying for your continued peace…even on the tough days❤️
I am so touched. Thank you for sharing the story of Samuel, Catherine.
I will learn your faith in God n trust everything to Him.
Thank you for sharing your story! It builds my faith!
I’m saving Samuel’s psalm and will put it on Fridge to always remember your son and your famiky! I have two kids 6y girl and 4y boy! Always open to help your family!
Thank you for sharing this heartfelt message. I love Samuel’s letter and the rainbow of cars in his photo. How creative. God put a rainbow in the sky to remind us of his promises. May he keep you reminded and in his care.
Thank you for your courage to share your pain and Samuel’s beautiful life. I can relate to your grief as both of my parents were killed in a car accident a few years ago. My grief over them was so hard at times, and I struggled with how to find joy again. Thankfully, they both knew Jesus as Savior and my grief was not without hope.
I learned to offer God a sacrifice of thanksgiving even through the tears each day. I clung the the thought that while death is horrible, God is good! I rest in that.
He will bring you through this by His mighty right hand and use you to comfort others with the comfort you have received from God. May the Lord of all peace give you everything from His rich supply.?
When my son was born blind, brain damaged due to lack of O2, with cerebral palsy, and status epileptus, I shook my fist at God and asked why not sinful me instead of this innocent baby. The answer was, I am a God of love. Who was I to question God’s love of my son, when I can only “know” from the perspective of this life, and can only comprehend with the tool between my ears?” God’s answer filled my heart and my son’s life taught me so much.
Blessings of the Lord will make you and he adds no sorrow. I don’t why I have to say this to you. I cannot understand but I Trust. Lord’s asked me only few days ago to lay down my Kids at the Altar.
Wow. What a remarkable story. Indeed we are loved beyond measure. May God bless us with this amount faith.
Samuel’s simple child like faith is so beautiful, he might not have become the giant man of a minister or layman but he certainly loved the Lord with all of his heart. So sorry for your families’ lost, but Samuel seemed to have touched many in the short time that God gave him to you all. Such a sweetie ! ! My prayers and thoughts are with you.
Beautiful testamony. My best friend is losing her son for only a little while. I think this story will give her strength to carry on when she’s asking God why? She’s a strong believer in her Lord and Savior but it’s good to know that Jesus is a on time God and in control.
You are a beautiful woman! I love your son and I don’t know the depth of what your family has gone through but Samuel has touched my heart ❤️
What beautiful faith and strength God has gifted you. My heart breaks for you and your family. Samuel will live on for years because of his trust, love, and faith for Jesus. Thank you for pouring out your heart and letting God shoulder the burden. It gives me the strength to let go of the things that break my heart, allowing God to have it all. Then there is the hope and peace of Jesus’ love. I will forever see Samuel and his beautiful, colorful rainbow. Thank you again for sharing your passion for God and the burden of letting go with us.
Praise God for how He changes us, cares for us, prepares us.
What a tribute to His personal touch on every life. On my life.
I am currently staying with
my son who is fighting throat cancer. He has severe throat pain and can barely swallow.It is so easy to question God and asked why? But I am blessed to know God is in control, not me and that he loves my son more than I. Your experience with your son’s accident gives me hope that I too can weather this storm thru faith. God alone has control over life and death and so I like you turn my son over to our Heavenly Father.
She’s right- it doesn’t make any human sense to smile in the midst of tragedy. But God isn’t human and his ways are not our ways. So when he’s working in you- there’s no telling the amounts of faith you can exhibit. It’s amazing to read how God answered your prayer for your son to have true faith and to have a faith that stands the test of time. God was glorified to grant your request in the most surprising timing. Remembering that time to God is not an obstacle, but a tool. This helps me wait “to get off the boat” and to remember that he is faithful as you said, to prepare us for what is next. God provided sacrifices for Noah to offer in his thorough instructions for what to take with him on the boat. I love your faith. It encourages me as I’m currently sitting where nothing makes sense and it seems that God has forgotten to act. He hasn’t and he won’t. He’s working. And I believe him to be faithful. Thanks for sharing Samuel’s story. It encourages me to continue to pray big faith prayers for my children and to surrender them to his care.
Your precious son and your heart warming story has touched my heart today. What a precious gift Samuel is to all of us whose lives have been touched by his. Thank you for sharing this tender part of your life,Catherine. It’s clear that your endurance is laced with God’s grace and love. I pray that you would feel God’s presence daily, in a tangible way. God bless you, your husband and your boys.
Love, Norma ( children’s leader – San Antonio Texas)
I am with my terminally ill sister.
The pain is the same.
My tear can’t stop flowing.
I am all sore …and weak.
Praying for you now, Meng.