Where Is God When Your World Is Shattered?

BY BENNETT ROLAN, DIGITAL EDITOR

C atherine 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 homeSamuel’s “cheeky” grin radiates pure joy.  

But as quickly as Samuel is there, his image fades into a memoryJust 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 lostHe’s with Jesus.”

For Catherine, her husband, Jim, and two other sons, Samuel’s death revealed the gravity of pain in 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.

My experience of suffering has widened the difference between this life and how brilliant heaven is going to be …

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, 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. 

This world is a shadow, a beautiful shadow, but a shadow nonetheless of what is to come.

God used that moment to strengthen Catherine’s dependence on Him, and after Samuel’s deathCatherine held onto His unshakable promise in Genesis 8:22While 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 89, 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.” 

312 Comments

  1. What a testimony. We can trust Our Heavenly Father to help Us and comfort us in our times of grief

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  2. This is so inspiring! I am so sorry for your loss. I can’t imagine having my child go to Heaven before me. I super love the Psalm Samuel wrote and how he created the rainbow picture! What a little “man of God “ he is! Thanks so much for sharing 💕🙏

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  3. Thank you, Catherine and BSF for sharing Samuel’s story and the Psalm that he wrote. It is a very inspiring story. Blessings & peace to all of you!

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  4. Thank you for sharing your prayer for Samuel that God would bless him with a true faith that would stand the test of time… It’s a precious thought.

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  5. What a beautiful story. A masterpiece. I am in Rock Hill, SC. Samuel’s story—especially his beautiful psalm—has touched me in a way that brings both sadness and great joy. Only a work of God can do such a thing. May our faithful God continue to bless Catherine and her family.

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  6. Thank you Catherine for sharing this beautiful story of your son Samuel and how our Lord comforts us with His Word. Thank you Lord for always being with us. With love , your sister in Christ

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  7. Samuel’s picture with his “rainbow cars“ and his smile leave behind a powerful message for us all : God is the Promise-Keeper.

    Truly an inspiring real-life story and I’m so touched! Thanks Catherine.

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  8. Dear Catherine,
    An incredible uplifting ,encouraging story. Beautiful Psalm by Samuel and oh my ,what a cute face !
    Bless you for sharing.
    I will give my children and grandchildren to God ,my sister who is ill and those who will come to mind as I speak to The Lord,who I may be holding on to.
    I have been involved with BSF for 2 and a half years now and am so grateful for the incredible teachings and fellowship.

    Psalm 32 v 8 I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go;I will counsel you and watch over you . I love this promise.
    Knowing our Lord and Saviour is such a beautiful privilege.
    Abundant blessings I ask for you and your precious family as you continue to serve our amazing God.
    Desire ‘
    Sydney Australia

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  9. It is wonderful that in her grief Catherine can still see the love of God and how much He cares. Yes, He waits for us.

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  10. Dear sister in Christ, I praised the Lord for His work in your life. thanking you 4 your sharing. To God Be The Glory. Meriama Evening Women’s group. Adelaide, Sa.

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  11. Beautiful to see the heart of this child and just how much he trusts the Lord.
    Thanks for sharing this message. Thank you Jesus for I am certain that this child is safe with you in heaven.

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  12. What a deep inspiring devotion . Thanks for sharing.

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  13. Samuel is a great child of God,
    He is the beloved.
    Beautiful Testimony Catherine,
    God bless you and your family ❤️🙏🏾

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  14. Sorry, word cream is meant to say crem. Lynda

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  15. So encouraging! I remember our BSF class praying for Catherine when her son Samuel died. I have been in BSF for over 30yrs now and 18yrs ago our son Paul was killed in an unprovoked knife attack in Liverpool. He was only 28yrs old and about to be engaged. We too were devastated as you can imagine, but like Catherine we received so much help, love and support through BSF. I remember the Lord also speaking to me when I went to the cream one day from the same verse that Catherine mentioned. I never “had to” visit the cream again after that. So much healing has taken place through God’s word and His wonderful Presence. Thank you for all you mean to me. P.s. I have said to class that I will wait until we can meet in person before I continue the study as am hopeless on the computer!!

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  16. Amazing testimony and it is truly glorifying God. Catherine thanks for this inspirational message.

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  17. God is faithful in all situations. May He continue strengthening Catherine and her family every step of the way as He takes them through this season in Jesus Christ name. Shalom

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  18. What an uplifting and encouraging message from both you and Samuel! A reflecting rainbow has shown through your faith, your hope and your love for our PROMISE KEEPER LORD and SAVIOR JESUS CHRIST🌟🌟🌟. Thank you for sharing your pain, your prayers and your promises because you show how GOD HAS and IS CARING for you, Catherine! May the LORD BLESS you and KEEP you and MAKE HIS FACE SHINE UPON you and give you and all your family PEACE, JOY, GRACE, and LOVE!

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  19. so thankful for this wonderful testimony of God’s faithfulness to Catherine. Every word spoke to my heart as I go through this time of my loss.
    I thank God for BSF and all those who work hard towards making it possible to study God’s word in depth.

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  20. I enjoyed reading this testimony. We thank God for giving Catherine strength. He is indeed a God of the good times and God of the bad times. He is always on time. Even in death He is still God. He never sleeps or slumbers. He is unshakeable, unstoppable.

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  21. What an awesome testimony. Thanks for sharing your story. Reading your story gives me hope to continue to trust in him at all times, when I am up and when I am down. Dealing with losing a loved one is so difficult. You are truly a woman of faith. Reading your son’s psalm was so touching. May you and your family continue to grow stronger and be comforted by God’s holy presence.

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  22. My mom died at age 26 of an astrocytoma of the brain and I was 11 months old.
    My only daughter at age 17 was killed in an automobile accident while she was a passenger.
    Studying the book of Genesis has given me new insight into our very being while on this earth. I looked back too often in my life and I grieve for the loss but my mom and my daughter were born again Christians, living their faith.
    I take great solace knowing God grieves with me, loves us all, wants all of us to know and understand his love for us. Mom and my daughter are in heaven worshipping and praising God in the glorious light of the rainbow…colors so magnificent.
    People were saved as a result of my daughter’s life. I am grateful to be stronger and stronger in my faith. I am so grateful for BSF. This is my first year and I cannot wait for more studies. Blessings abound. God is so good. Thank you for your testimony.

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    • What a powerful testimony you have. I am so sorry for both of your losses. So glad you’re in BSF. Praying for Gods strength and love to shine through you and all around you. We’re on this road towards home together dear sister!💕🙏

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  23. What a testimony Catherine. Thank You for sharing.
    The Lord reign! May His grace, healing and peace be upon you and your family.

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  24. My sisters and brothers (7) of us were orphaned when we were all under the age of 10yrs.A life of trauma and tragedy began and continues to this very day. I am now 62yrs of age. A loving God I think not

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    • I’m praying for you, Katrina. We are exactly the same age! 🙂
      Jesus told us we would have trouble in this world. It’s almost like He was helping us to prepare for them. Look up. Look around. Look within. I’m praying God gives you a sign like He did for Noah, of His ever-present, ever faithful love, even in the hardest of circumstances. “But God……“

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    • Dear Katrina,
      I feel your pain. I pray God may surround you with peace and joy.

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    • Jesus just before He went to the cross told His disciples, I will not leave you orphans. I will come to you.” This has given me such comfort. Now we have the Holy Spirit always ever present within us, “Christ in you the hope of glory”. As I continue in my walk with God and really read (eat) His Word daily, I am finding out that truly His Word is truth and life and nourishes and supplies my daily needs.
      The Lord bless and comfort you and rejoice your spirit.

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    • My heart goes out to you dear friend. I can’t even imagine your pain. We’re on this road towards our heavenly home together. Where someday every tear will be wiped away. Praying your future will be filled with hope and some truly rewarding friendships from whom you can draw strength.

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  25. Thanks Catherine for sharing your painful experiences on the loss of your son samuel at tender age.
    Am encouraged on how God ministered to you on” looking for the living among the dead”
    May God heal your heart completely as you comfort and encourage other hurting and going through pain of loss of a loved of especially through covid 19.

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  26. Samuel’s Psalm is a testimony that Jesus saves even little children. An encouragement to teachers and parents of the little ones. Praise be to God.

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  27. Thank you for sharing your story and how Samuel loved God. How you must miss him but at peace b/c He is safe with Jesus.

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  28. Thank you, Catherine. I’m so blessed by your courageous testimony and the picture of your precious boy and his rainbow. God is faithful and He truly does “gently lead those that are with young”… may He continue to bless and strengthen your beautiful mother heart.

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  29. Thank you Catherine for sharing your story about your son Samuel. I enjoyed what you had to say about giving your sons to the Lord. I have had some friends that have lost children, at an early age. They have shared their grief with me. God bless you as you continue to serve Him.

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  30. Catherine, thank you for sharing your story. It must have been very hard to write, although I find that writing can be very therapeutic. God has blessed me with the gift of writing. Every month He gives me articles to write about after reading your story I was wondering if I could share your story with others. I was unable to read Samuel’s poem . God has definitely answered your prayer . Although the answer might not look like you thought it would, “My [God’s] thoughts are high than your thoughts, My ways are higher than your ways.” I think the more you share Samuel’s story along with what you went through the more people will be encouraged and willing to share there own. The name of the newsletter is: God’s Love Is Newsworthy
    When I’m deeply encouraged by your newsletter I am also very sorry for your families loss May the peace of God which transcends all understanding guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.

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    • Chris,
      You may be able to read Samuel’s psalm by clicking on it. I was able to read most of it.

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  31. I wish I have faith like yours. I lost my two year old Hannah 12 years ago. I buried my faith with her. I now fear of loosing my elder child. I fear God does not care.
    I am praying for resurrection of my faith. I want to believe there is a God and He love us.

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    • Victoria,
      I am praying God will surround you with loving friends, give you a heart of comfort and his everlasting peace.

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    • I believe your name “Victoria” means victory. I declare to you today that ” Jesus has come that you may have life and have it more abundantly.” Satan comes to steal, kill and destroy. Jesus bore all our griefs and sorrows and when He hung on the cross, He cried, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” Jesus suffered and died that we may have abundant life in Him.. The Word of God says, “I have not given you the spirit of fear but of power, of love and a sound mind.” Give all your fears and sadness to Him. Receive His love and grace. This is a brand new day. Rejoice in Him.

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    • Praying for God to give both you and your elder child the precious gift of faith. I love Psalm 139 so much I’ve been trying to memorize it this year! Verses 7-10 speak of no matter how hard we try to flee God’s presence in our lives, He is still leading us and holding us even through our most difficult times. We can walk, we can run, we can hide. But nothing can separate us from His love. We move away from Him but He never moves away from us. Praying you can experience His love and healing today dear friend!

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    • Dear Victoria,
      I am praying for you to experience Christ’s unfailing love for you. As we studied about Noah trusting God on the Ark, I realized that the more I trust God, the more I feel His presence and assurance. I pray that God would reveal Himself to you in a real way and comfort you during these times in your life. He is working in your life, Victoria. He will meet you where you are. Love, Norma

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  32. What an inspiring piece of writing! I relate very closely to Catherine’s story, having lost my elder daughter three months shy of her 23rd birthday on 18th March 2010. Devastating as it was to me, my late husband and our surviving daughter, I’ve found comfort in drawing even closer to God. Today, I am one who encourages those who find themselves in this unenviable position.

    Thank you Catherine.

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  33. What a beautiful story for all who have experienced loss. I lost my mom last year and my life has not been the same. I know she’s with Jesus and that gives me the peace and hope I have of seeing her again someday!

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  34. What a precious child’s expression of love, faith & hope in his Saviour.

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  35. This was absolutely beautiful. I long for faith and strength such as this. Thank you for sharing. Sending love and prayers.

    Reply

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