Trust in the Midst of Tragedy (Reflections on the Life and Impact of Deputy Zackari Parrish)
In the midst of tragedy, we always have choices. Do we believe what our emotions tell us when we are devastated and raw? Do we rely on what we see with our human eyes when our perspective can often be severely jaded? Do we trust in what we know to be true about the person and purposes of God, even when life is random and broken? These choices are real, and sometimes daily, for all of us. They are particularly important, especially when disaster strikes close to home.
A Call and a Prayer
Last Sunday morning my wife received a call from her dear friend, Michelle. (Michelle and her husband, Tim, are the newest board members of our ministry.) Within moments of receiving the news about the tragic shooting of her son-in-law, Deputy Zackari Parrish, Michelle reached out to my wife and me for prayer and support.
You’ve likely seen the heartbreaking story on national news. Zackari and four other Douglas County police officers were assaulted by a mentally-ill gunman in the early morning hours of Sunday, December 31. Zackari was the only officer to lose his life while trying to help the suspect.
After receiving Michelle’s call, my wife and I headed straight to Zackari and Gracie Parrish’s home. Gracie and her father Tim were with the police at the county morgue identifying Zackari’s body. Gathered at the home, we joined Michelle, Gracie’s two little girls, her siblings and their spouses, another pastor, our daughter-in-law, and the victim assistance officers from the Sheriff’s Department.
Everyone was at a loss for words. Tears flowed. Bewilderment prevailed. Grief was palpable. The tragedy was surreal, leaving everyone in shock.
Michelle asked me to lead the shattered family in prayer as we gathered in the den. Certainly, in my decades of pastoral ministry, I have been in similar situations. Most of us have. But, honestly, what do you pray in a moment like this? I desperately needed the comfort, wisdom, and words of the Holy Spirit to minister to this broken family.
Praying and Trusting the Truth
In those difficult and intimate moments, as I prayed, the Lord helped me with some core certainties from Scripture that guided my heart and shaped my words. The words I prayed are beliefs we must all embrace in the midst of tragedy.
“The Lord gives and the Lord takes away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.” – The familiarity of this verse (Job 1:21) in no way diminishes its relevance and power. When Job experienced devastating loss, he made the deliberate choice to trust the assurance of God’s character, over and above the immediate circumstances.
When Job experienced devastating loss, he made the deliberate choice to trust the assurance of God’s character, over and above the immediate circumstances.
At a memorial service earlier this week, Gracie, the newly-widowed young mother, boldly affirmed, “Blessed be His name.” (See her testimony HERE.) From a broken heart and through profuse tears, Gracie has received God’s grace to trust steadfastly in the name and character of her Savior.
“This day is very bad, but You are good.” – As we prayed together last Sunday morning, we knew evil had temporarily triumphed. Yet, this overwhelming and brief exhibition of evil paled in comparison to the ever-faithful and overarching goodness of God. Psalm 119:68 affirms, “You are good and do good.” This is always true, regardless of the circumstance, but we need grace to embrace it.
“This situation is entirely unfair, but You are just.” – The fact that a young, vibrant, and loving police officer, husband, and dad would have his life suddenly snuffed out was so very wrong. Yet, God’s justice prevails – if not evidently in this life, assuredly in eternity. Through all the wrongs of this earthly journey, God is a perfect scorekeeper and His eternal scoreboard is always right and final.
Through all the wrongs of this earthly journey, God is a perfect scorekeeper and His eternal scoreboard is always right and final.
“This moment is senseless and out of control, but You are sovereign.” – The Eternal Creator of the universe is all-knowing, all-powerful, and always present. When life does not make sense, we know that He is at work to redeem all things for His glory. As difficult as it is, He will enable us to trust His purposes.
When life does not make sense, we know that He is at work to redeem all things for His glory. As difficult as it is, He will enable us to trust His purposes.
“You have tailor-made grace for everything we face.” – This broken family had not previously required such a unique and tender touch of the supernatural graces of comfort, peace, understanding, and strength. Yet, in that moment, the throne of grace was active and powerful. I define grace as “God doing for us, in us, and through us what only He can do through the person and power of Jesus Christ.” Evidence of this grace has been undeniable to the observing world as the family has given powerful witness of the gospel in spite of such tragic loss.
I define grace as “God doing for us, in us, and through us what only He can do through the person and power of Jesus Christ.”
“We trust your overwhelming love for the widow and the orphan.” – Through tears, we prayed with confidence in the indescribable love of God for widows and orphans (Isaiah 1:17; Exodus 22:21-24; James 1:27). We cried out to the Lord to be Gracie’s husband in this next chapter and a “father to the fatherless” to her precious young daughters (Isaiah 54:5; Psalm 68:5). Our Lord has shown such grace – and so powerfully — this week, and will continue to do so, through His indwelling presence and His caring people.
The Eternal Legacy of a Short Life
It’s hard for us to comprehend – but, in light of eternity, every life is but a vapor (James 4:14). Whether someone lives eight minutes, eight years, or eight decades, our time on this earth is but a momentary appearance. In fact, this life is primarily a preparation for eternity. The world has witnessed the extraordinary impact and gospel testimony of Zackari Parrish. From our perspective, his journey ended early. Yet the greater reality is that his Christian legacy has been broadcast to the world.
Whether someone lives eight minutes, eight years, or eight decades, our time on this earth is but a momentary appearance. In fact, this life is primarily a preparation for eternity.
It’s been said that the great use of one’s life is to spend it on something that will outlast it, for the value of life is computed, not by its duration, but by its donation. While the nation watches, and the prayers of millions of people undergird this precious family, we have all been privileged to witness a glorious testament to the paramount truth of the gospel through the life of the young man who finished early, but lived well, for the glory of Jesus Christ.
The value of life is computed, not by its duration, but by its donation.
Hebrews 4:16 says, “Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” This promise has proven true for the family of the amazing man we have known as Zackari Parrish. May it be true for all of us as we choose to believe – and pray – the truth.
Copyright © 2018 Daniel Henderson. All rights reserved.