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Of all the things we would think to be grateful to God for, I rather suspect that wet shoes would be pretty far down on the list. And yet ...

The wreck was horrific. It made national news, 18 vehicles were involved, there were multiple deaths, traffic was stopped for half a day on both sides of the interstate. It seems to have started simply with a heavy downpour of rain and one vehicle hydroplaning into another. It was one of the heartbreaking, gut-wrenching, terrible accidents that move people from all walks of life to stop for a few moments and pray for everyone involved and for the families who are now experiencing loss that simply cannot be fathomed.

Life on this blue ball we call Earth is pretty odd really. One family will be mourning and broken while another just feet away is rejoicing. Mind you, those rejoicing will also be brokenhearted for others, and they will likely also be processing guilt for being OK while others are clearly not. Like I said, life is pretty odd.

The rain had been coming down for quite a while. And having had to get out of the car several times for different reasons, my wife's father was now in canvas shoes that were soaked, with socks that were soaked also. They had many more miles to go and had planned on traveling several more hours, but the misery of the soaked shoes compelled them to pull off at an exit and get a hotel and stop for the day.

And just moments later, a few miles farther up the interstate on which they had been traveling, the wreck happened. Based on our calculations of speed and distance, they almost certainly would have been right in the middle of all of it had they not gotten off when they did.

The mixed emotions are staggering.

I know that God loved everyone on that highway with equal love; it isn't as if he "played favorites." That much I want to make perfectly clear. Hebrews 9:27 tells us that "it is appointed unto men once to die," but that appointment day is most always unknown. I have preached the funerals of 92-year-olds and the funeral of a 1-day-old baby. When mankind invited death into the world in Genesis 3, he invited something chaotic, not something sensible, else everyone would have an appointment at the exact same number of days and minutes, and it would all be perfectly predictable.

I am also not driving at an assurance that God chose to get my father-in-law's shoes wet to keep him out of the wreck. I have no way of knowing such a thing and will not have any way of knowing it for certain till I get to heaven and can ask.

What I am saying, with utmost assurance, is that many of the things in life that we either get impatient over or even despise are actually blessings in disguise. Again, who would ever think to be grateful for wet shoes? And yet when something like this happens, it reminds us of the wisdom of God all along, who in 1 Thessalonians 5:18 said, "In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you."

"Everything" includes wet shoes. It also includes the traffic light that will not seem to turn green fast enough for our liking, the lovely pink piece of paper the kind gentleman with the flashing blue lights chases us down to gift us with, the kid who throws up on your clothes right before you need to leave home in the morning, the layoff that catches us by surprise, the election that did not go our way and the medical diagnosis that changes our entire manner of life.

"Everything" includes, well, everything. We are not told to give thanks "for" everything, mind you, but we are told to give thanks "in" everything. Not everything is good; some things are, in fact, horrible. But within everything large or small, good or bad, expected or unexpected, the very good God of heaven will be providing reasons to be grateful, whether we can perceive them at the time or not. Therefore we choose to give thanks even when the reasons for the unpleasant things of life are never made known to us.

I did not understand many of the hard things in my life as a child. Some of them are still a mystery to me. But I have known God long enough now to know that he brings direction out of delays, calm out of chaos and glory out of grief.

My emotions are still mixed and jumbled. How could they not be? My wife has been near tears processing it all, both the joy of still having her parents and the sympathetic grief of those we have never met who are carrying the most shattered of hearts right now. Pray for those who are dealing with the loss, and pray for those who are carrying the trauma of having seen it all happen.

And while you are at it, hug those you love a little tighter today, and also determine to be patient and trusting and grateful even if your shoes get soaked.

Bo Wagner is pastor of Cornerstone Baptist Church of Mooresboro, North Carolina, a widely traveled evangelist and the author of several books available on Amazon and at www.wordofhismouth.com. Email him at 2knowhim@cbc-web.org.

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Pastor Bo Wagner
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