If you pay attention to the news, you see tragedy every day. It befalls unsuspecting civilians, good people, and innocent bystanders. Some other party loses control and wreaks havoc on those around them. Why would God let this happen? Why would He subject the most blameless of His creatures to suffering, pain, and torment? And how can those hurt heal from it?
This week on The Cale Clarke Show, Cale tackled this topic by telling the story of a serious and tragic accident that left four children dead and a grieving family questioning God.
Years ago, Danny and Leila Abdallah met each other in Lebanon and one of the first questions Danny asked Leila was, “Do you pray?” That was how Leila knew she was going to marry him. Danny says of his wife, “I always say that the biggest decision you make in your life is who you marry. And I know that a woman who loves and fears God will be with you in your darkest hour.” After getting married, they moved to Australia and started a beautiful family with six children: Antony, Angelina, Lianna, Sienna, Alex, and Michael.
In February of 2020, Danny and Leila took their children to a birthday party with their extended family. At some point in the party, three of the Abdallah children, along with some of their cousins, decided to walk to an ice cream shop down the street. As they were walking along the sidewalk, a driver under the influence of drugs and alcohol jumped the curb and swerved onto the sidewalk, hitting Antony, Angelina, and Sienna, and their cousin, Veronique Sakr.
Minutes later, the family of the victims arrived at the scene. “I started praying when everyone around me started screaming.” Leila said the crash looked like a warzone. Her immediate response was to turn to God. Why would He do this? How could He take away something so precious? They did not deserve this! Later at the hospital, a priest broke the news of the children’s deaths to the family.
While all of this is shocking, tragic, and disturbing, the incredibly uplifting finale outshines everything that took place in the first half of the story. Though heartbroken and grieving, the Abdallahs forgave the driver of the vehicle. They harbored no animosity, Danny saying, “I feel sorry for him. I pray for him. The devil used him as a puppet.” Leila released a public statement explaining, “Forgiveness is something you practice all your life. Then, eventually, you can forgive on a bigger scale. And you forgive not because the others deserve to be forgiven. It’s because you deserve to be at peace. And if Jesus can forgive me, then of course I can forgive the driver. If He died on the cross for me, then of course I can pray for that driver.”
The Abdallahs offer a remarkable example for us. Even amidst the soul-crushing loss of three of their children to a reckless crime, they found it in their hearts to be imitators of Christ by offering forgiveness to the man responsible.
The Abdallah’s words and actions call to mind the similar example set by Brandt Jean, the brother of Botham Jean, a man shot in his apartment by an off-duty officer in 2018. After the officer, Amber Guyger was sentenced to ten years in prison, Brandt gave a powerful statement to Guyger in court, saying, “If you truly are sorry, I know I can speak for myself, I forgive you. I know if you go to God and ask Him, He will forgive you.” After telling Guyger that he didn’t even want her to go to prison and he wishes the best for her, he pleaded with the judge to allow him to give her a hug. Brandt said it is what his brother would have wanted, and he implored Amber to seek forgiveness and give her life to Christ.
It’s often awe-inspiring how much power forgiveness can have over such tragic, horrific events. Whether you are subject to traumatic experiences like the wrongful death of a family member or if it is some trivial violation we experience in everyday life, God calls us to forgive each and every wrongdoing.
“…forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us…”
Listen to the full story below:
Tune in to The Cale Clarke Show weekdays at 5pm CT