With a great deal of trepidation I am going to allow access to the darkest crevice of my mind. It’s an area I have vigilantly tried to avoid since June 8th, 2017, to no avail. What if? What if we had not allowed Sarah to sign up for the mission trip to Botswana? What if we had not allowed her to get on that bus that day? What if Sarah had not been killed in that horrible crash? What if?
I didn’t want Sarah to go to Botswana. She is the most childlike and innocent of my four girls and the thought of her being that far away was almost unbearable. I was shocked when she told me she wanted to go. This seventeen year old who is afraid to take the dog outside to go to the bathroom at night by herself wants to go to Botswana without her family? I still remember the moment she told me. She was standing in the den right next to the couch when she said she had been praying about it and she knew she was supposed to go. On more than one occasion after that she reaffirmed that she was confident she was supposed to go because she had peace about it. I told her she would have to earn all the money herself to go, and then I secretly hoped she would just give up. The more she prayed and the harder she worked to earn all that money the more confident and excited she became. The week before the trip she said once again that she knew she was called to go, so she knew that whatever happened was within God’s will. So, what if we had refused to allow her to go? What if I told her she couldn’t go because in my gut I was afraid something was going to happen to her? What if?
My entire adult life I have been scared to ride in buses, they terrify me, and that fear is compounded when my children are in them. For the past few years Scott has driven the 44 passenger bus, “the big bus” as most of us refer to it, for many if not most of our student ministry trips. Some of my fears are alleviated with him driving because he takes the responsibility so very seriously that his prayerfulness and intense focus are visible and palpable. When he agreed to drive the students to Atlanta we assumed he was driving the big bus with the students in it. I planned to ride along with him so I could eat lunch with Sarah that day before seeing her off in Atlanta, and then keep him company on the way home. The day before they were to leave he received an email informing him he would not be driving the big bus with the students, but would instead drive the smaller bus full of luggage, by himself following behind the big bus. We were both very disappointed. That night I gave vent to my fears. I can see and hear the conversation Scott and I had that night as if it were ten minutes ago. I spoke these words, “We have never ridden with him, I have no idea how he drives. What if something happens? We would be right behind them and see it all, that is my worst nightmare.” After a lengthy conversation Scott told me I should not go, and I reluctantly agreed. So, what if Scott had disagreed with the email and had requested or demanded that he drive the big bus instead? What if I had heeded my fears and refused to allow her to get on that bus? What if I had told her she had to ride on the smaller bus with her daddy instead? What if?
What if Sarah had not been killed in that crash that day? What if God had not preserved her journal and put it in our hands that very night? What if God did not clearly speak to us moving us to share her journal and text message with the world? What if God had not created in our hearts a longing for revival the year before? What if God had not moved in the hearts of multiple reporters and news channels to not only listen to us urging people through Sarah’s journal and text to come to Christ, but to air it in its entirety on national television? What if James Spann had not shared that very press conference and 1.2 million people had not seen it? What if CNN had not shared nationally in writing the parts of the transcript that clearly pointed to Christ? What if the countless people who have contacted us to say they have been complacent in their faith, but are now on fire for the Lord because of Sarah, were instead left in their complacency? What if those individuals so impacted by Sarah’s testimony that they have surrendered their own lives to Christ, were never impacted? What if Sarah was not where she longed to be, worshipping at the feet of Jesus?
God is so very gracious and merciful. For the year leading up to Sarah’s death He had my family and me going through an intensive period of preparation. Through a pastoral search process He was nailing down vital truths my family and I already held, battening down the hatches for the hurricane coming our way. He put me in a position where my ability to hear Him was painfully challenged. Out of that anguish He graciously spoke and led me clearly, powerfully, and miraculously. He trained my ear to hear His voice even when it is only a gentle whisper, and He gave me confidence in His faithfulness to speak and answer when I cry out to Him. I did not learn those lessons alone, though, we shared and learned every lesson during that time as a family. He is a gracious and merciful God who prepared us in advance to walk through this deep dark valley.
We praise Him that because He trained us to listen for and hear Him, His voice now rises above the cries and accusations of the enemy who longs to cripple us with his “What ifs.” We let Sarah leave to go to Botswana, we let her get on that bus and she was killed in that crash. But in the midst of those truths our precious child who told each of her sisters separately and on multiple occasions that she “can not wait to go to heaven” and she is “so excited about heaven” is there now. She has heard her Lord and Savior say, “Well done, my good and faithful servant.” Sarah loved the Lord with all her heart, soul and mind and she is basking in His presence at this very moment, worshipping Him and adoring Him. She truly is rejoicing evermore, and as Scott has said on multiple occasions, even if she could come back, she wouldn’t want to.
God spoke clearly and firmly to me almost immediately after the accident that Satan was attempting to sift us, but that He, God, would take what Satan had intended for evil and use it for good if we will remain faithful. So, we trust Him that He is working all things out for our good and His glory. It is good that Sarah is with Him, though our hearts ache so deeply with longing for her presence. It is powerfully good that He has used His united body in a multitude of churches and denominations across the state and nation to continue to carry us through this valley in prayer. It is exceedingly good that the number of people who have shared they have been shaken from complacency in their faith is so great that we have now lost count. It is indescribably good that God is stirring at Mount Zion Baptist Church and beyond, answering Sarah’s and our prayers for a holy revival.
So, What if? What if you don’t believe God is God alone, and He is good? What if you don’t believe God can or will speak to you? What if you doubt He loves you enough to answer you when you cry? What if you think your sin is too deep and too wide for Him to look your way? What if? If you hear any of those things, you have heard the voice of the enemy who comes to steal, kill and destroy. Take those lies captive and cling to the truth of His Word. He alone is God, and He is good. He longs to speak to you personally and intimately through His Word and prayer. He is a long suffering God of compassion and is faithful to answer us as we cry out to Him. And praise God, there is nothing that can separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus.
So, what if you surrender fully to Him today and “live redeemed”?
Lord, I want to thank you that I found You when I sought You with all my heart. I’m again in fellowship with you and I want to thank you for showing me that in You I find the peace that surpasses all understanding. I tried to find it before, but I just tried to do what was right without fellowship with You. But I have found the peace and for that I greatly rejoice! Whatever comes my way, I will never lose you and therefore will never lose the peace. Thank You Lord for continually teaching me new things. And thank You for continually showing me new aspects of Yourself and new mercies! I love You, Lord. In your precious name I pray, amen.
~ Sarah Harmening
“I am the LORD, and there is no other; Besides Me there is no God. I will gird you, though you have not known Me; That men may know from the rising to the setting of the sun That there is no one besides Me. I am the LORD, and there is no other, Isaiah 45:5-6 [NASB]
“Give thanks to the LORD, for He is good, For His lovingkindness is everlasting.” Psalm 136:1 [NASB]
“The LORD is near to all who call upon Him, To all who call upon Him in truth. He will fulfill the desire of those who fear Him; He will also hear their cry and will save them.” Psalm 145:18-19 [NASB]
“Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? Just as it is written, “FOR YOUR SAKE WE ARE BEING PUT TO DEATH ALL DAY LONG; WE WERE CONSIDERED AS SHEEP TO BE SLAUGHTERED.” But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:35-39 [NASB]
19 thoughts on “What if?”
Your words are beautifully written-in this entry and the ones before. Thank you for sharing your heart. Know we are continuing to pray for you, Scott, Katelyn, Kristen and Sophie.
Thanks for your awesome words and for sharing what God is teaching you and the rest of us through you. God bless!
My heart is praying for you all.
So beautiful!! Tears streaming down my cheeks as I am crying for your Sarah & my Tracy !!Knowing they are in Heaven & would not want to come back to us is so comforting & knowing someday we will be together again forever!! It’s just living this life without them that is so painful!!Will be keeping you & your sweet family in my prayers🙏🙏🙏. Paula Rice Babcock. ( Bettye McCrary’s sister)
Karen, I hope (certainty, remember?) that you will bind your several posts together with the help of a publisher to make them available now and for future generations when our names and even Sarah’s are long forgotten. I believe that there are so many strong spiritual truths woven into your insights and discoveries that the publication would be a vital document not only for people who have been separated from loved ones by death but also other circumstances. You may want to continue your posts for considerable time before thinking about how to make them available for posterity. I want to see these valuable, life enriching, salvation supporting wisdoms preserved and published. Your frequent use of scripture and your decision to release Sarah’s precious writing enhance the spiritual journey you and your family are experiencing I think it was an important decision to share the “What If’s.” Other travelers must understand that Christians who desire to be true to God’s will question decisions they are making and have made; that we wonder about our ability to discern God’s will and our strength to follow His will when the path is difficult. Praise God for the abundance of His grace and mercy.
I am sobbing not in sadness but in hurt for your momma heart ….i too have a daughter who is afraid to walk the dog and got to the bathroom alone at night and all of your emotions during all this hit close to home …. I know your husband is right if she could come back she would not she has seen the promised land that we all long for im praying for your entire family
You and your family are in my daily prayers. This blog is just absolutely beautiful. I love how transparent you and your family are to grieve properly but still trust our Heavenly Father. Please continue to share because Sarah’s life and her walk with Christ is so encouraging.
Thank you for sharing what God impresses upon your heart as well as the inner most thoughts and feelings you have! God is using you and your thoughts in a mighty way! Love you friend!
For a young person that is afraid to take the dog out in the dark, she showed such faith and trust in the Lord to plan to do his work in an unknown faraway place. I believe He gave her her reward now because He was so pleased with her. May He bless you and heal your hurt and loss with the knowledge that she is now with Him. Bless you.
Karen, you are so courageous! The day after we attended my grandson’s celebration, my pastor’s wife called me and told me she wanted to share something with me. She told me my daughter would be facing the “what ifs” or blaming herself for what she did not do for our precious Xander. You were 100% correct in all that you wrote. I am so glad the five of you have each other and know all that you know about Sarah’s desire to serve her Lord and Master. Knowing in a backward glance how the Lord prepared you beforehand is not new to me. I am so thankful that you and Scott know the promises our Lord has given us. I would have felt the very same way about the reservations you shared. It is so hard too allow children to do things we know to be great choices but are hesitant to give them our permission. God love you both and your sweet daughters. God gave all of you that knowledge so that you know you did what she wanted, desired, and felt compelled to do in the service of her Lord. This kills me for Scott. One August 23rd before my grandson left for the Navy Recruitment Center on September 3rd (his grandfather’s birthday), I read in JESUS CALLING, PEACE in HIS PRESENCE, the beginning of the devotional: “ENTRUST YOUR LOVED ONE UNTO ME; release them into My protective care. They are much safer with Me than in your clinging hands.” There is more, of course, I read it all. I was convicted. He left and we had time with him beforehand. We had had lunch with him and I ‘d had a cake with a yellow submarine on top of it. We saw him one more time before he left for the Great Lakes and RTC. He’s been fine. Lonely from time to time. I was told by my daughter today that he got his dolphins, so now he is officially a submariner. I read that same devotional the following year. Xander began having seizures again. He was sent home from school after entering the public schools after being at RISE for several years. He continued to get weaker and weaker. As I said before, we had time to prepare for what came. We had some wonderful days with that sweet little boy. My daughter had given him breathing treatments four times each day, followed-up with chest PT, and then suctioning. She lifted him into his wheelchair, lifted him out of his wheelchair, bathed all 44 pounds of him, and lifted him out of the tub again. She did so much more. He was tube fed from the time he was less than 9 months old. The devil will grind you into the dust if you allow it and forget the promises we have from the LORD. I remember what Jesus told Lazarus’ sisters and what he told his disciples when learning that Lazarus was ill: John 11: 4, “When Jesus heart that, he said, ‘This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God might be glorified thereby.'”
People don’t think there are miracles today, but every time a Christian dies we know a miracle happens! All I have to do is go to 1 Corinthians 15 and begin reading verses 15-58, and read these words, “O death, where is thy sting: O grave, where is thy victory? The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.” Yours and Scott’s labors are not in vain. You prepared and inspired a godly young woman to follow the Lord. She was prepared for Botswana; she was prepared for Alabama; she was prepared for anything that might befall her. We will celebrate with her again! We WILL see Sarah again. God love you all. The promises of the Lord are real! We serve a risen Savior! We are blessed to know Him. I am blessed to read what I know is very hard to put down on paper.
My son goes to your church His name is Scott Blakely. Your daughter went on a mission trip to the whole world.Over and over again her words were shared on Facebook and television. Who knows how people were changed? I am so sorry that you had to lose her but what a wonderful witness her life and death are. I have been praying for your family You have presented such a picture of love for both her and Christ. Remember that her days were numbered like the hairs on her head He is the one who gives life and He is the one who takes it away. Nothing you did could change it. Please know many people are praying God’s arms around your family to comfort you and help you to get through this time-to give you hope and a future. I am inspired by your daughters words .
Karen, Thank you for sharing your heart; for being real. Your sharing helps us know how we can better pray for you and your family. Plus, it challenges us in our own walk with the LORD. I and many others cry with and for you. When one member of the body of Christ suffers, all the members suffers with it. 1 Corinthians 12:26. You and the family are not alone and are remembered daily in our prayers.
Thank you for sharing your heart. I have prayed for you, Scott and the girls since the moment I heard of the accident. My heart breaks for you. I can not imagine the pain you feel. Thank you for your honesty. We serve a mighty and merciful God. One day, we will see Him and understand.
So beautifully written. You continue to bless, teach and inspire us what the messages that the Lord is giving you. Sending my prayers and love.
Love you, my Sister. Thank you for sharing.
As I continue to pray for you & your family,
Sarah’s testimony is being heard around the world. What a great Revival that is!
People are talking about Sarah & her Jesus
more openly than ever before. God is so
amazing & your strong faith in him has
been seen & heard. For that we are
May the Lord bless you & your family at
this time with his everlasting love
Thank you for sharing your heart and your daughter’s amazing faith in Christ…He truly goes before us and prepares us for so much, but I have tears streaming down my face because it is hard to follow God’s will, especially when it comes to your children. It is hard to fathom that his love for them (and us) is all encompassing, BUT it is only a short time until your family will be reunited with your sweet daughter…much love and many prayers for your family! What a legacy your daughter has left for so many…only God knows how many lives will be and have been affected by her homecoming!
I feel on holy ground reading this. Not a holy ground touched by Angel wings and celestial music,; but of one made up of blood, sweat, and tears. One of heart breaking questions and doubts. One in which Evil smiles and our enemy rejoices in our pain and confusion. This is the holy ground on which Christ found himself on the cross. Not pretty instead the host of hell was loose as HE. questioned and doubted and suffered. My precious sister thank you for sharing your questions and pain. For letting us know This too is Holy Ground!
Always a great time to read your words, a true blessing from God. Keep up the great writing.