Screenshot 2022-05-27 at 6.03.54 PM

Screengrab from the May 27 CNN news coverage from the Texan town of Uvalde three days after the shooting.

Fathers leaving the Uvalde Civic Centre, sobbing, as the young victims of the Robb Elementary School shooting on May 24 were identified. Broken mothers being held up across 21 funerals in the small Texan town. A grief-stricken husband who died from a heart attack when he heard of the shooting of his teacher wife.

Such eyewitness accounts are still unfolding, one week after the tragic incident.

Grief in its many forms – across military-occupied Myanmar, Taliban-controlled Afghanistan, war-torn Ukraine, not to mention in homes and families the world over – weighs on us every day. We know by now that Christians are not exempt.

In fact Jesus warned: “In this world you will have tribulation.” (John 16:33a) The heartbreak is real and the anger valid. How do we cling on to the right side of the “Is God still good” discussion?

Salt&Light asked five families who know the pain of loss to share their thoughts with us all.

Michelle Wantasen: Her fiancé died in a car crash months before the wedding

The ring was bought, bridal dresses made and wedding photoshoot done.

The couple, who worshipped at Wesley Methodist Church, was due to get married on April 18, 2020, and all 400 invitations to their wedding banquet had been sent out. 

They never made it down the aisle.

Everything that Michelle Milyarti Wantasen, then 29, had dreamt of since she was a little girl was becoming a reality. The Indonesian from Jakarta had come to Singapore to study and work, and had quickly fallen in love with a Singaporean here. 

But they never made it down the aisle.

On the morning of June 6, 2020, Michelle’s fiancé, Aloysius Chin, 32, was driving to work along the Central Expressway (CTE) when his black convertible crashed into a lamp post after the Jalan Bahagia exit.

Chinese-language evening daily Lianhe Wanbao reported that Aloysius was flung out of his seat and found lying motionless in a nearby drain. He was pronounced dead at the scene by a paramedic at about half past nine that morning. 

Scene of the car accident along the Central Expressway on June 6, 2020

Scene of the car accident along the Central Expressway on June 6, 2020.

When the phonecall came with the terrible news, Michelle collapsed.

It has been almost two years since the tragedy.

“My whole world crumbled. But when I let go, God did a healing in my heart.”

When Aloysius suddenly died in a car crash, I did not just lose my fiancé. In my darkest moments, my whole world crumbled.

I was in a major depression and on the brink of attempting suicide.

“What started as pre-marital counselling for my fiancé and me soon became grief management.”

But, somehow, God sustained me. Day by day, He guided and protected me and comforted me. He watched over me like a caring heavenly Father.

What started as pre-marital counselling for my fiancé and me soon became grief management, providing much-needed therapy for me. It was really challenging from the start, but after going through intensive counselling for three straight months with Ps Judith Halim and Ps Jason Ong, I finally made a decision to just obey God, to allow Him to have His way in my life and slowly learn to accept my portion (my loss).

Having to deal with or even accept the loss of a loved one may not seem possible for man, but we know everything is possible with God.

From the very moment I was willing to “let go”, God started miraculously healing my life.  

He literally took away all the pain, frustration, fear, anxieties and feelings of hopelessness and despair. God took away all the suicidal thoughts, and He healed me of severe depression. I was able to breathe again. 

“God took away all the suicidal thoughts, and He healed me of severe depression. I was able to breathe again.”

Divine joy started to fill my heart, like streams of living waters flowing from within me, and it was God Himself who lifted me out of the deepest, darkest dungeon. 

My life in complete surrender and humble submission to God, conformed to His Word, assures me of my eternal hope in Jesus Christ.

Through all these trials and tribulations, I learned that there could be different thoughts on what is good. Is it good by my own standard? Or God’s standard?

He knows everything that has happened and will happen. We can only experience the victory He has planned for us if we are willing to let Him have His way in our life.

I believe with great confidence that all things will work together for good for those who love God and who have been called according to His purpose. And this good is the perfect kind of good, where it can satisfy God’s standard and gives my life real meaning and purpose.

“I am moved by the tears of your wife. I will heal you,” Jesus told this dying man


Chia Sie Yong: He lost his wife of 32 years within 13 months

Chia Sie Yong, 62, is a bereaved husband who in September 2021 lost his wife of 32 years to an aggressive form of pancreatic cancer. It took her life in a short 13 months.

The Chia family on a trip to Hong Kong in 2017.

With their children (from left) Justin, An An and Austin, celebrating Cheryl’s 58th birthday – her last on earth.

As he shared with Salt&Light about wife Cheryl Kay’s journey – from chemotherapy to watching her take her final breath – it was evident that grief has been a close companion of his family in the past year.

Cheryl’s story began in August 2020, after she complained about a bloated stomach.

A CT scan showed a tumour in her pancreas, and a biopsy dropped the bombshell: Fourth stage pancreatic cancer.

At 57, her whole world was turned upside down in a moment. Her family had no history of cancer. She left her husband and three children bereft.

Here is what Sie Yong believes about pain and loss: 

“My heart aches. But God can make good even out of what is broken and lost.”

Each time I hear news of a school shooting in the US, my heart aches. When something like this happens, it often begs the question: “Why is no one addressing the gun control laws in the States?”

The shooting at Robb Elementary School is sudden death, and, in most cases, is the most devastating tragedy to deal with. 

“The trauma is real and cannot be downplayed in any way.”

Imagine a loved one or a child who bids goodbye to you in the morning and does not return home in the evening. The trauma is real and cannot be downplayed in any way. The question about the goodness of God in such a situation will inevitably surface. 

I want to respond to the grief, pain and hurt that are triggered because of such a tragic incident.

Christians tend to ask the “Why did this happen?” or “Where is God?” questions. When we face life’s tragedies, whether sickness, loss or death, our first response is always “Why me?” and subsequently “Why is God allowing this to happen?”.

As someone who is well acquainted with grief and pain, I have learnt to ask the “what” and “how” questions instead. 

What is God telling or teaching me through these tragedies? What is He doing despite these horrible incidents? How are His purposes fulfilled? How should I respond rightly?

Only when we begin to see the redemptive aspects will we start to appreciate God better in the whole scheme of things. Many of these tragic things that happened in our lives, like the shooting, are largely due to sin and our fallen nature.

“His goodness transcends all these … demonstrated through His redemptive work on the cross by the Lord Jesus.”

I am not negating the grief and pain resulting from these things. We need to face these emotions squarely. It helps to have someone who has journeyed through such pain to come alongside us to get through it.

Taking the time to deal with the loss, trauma and pain and to see the goodness of God in such tragedies requires looking at the tragedy through a different lens.

The goodness of God is based on His character, not on the fallen nature of man which resulted in the killings, diseases and the fallen creation. 

His goodness transcends all these so He can make good what is broken and lost. This is demonstrated through His redemptive work on the cross by the Lord Jesus.

Here are two passages of Scripture that helped me see tragedy through God’s eyes. I hope they will help you, too.

  • Isaiah 45:6-7: … that people may know, from the rising of the sun and from the west, that there is none besides me; I am the LORD, and there is no other. I form light and create darkness; I make well-being and create calamity; I am the LORD, who does all these things.
  • Psalm 103:19: The LORD has established his throne in the heavens, and his kingdom rules over all.

“The pay was so high, I couldn’t bear to leave”: Geylang brothel owner’s struggle to walk away from her old life

Pastor Sharon Chong: Her daughter was diagnosed with brain cancer just after starting Primary 1

Pastor Sharon Chong, 49, first noticed something amiss with her firstborn, Jordanna, then seven, during a holiday to Hong Kong Disneyland in 2010.

Jordanna’s left eye seemed droopy and unable to focus. When they saw an eye specialist, he did an MRI scan and immediately sent them to a neurosurgeon.

The scan showed spots in Jordanna’s brain. A subsequent biopsy found that she had brain stem glioma, a childhood cancer which sees tumours growing in the child’s brain stem.

It was on a holiday to Hong Kong Disneyland that the family noticed an unusual drooping of Jordanna’s eye, and subsequently sought medical help.

Pastor Sharon cheering her daughter up in hospital in August 2010.

“Though there were hardly any symptoms, we were told that the cancer was already at Stage 3 and she would not have much time left,” said Ps Sharon.  

Jordanna, who had just started Primary 1 that year, was treated with radiotherapy and chemotherapy. She lost her hair and became weaker by the day. She began losing her motor skills and needed to wear diapers and use a wheelchair.

Though Ps Sharon, who served as pastor for Cornerstone Children’s Church for 18 years, put up a strong and positive front for Jordanna, she was scared. She found herself trembling every morning as she hid in her bathroom alone. Once she stepped out, she forced herself to snap out of her stupor. Her three young daughters needed her.

But Jordanna’s condition took a turn for the worse and when she passed on, her family felt the loss keenly.

“When the hurt runs deep, it’s easy to believe that God doesn’t care. He showed me He does.”

The pain and anguish from losing innocent lives at the recent shooting are indeed unimaginable. The brutality of unwanted disruption makes us wake up. How do we realistically live life now to avoid the pain, disappointment and regrets in life?

“He is Lord over all things; therefore, every obstacle belongs to Him.” 

At some point in life, every one of us will face the dark side of heartache and despair, a hurt that pierces so deep we’re left gasping: “It wasn’t supposed to be this way! Is God still good? Why this? Why now?”

When the hurt runs deep, it’s easy to believe the lies that say: “God doesn’t care.”

These types of questions can come out of shock, anger and bitterness. They are the questions that will leave us trapped in our own grief and misery. They prevent us from moving on. You are kind of stuck in the past even though we know that “everything works together for good”. (Romans 8:28)

The two questions to ask are found in the account of the Day of Pentecost: “What does this mean?” (Acts 2:12) and “What shall we do?” (Acts 2:37).

I like to use this illustration: When life gets hard, just keep swimming. Muscles are developed to allow you to face your daily challenges. Therefore, we watch, we pray and learn to stand, press in and receive under pressure.

“Peace does not mean being in a place where there is no trouble. It means being amid those things and still remaining calm in your heart.”

We learn to partner with the Holy Spirit to allow breakthroughs to occur. We learn to honour struggles and appreciate life in a whole new dimension. We learn to have faith even when we don’t feel like it because we will receive what we need along the journey.

When God puts His finger on a deficiency in our life, He is joyfully introducing us to our next miracle! When met by an obstacle, we must use it to increase the size of our dream.

God allows in His wisdom what He could easily prevent by His power. He is Lord over all things; every obstacle belongs to Him.

How well we respond to external battles depends on our ability to fight the internal war. I want that same truth to be discovered by the children and youths whom I coach.

Perhaps the butterfly is proof that you can go through a great deal of darkness and still become something beautiful.

Peace does not mean being in a place where there is no noise, trouble, or hard work. It means being amid those things and still remaining calm in your heart.

“Migrant workers are a part of Singapore, we can’t forsake them”: Help centres partner churches to distribute masks and vitamins

Yannie Yong: Her husband died in a car accident on the way home for Christmas

On December 5, 2015, businesswoman Yannie Yong was waiting at home for her husband to pick her up. They were going for a Christmas lunch. He had texted her to tell her he was on his way.

One hour later, there was no sign of him, so she set off for the party on her own, assuming he might already be there.

Yannie on her happy wedding day.

Yannie became a single parent of four children after her husband’s passing.

Two hours later, her domestic helper called to tell her that policemen were at their home.

Her heart sank.

The drive home from the Christmas party was the worst journey of her life.

When she entered her home and saw the policemen, the unwelcome news came: Dick had been in a road accident. He did not survive.

At age 41, she was a widow – with four young daughters who had just lost their father.

She wasn’t sure how she could carry on, especially to take care of their daughters on her own.

But she went on to raise all four children with hope still in her heart.

“I told God the pain was unbearable. But He changed the focus of my eyes.”

“And we know that in all things, God works for the good of those that love him, who have been called according to His purpose.” (Romans 8:28)

God doesn’t cause suffering and evil. But He promises that good will emerge.

God’s goodness is not dependent on an outcome or an emotion. God is good because in the midst of the storm, He comes closer to us than the storm ever could.

Having lost my husband overnight to the accident, I was in a state of confusion and shock. It took me a long while to make sense of the situation.

“God doesn’t cause the suffering and evil. But He promises that good will emerge.”

For many months, I lost life direction and hope. I told God that the pain was unbearable.

Through His Word, He pointed me to James 1:2: “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds …”

He reminded me also of Isaiah 61:3 (NIV): “… and provide for those who grieve in Zion – to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendour.”

As I turn to God and praise Him for His marvellous works and His sovereignty, the focus of my eyes changes.

My circumstances may remain the same or worsen, but God has shown me His goodness in how He sustains me, and how He has only the best plans for me.

God is good because He has shown me over the years that He is a good God.

When a young widow found grace in grief

David Lang: Two out of his three children have passed on from a fatal genetic disease

David Lang and his wife’s three children were born between 1991 and 1996. They were born healthy, bubbly and bright, developing normally in their early years. 

But between the ages of five and seven, they started showing signs of degeneration.

Though born healthy, the three Lang children were later discovered to have Niemann-Pick Type C disease after their son Timothy died at 11.

Two years after he went with his family to a seminary in Chicago for doctoral studies, his daughter, Justina, started having daily convulsive seizures.

Between the ages of seven and 10, she lost her ability to walk, stand and sit. She also stopped being able to talk, eat, drink and even swallow her own saliva.

Justina, who passed away at the age of 30, was one of the longest known surviving patients of the rare disease.

One of the ways that David and his wife Loo Geok showered love on Justina and Titus was taking them outdoors whenever possible. The siblings were close; Titus held his sister’s hand and shed tears during her final days.

Their second child, Timothy, started degenerating at seven.

On a church camp in Johor in 2004, he choked on a piece of bacon and was rushed to hospital, where his heart stopped. He was resuscitated but died 19 days later in Singapore without regaining consciousness.

After Timothy’s passing, the family was told that, from Timothy’s tissue sample, all three children had Niemann-Pick disease type C, a rare metabolic disorder. Children with this disease rarely live beyond their mid-teens.

“I shed much tears in secret.”

Justina and Titus would degenerate to the point of being bedridden, with no control over their hands, legs, head and even eyes, being tube-fed and needing ventilators. 

On February 27 this year, the Lang family lost their firstborn, Justina, who, at 30, was one of the longest known surviving patients of the rare disease. Titus is now 25.

“I shed much tears in secret,” said David, a Singapore Bible College lecturer. “I’ve cried out to God, ‘Why? Why must my innocent children suffer?’

“Why not me?”

This is what he believes of God after all his family has been through.

“I often cried to God, angry with Him. But I cannot deny He is a good God.”

When we see innocent children die or suffer, it is not only natural to question the goodness of God – in fact it can be the right thing to do.

“Watching Justina’s life slipping away, and eventually witnessing her death, brought intense pain.”

I remember first questioning God’s goodness as I helplessly watched Justina lose her functions one by one.

Eventually I learnt to accept her illness and even Timothy’s degeneration.

So when Timothy went into a coma due to a choking incident and eventually passed away without gaining consciousness, I tried not to ask why and was, in fact, very composed during his coma and when he died.

But after the funeral, I began to miss his presence and face the reality that I can never have fun and meaningful interactions with him again.

I often cried to God. I was even angry with God. All these were only expressed at home.

“Not only does God empathise, He promises to be with us as we go through life’s tragedies, suffering and grief.”

Over time, the anger and grief dissipated. But I must admit that watching Justina’s life slip away, and eventually witnessing her death, brought intense pain.

On the one hand, I am tempted to want to ask God: “Why?”

But I do know I cannot deny that God is good in spite of all that has happened.

Is God still good when we see the tragedy of the loss of 19 innocent young children and two teachers?

Here’s why I believe He is:

1. Evil is not His will 

It is not God’s will that such events occur. Such events are the cause of evil and sin that God wants to eradicate.

God will eventually remove all evil, sin, death and suffering.

2. Death is not the end of life

God provides life after death. Those who die can go straight to the presence of the Lord. Instead of death, there is fullness of life and joy.

We who remain here may miss those who have died, but we can look forward to reuniting – at that time, there will be no more crying, pain and death.

Jesus Christ suffered intensely and died at the hands of wicked people, but He rose again to show He has conquered evil and death.

3. We know God Himself feels the pain and sorrow of the loss of innocent lives

He showed that, in the death of His son Jesus, He can sympathise with us. 

Not only does He empathise, He promises to be with us as we go through life’s tragedies, suffering and grief.

To experience God’s goodness in tragedy, we must be willing to allow Him to help us and also accept the means and people through whom He channels His help.

4. He can help transform our experiences of pain, tragedy and death into a force for good and an inspiration to others

I know parents who, because of their children’s disease and even death, decided to spend their lives helping others in need instead of chasing after personal wealth and success.

Even though my wife and I may not know the reasons why God allows our children to suffer and die young, we cannot deny that we have experienced His goodness in many ways.

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About the author


Salt&Light is an independent, non-profit Christian news and devotional website with a passion for kingdom unity, and a vision of inspiring faith to arise in the marketplace.