Tragedy, hope and theology for life: Schreiners display model of faithfulness
On Aug. 17, the Schreiner family faced a tragedy. Tom Schreiner, a New Testament professor at Southern Seminary, received news that his wife, Diane, was involved in a severe bicycle accident, leaving her unconscious, with several broken bones and fractures -- and, of most urgent concern, bruising to her brain. The family knew few details about the accident, and they knew even less about its effect on Diane’s future.
During the following days, Schreiner kept an online journal through CaringBridge, in order to update friends and family about his wife’s condition following the accident. This journal also became a window into the spiritual and emotional state of Schreiner and his family.
“We don't know for sure, and in one sense it doesn't matter,” he wrote in his first entry. “God reigns over all things, and now we deal with the situation he has placed us in.”
Five days later, on Aug. 22, Schreiner wrote: “Diane woke up and was conscious. She responded to questions, squeezed my hand, gave us the peace sign when we asked, etc. We cried with joy. We know that we have a long journey, but what an astounding answer to the prayers of so many.”
Later, he wrote that Diane had the text of Isaiah 41:10 posted to a window sill. The verse reads, "Do not fear, for I am with you; do not be afraid, for I am your God. I will strengthen you; I will help you; I will hold on to you with my righteous right hand."
Schreiner’s response to this crisis demonstrates that he and his family believe this promise in Isaiah to be true.
The process of Diane’s healing brought many unknowns, but Schreiner consistently pointed to the gospel through all the questions. In a post at the online journal, Sept. 2, Schreiner wrote:
“If sparrows don't fall to the ground apart from the Father, neither do bicycle riders. Not even the tiniest thing can happen to us apart from the Father's will. He didn't cease being her Father when she fell. …Why did it happen? The scriptures are clear: to bring glory to God. … He planned it for our good, so that we would become more like Christ and trust our Father even more.”
On Oct. 25, Tom Schreiner was scheduled to preach in Southern Seminary’s chapel. Diane progressed enough in her recovery that she was able to attend the chapel, where she received a warm greeting from seminary president R. Albert Mohler Jr. and an extended standing ovation from those in attendance. Once he stood to preach, Schreiner thanked the seminary community for prayers and support.
“I want to say thank you for the love and prayers you’ve shown Diane and me. Your love for us has been overwhelming; it has been deeply encouraging to us. I’m so grateful to Drs. Mohler and Moore; they gave me freedom to care for and minister to Diane, for which I am so grateful. We have seen the love of Christ in countless ways -- especially in prayers. Almost every day the Lord has encouraged me and my family by answering prayer. From the very beginning, it’s his will, but we’d ask, ‘Lord, encourage us with an answer to prayer’ and virtually every day, he did.”
The week after Diane’s accident, the Schreiner family prepared for a recovery time lasting as long as two years. On Nov. 19, roughly three months after the accident, however, Schreiner gave the following update:
“We are full of praise, for Diane finished her outpatient therapy today! ... That doesn’t mean that Diane is fully recovered; but she has made amazing progress since her accident.”
Back in August, the Schreiners anticipated a different fall season, but their faith in God, rooted in sound theology, prepared them for the fall that came.
“The best thing to prepare for suffering is good theology,” Schreiner wrote at CaringBridge. “Whether it is life or death, healing or disease, God is good and he rules.”