FamilyLife Today® Podcast

Swimming Against the Current of Grief

with Robert Rogers | June 25, 2009
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Where do you turn when all hope seems gone? For Robert Rogers, watching his van quickly fill with water, the only place to turn was to God. Today Robert talks about his last-ditch effort to save his family by kicking out the window of his van as it submerged into the murky waters, only to find himself carried away by the swift current. Find out who survived and why Roberts still believes in God’s sovereign grace.

  • Show Notes

  • About the Host

  • About the Guest

  • Where do you turn when all hope seems gone? For Robert Rogers, watching his van quickly fill with water, the only place to turn was to God. Today Robert talks about his last-ditch effort to save his family by kicking out the window of his van as it submerged into the murky waters, only to find himself carried away by the swift current. Find out who survived and why Roberts still believes in God’s sovereign grace.

  • Dave and Ann Wilson

    Dave and Ann Wilson are hosts of FamilyLife Today®, FamilyLife’s nationally-syndicated radio program. Dave and Ann have been married for more than 38 years and have spent the last 33 teaching and mentoring couples and parents across the country. They have been featured speakers at FamilyLife’s Weekend to Remember® marriage getaway since 1993 and have also hosted their own marriage conferences across the country. Cofounders of Kensington Church—a national, multicampus church that hosts more than 14,000 visitors every weekend—the Wilsons are the creative force behind DVD teaching series Rock Your Marriage and The Survival Guide To Parenting, as well as authors of the recently released book Vertical Marriage (Zondervan, 2019). Dave is a graduate of the International School of Theology, where he received a Master of Divinity degree. A Ball State University Hall of Fame quarterback, Dave served the Detroit Lions as chaplain for 33 years. Ann attended the University of Kentucky. She has been active alongside Dave in ministry as a speaker, writer, small-group leader, and mentor to countless wives of professional athletes. The Wilsons live in the Detroit area. They have three grown sons, CJ, Austin, and Cody, three daughters-in-law, and a growing number of grandchildren.

Where do you turn when all hope seems gone?

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Swimming Against the Current of Grief

With Robert Rogers
June 25, 2009
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Bob:   And were you thinking I am going to die?

Robert Rogers:   Yes.  It felt like I was drowning because I couldn’t breathe. 

Bob:  Right.

Robert Rogers:  And I was ingesting water and my fingertips were just brushing against trees and weeds and grasses and whatever.   I tried to grab whatever I could to no avail to help slow me down.  But amazingly Bob and Dennis in that midst even then I can’t describe it but I felt at peace.  I just felt like we’re going to heaven and this is okay.  And I think that’s a powerful message for anyone right now in deep peril or who’s possibly facing death or a relative is.  In death when you’re in Christ there is no pain because I felt that and I felt God is here.  He was with me in these deep waters and it’s okay.  

It’s a very smooth transition to heaven and it’s almost like you start just breathing in and suddenly you’re in heaven.  Your next breath is in heaven. I didn’t get that far because suddenly my head bobbed above the surface and I was coughing and gasping for air and flinging my arms wildly trying to do anything I could to get over to the shore.  I could kind of make it out over there but I couldn’t get there.  I’m a good swimmer but I wasn’t that strong.  I don’t know how I lived to this day other than the hand of God an angel somehow intervened but I felt the earth beneath my knees and I crawled out on my hands and knees.

Bob:  Did you have any sense where your wife and daughter were?

Robert Rogers:  None whatsoever.  I couldn’t hear them or see them.  I kept falling down as I tried to stand up because the embankment was slippery and my legs were weak.  To no avail could I see or find or hear them but I could make out flashing lights back on the freeway which was half or three quarters of a mile away.  I knew I had to go for help because this was beyond anything that I could do to fix or to find them or to solve in that moment as this was enormous in scope.  And I made my way as fast as I could back to the freeway and I had to climb over this four foot barbwire fence and up a 30’ embankment and I went to a police officer and I cried out my wife and four kids are still down there.  I barely had any voice I was in shock and I barely had any voice left.  He put me in an ambulance eventually and they started search and rescue. 

They couldn’t bring any helicopters because it was too treacherous.  They tried evidentially.  But for three hours I laid there on this cold hard surface and I just kept hoping those doors of the ambulance would swing open and I’d hear Daddy…daddy…like I heard so many times when I came home from work.  And there was Makenah there racing across the driveway and embracing my arms.  Daddy’s home.  I just wanted to hear those words one more time.  But it never happened.  All I could hear was a blood pressure machine going off every 10 minutes or so taking my blood pressure and checking my vital signs and so forth.

After three long hours they finally had been able to pass through the flooded area.  They took me to a hospital in Emporia Kansas and x rayed my lungs and treated the scrapes and cuts.

Bob:  No broken bones?

Robert Rogers:  Amazingly miraculously…I mean I should have had a concussion and broken limbs.  My lungs were fine.  It seemed as if God just put this cocoon around me and it doesn’t make sense I know.  But unless you were there it was just impossible to understand or to comprehend but they released me.   They discharged me but where was I to go.  I had nothing on me except the clothes on my back.  No wallet.  No keys.  No van.  No family.  No nothing.  So they put me in a room in an unused portion of the hospital and my brother-in-law Matt who’d gone through the flood waters a few minutes before us he and his father eventually found where I was through the Kansas highway patrol and turnpike authority. 

We just embraced one another and cried and we hoped for the best but we feared the worst.  And our prayers there in the hospital room were Lord, I trust you.  God, I trust you.  I put my trust in you.  I don’t feel like it but I’m going to put my trust in you because I don’t know where else I will go.  Is my family still alive?  I trust that your angels are ministering to them.  They are okay and they are going to be found.  If they’re not still alive then they are with you and they’re really okay because to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord. 

So about 3 a.m. or 4 a.m. I heard footsteps coming down the hallway and I feared the worse.  It was an officer and a chaplain and I feared the worst.   They came into the room and their hats were on their chests and they said those words that every parent fears.  Absolutely the worst when they said Mr. Rogers we found your van and it was upside down a mile and a half from the free way.  They said your three young children are dead.  And we need to ask you to identify their bodies and all my blood just went to my toes. 

I guess I knew it deep down but my flesh cried out because they are bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh and I didn’t have to want to do this but I knew I had to.  I had to face it and deal with it.  I couldn’t run away the rest of my life.    So they led me down this long hallway that just seemed to never end and we turned left into the emergency room.  They pulled back the drape and there before me was Zachary and Nicholas and Alenah.  Just one year old we’d only had her for eight months since we had adopted her.  Only now they were cold and wet and lifeless.  I just collapsed over each one of the bodies and wailed and groaned and cried like you can’t imagine. 

Bob:  You still had no idea about your wife or your oldest daughter at this point. 

Robert Rogers:  That’s right.  We were holding out hope that perhaps they made it out alive.  Perhaps they bobbed above the surface and were washed up onto the shore.  And it was several hours later they came into my room again and they said we found Makenah my 8 year old daughter.  She evidently caught on a barb wire fence just a short distance from the minivan.  And that just tore the rest of my heart out because a part of my heart was still hanging by a thread and now all four of my kids gone in an instant.

I collapsed over daddy’s first little girl and I thanked God for all the tea party’s we shared together.  For the pancakes we shared and the birdhouse we made just about seven weeks before.   On a busy Saturday when I had a whole “honey do” list and Makenah said can we make that birdhouse.  I put down the list and said sure sweetheart.  Thank God I did.  I want to live a life of no regrets.  No regrets with God first of all and no regrets with my family.  We didn’t live a perfect life but on balance we made memories.   We sang together.  We prayed together.  We lived life for our family. 

We prayed and help out hope that Melissa was still alive.  We wanted her alive but there was a part of me wondering for her as a mother could she face this?  Would she even want…I mean there is no…of all she had poured into our children through adoption and through our son, Zachary, with his special needs and Down’s syndrome and all those challenges.  I just didn’t know.

Bob:  Well, you weren’t sure you still wanted to be alive.

Robert Rogers:  That’s right.  I wished I were in heaven.  Taking my life never crossed my mind thank God.  But for three days we prayed and held out hope and Tuesday…the flood was Saturday night…and Tuesday morning they came to my room and an officer said Robert we found Melissa’s purse and here it is.  He handed it to me and then he said we found Melissa, too, and she’s dead.  She was two miles from the freeway in a retention pond that had tripled in size. 

That was just the final fragment of my heart that was just washed away.  My love, my life, my friend.  I thought Lord what are you doing? 

Dennis:  Yes.

Robert Rogers:  Why all of this?  I’m comforted by Psalm 71 that says you have allowed me to suffer much hardship but you will restore me to life again and lift me up from the depths of the earth.  My spirit was intact.  I knew God was able.  I knew He could restore.  I knew He was faithful but my soul was aching and yearning.  That’s why I think it’s so appropriate in Psalm 23 says He restores my soul because that can be messed up. 

And thank God that over the years I didn’t resort to any drugs, drunkenness, promiscuity or any internet garbage or stuff I could have done.  Nobody would have blamed me.  I did go through three years of professional grief counseling and I highly recommend that.  I just allowed God to consume me.  I delved into the word of God and allowed Him to fill me up.  He gave me contentment and that’s what really blew my mind because as a husband and a father and a musician and a very passionate person.  I thought I would implode without the love and intimacy of my wife and four children.  Their hugs and words.

Dennis:  Yes.

Robert Rogers:  And yet I didn’t.  God’s grace was sufficient.  His power was truly perfected by my weakness. 

Dennis:  You’ve quoted Psalms repeatedly as you’ve told the story and I think the Psalms are the most underlined chapters in my Bible.


Robert Rogers:  Yes, me too.

Dennis:  Over and over and over again…in fact you can see this Psalm right here, Robert, Psalm 31 verse 14-15 it has my granddaughter’s name

Robert Rogers:    Wow.

Dennis:  Molly Mutz June 16, 2008.  And it says this—I trust in You Oh Lord.  You are my God.  My times are in Your hand.  If you can’t trust that God really knows what he’s doing and he is somehow using all these circumstances around us.  He’s still good.  He’s still worthy of being trusted.  He is the only place you’re going to find refuge in the midst of at tragedy like you were facing.  I want to turn to the audience at this point and say to you I don’t know what you’re facing as a listener today but it’s no mistake that you tuned in.  It’s no mistake that you’ve hung on until the end of this story or at least the end of this part of the story. 

The message is where is your hope?  Where are you going to place your trust?  Are you going to believe that your times are in His hand and that He is worthy of being trusted.  Here’s where Christianity and Jesus Christ and the Bible where else are you going to go?

Robert Rogers:  Exactly.

Dennis:  Where are you going to find life? 

Robert Rogers:  Like the disciples…are you going to desert me now too?  Are you going to leave and they said just what you did.  Where else would we go?  You alone have the words of eternal life and we believe them.  That was a choice.

Dennis:  And that is our choice.  And that’s a listener’s choice right now.

Bob:  I think it can help us to make that choice when we hear of somebody who has gone through a profound trial like the one you’ve gone through and we hear how you have honestly wrestled with your faith in the midst of that.  I think of the story of Job in the Bible and I think of David and the adversity he faces to read how these men walk through trial and continued to find their source of joy and hope and life in God gives the rest of us an example to follow in the midst of whatever trials we may be facing.  

I want to let our listeners know that story is told in the book called Into the Deep.  One man’s story of how tragedy took his family but could not take his faith.  We have copies of that book in our FamilyLife resource center.  Our listeners can go to our web site and you can request a copy of the book from us.  Again the book is called Into the Deep and you’ll find it on our web site

Let me also mention that we have copies of the book that your wife Barbara along with your daughter Rebecca wrote that we heard last week.  It’s called A Symphony in the Dark and it recalls the events of a year ago when your granddaughter Molly was born and lived for seven days and how your family processed that season of grief. 

Again both of these books are available from us at FamilyLife Today.  Go to our web site FamilyLife  You can order online from us if you’d like or if it’s easier call 1-800-FL-TODAY.  That’s 1-800-358-6329.  That’s 1 800 “F”as in family “L” as in life and then the word TODAY and we can make arrangements to have whichever of these books you’d like or both of them sent out to you.

I just need to step in here Dennis and say a word of thanks to folks who help support the ministry of FamilyLifeToday.  The ones who have made today’s broadcast possible.  The ones who make this program possible on this station day in and day out.  Those of you who help support us from time to time…those of you who are legacy partners and provide monthly support for the ministry of FamilyLife Today you’re donations are vital for us to continue this ministry.  We have had to face in recent days some very difficult decisions about whether we could continue to be heard on many of the stations that carry FamilyLife Today.  We so much appreciate those of you who support the ministry and let know that you are listening so that we can make wise decisions about how to invest the resources that God has entrusted to us as a ministry. 

This month if you’re able to help with a donation of any amount to the ministry of FamilyLife Today we have a CD we’d like to send you.  It’s a message that Dennis shared with our staff not long ago from Psalm 34.  A message where he talks about where we can find encouragement and hope and help in the midst of trials and tribulations. 

If you are able to support the ministry to make whatever donation you are able to make and if you’re making a donation this month on line and you’d like to receive a copy of Dennis’ CD of Psalm 34 all you have to do is type the word “trials” in the key code box that you find on the donation form. 

Or call toll-free 1 800 FLTODAY.  That’s 1 800 358-6329.  Make your donation over the phone and just ask for a copy of the message on trials by Dennis or the message from Psalm 34.  We’re happy to send it out to you and we so much appreciate your financial faithfulness and your support of this ministry.  These have been trying times for us as a ministry in the last several months as we have been in the midst of the economic storm that we have faced here as a country and we appreciate those of you who have been able to support the ministry in this particular season.  You’re financial support is very much needed and appreciated. 

Tomorrow Robert Rogers joins us back on FamilyLife Today and we’re going to find out how you find the strength to go on with life when everything around you has been swept away.  I hope our listeners can be back for that. 

I want to thank our engineer today Keith Lynch and our entire broadcast production team on behalf of our host Dennis Rainey I’m Bob Lepine.  We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.

FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock Arkansas

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