Elaine Sinnott reviews a book with a powerful message about family by a man who lost his wife and children.
Book Title: Into the Deep: One Man’s Story of How Tragedy Took His Family but Could Not Take His Faith
Author: Robert Rogers with Stan Finger
Publisher: Tyndale House Publishers
Year Published: 2007
You can find this book on Robert’s website, www.MightyInTheLand.com or on Amazon.com.
Light in the Darkness
The purpose of this book review is to help spread Robert’s powerful message of faith through unimaginable trials, pain, and loss. This book is written from Robert’s perspective and radiates the power of his faith when he suffers the worst loss a human could possibly suffer. Robert shares every step, no matter how raw, of his walk towards God through a painful fire of loss. His message is an inspiration to treasure each day with our families, to hold them, to read Scripture to them, to teach them about God, and to tell them we love them. We never know what the future holds. This message is a shining light in the darkness of the world right now!
Robert opens his story with just a regular Friday night after work. His children run into his arms excited that he was finally home, with pizza, movies, and ice cream to follow. His words drew me right in because it was so relatable. What happens next though, after him, his wife and children attend a family wedding and begin to head back home, will stick with me for the rest of my life. I couldn’t believe how quickly his life had changed, and realized how quickly ANY of our lives could change. A flash flood swept their family van away, killing his wife and four children.
His words after he was asked to identify his three youngest children in the hospital spoke volumes to me:
“At the hospital in Emporia, [God] showed Himself in the amazing peace that filled me as I absorbed the words I dreaded most. It didn’t cause the pain or the tragedy to go away. It didn’t transport me away from it even for a moment. I could not escape the horrific reality. Rather. God’s peace and strength met me right where I was, right when I needed it, right as my world was falling apart. It made the moment bearable. That could only be the gift of God’s generous grace.” (pp.37-38, emphasis added).
These words reminded me of God’s words to us: “Come to me all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). God didn’t take the pain away, instead He held Robert in His arms right where he was.
His Reaction to the Tragedy
The strength God gave to Robert was extremely evident to me when only hours after the tragedy, he had a profound reaction to everything that happened. Even though he was drowning in emotional waters, he still kept his head above to reveal God in it all.
“My response to this calamity would set the course for the life I still had left to live. I could spend the rest of my life in pity, feeling sorry for myself, and trying to affix blame. But if I did that, I would only imprison myself. It would serve no good whatsoever. From this moment on, I wanted to do good. I wanted my family’s lives to count for something.” (p. 56, emphasis added)
This lesson is a hard one Robert had to learn; it came at a great cost for him. In a way he paid the price for this lesson for all of us. He took part in the suffering of Calvary where Jesus paid a great price for the rest of us, too.
I pray anyone who reads this review and reads his book realizes how important it is to know this message when anything hits our lives that tries to bring us down. This lesson is one that will also stick with me for the rest of my life. If we ignore this message, we ignore Robert’s family.
We honor his family’s memory by being intentional to make memories with our own families.
The Birth of a Ministry
Robert was asked to do a press conference later the next day and he asked his dad what he should say. His dad gave Robert some lasting wisdom:
“Son, this is where the rubber meets the road. Give it straight. Explain how shattered you are. But don’t hesitate to say how you still trust God. This is where we either believe what we say or we don’t. Either God is God, or He’s not… Talk about [your family], celebrate them, and urge others to love their families as you have.” (p. 58)
At the press conference, Robert began with: “Let me start by saying ‘God is God, and I am not.’” (p. 62)
These words screamed complete surrender and trust in God’s will for him. I honestly couldn’t believe what I was reading. Robert’s words reminded me of the Garden of Gethsemane, with Jesus facing His own death, so scared He was sweating blood. But ultimately His words in Luke 22:42 were, “Father, if you are willing, take this cup away from me; still, not my will but yours be done.”
Robert stood in front of an audience he didn’t know, crushed beyond comprehension by what had just happened, yet he bravely said “God’s will be done.” His testimony is an incredible one.
He also realized what his message needed to be:
“If there’s anything positive that can come from this terrible tragedy, it is to treasure the importance of families… to savor single minute with your spouses and children. Hug and kiss them every day – every morning and every evening. Tell them over and over how much you love them. Snuggle with them at bedtime. Place your hand on their heads and bless them every day.” (p. 62)
Robert had been blessed to realize he lived a life full of faith and family and he had absolutely no regrets.
“I sensed this was my calling now. This was the living tribute of Melissa and our children to the world – a timeless message about God and families. In retrospect, this day and these moments were the genesis of my ministry.” (p. 166)
The day before funeral arrangements were to be made, there was a candlelight vigil in Robert’s front yard. His friend Tony shared words at the vigil that struck my heart:
“Don’t wait until the next candlelight vigil to pay respect to the people in your lives. We are shallow if we can’t walk up to a spouse, our children – God’s gifts to us – and say ‘I love you.’ What Robert wouldn’t give to be in your place right now…. Celebrate the living while they’re here. Make that phone call to that relative you haven’t talked to in 10 years because they looked at you funny one Christmas.” (p. 167, emphasis added)
Robert simply added, “I’m standing only because God is holding me up. This is about eternity. I will see them soon someday.” (p. 167)
After the Funeral
At the reception after the funeral, Robert said something else that cut me to the heart.
“I sat at a large table with my friends and, for the first time, felt the stark reality of being lonely. I wasn’t alone, but I was lonely. I was lonely for my family. I was longing for the days when I had three kids in my lap, and Melissa and Makenah were gathering plates of food from the buffet for everyone. I felt out of my element. I felt off balance, limping along, as if I didn’t belong in this setting without them. It just didn’t feel right.” (p. 192)
This changed how I thought about those days I became frustrated having to pile up five plates for my own children, holding one or two children while trying to feed the others. Robert’s message made me realize those moments would be moments I’d ache for if I no longer had them. His message helped me to step outside of myself and realize how blessed I was.
Mighty in the Land Ministry
Because of the tragedy, a ministry blossomed in Robert. He began receiving invites from churches, TV shows, etc. to speak about his story. Interview by interview, he began spreading the message of Christ’s love, of eternal life, of loving your family, and of living a life with no regrets.
To date, over 290,000 people have personally encountered God’s Good News through Robert’s family’s story as he has freely shared over 1,300 times since 2003 – all by invitation. Although his testimony cost him everything, he still charges nothing. (No agent. No “fees”. Pure God.)
This book is SO rich with wisdom, peace, and love that I would have a much longer book review if I shared every quote I had written down that spoke to me. I instantly felt called to adopt his “Family Fun Night” idea with our own children. Our first one was this past month where we made our own pizza, rented Trolls World Tour, and ate ice cream in the living room. The kids yelled “this was the best day ever!” afterwards. Thank you, Robert, for helping me be intentional about making memories with my own children.
You have to read this book for yourself. You owe it to your family! I highly recommend it!
If something happened to your family tomorrow, could you say that you lived a life with no regrets?
Copyright 2020 Elaine Sinnott
Images courtesy of Robert T. Rogers. All rights reserved. Used with permission.
About the Author
Elaine Sinnott is a military wife of 8 years, a mother of five, and an editor/writer for the Catholic Charismatic Renewal Office for the Diocese of Erie, PA. She lives for big family gatherings and enjoys reading conversion stories. She is the owner of MilitaryWifeAfterGod.com and is also writing a book about her reversion back to the Church.