Witness Him Now
Yesterday, when we got home from church, we found out that a young man that morning had gone into a small Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas and shot and killed at least 26 people and injured many others. My heart is hurting for the people in this small town and for many others who identify with the people who died and with the people left behind. I live in the heart of the bible belt, so this tragedy hits me where I live. But, I don't think like most people think, and I don't react like most people react, so I want to blog. I want to share with you what is going on in my heart and in my mind. And even though I know that many of you will not understand what I am saying, I want to say it anyway.
First of all, I believe with everything that is within me that "all things work together for good to those who love God and who are called according to His purpose." (Romans 8:28) So I know that as tragic as this is, God is going to do something good for His people because of it. I also know that God always has good plans, plans to prosper and not to harm, plans to give us hope and a future (Jeremiah 29:11), and I know that no plan of His will ever be thwarted, so somehow or another this gruesome incident is part of a bigger picture that God has to bring redemption to His people. He says, "Does disaster come to a city unless the LORD has planned it?" (Amos 3:6) This disaster was part of His plan. (Revelations 14:13) also tells me, "Blessed are those who die in the LORD from now on. Yes, says the Spirit, they are blessed indeed, for they will rest from their hard work: for their good deeds follow them!" Those who died are in a good place, a place of rest. But what about all of the rest of us? That is what I want to talk about.
None of us can change the circumstances of life. It is not in our power. Other people make choices that rock our world. It does not matter how smart we are or how strong we are or how prepared we are, things happen - things we cannot change. The thing we can change, however, is how we respond to the circumstances. That's what I want to talk about.
With everything that happens, God is trying to teach His people to trust Him. But we all have an enemy, a very real enemy. This enemy wants to kill us, steal from us, and destroy us. It is his goal. He hates us, and he will take the circumstances of life to bombard us with lies. He wants us to question God's goodness and God's purpose. He wants to torture us with guilt and fear and sorrow. He wants to trap us in a prison where there seems to be no escape. He wants to make "Trust" look impossible.
So when I look at this tragedy, I ask myself, "Where will the enemy attack?" And the answer is varied. For some, it will come in the form of hatred and rage. It will cause people to want to get revenge, to point the blame at someone else to ease their own conscience. For others, fear and terror will come. For others, extreme guilt - like it was their fault that this happened. For others, the attack will come in the form of a cry to take up arms - as if we are fighting an enemy who is flesh and blood. And then others will be attacked by extreme, crippling sorrow.
So how do we fight the forces that are against us, that are trying to kill us, steal from us, and destroy us? We turn to Jesus. We open our hearts wide to let Him come in and hold us and keep us. If there is anger or fear or guilt or sorrow in there, we let Him have it. We say, "God, I am so sorry for letting the enemy in. I am guilty of being angry and afraid. I am guilty of allowing guilt and sorrow in. Please take it away." And He will. Then ask Him to fill you with His peace. That doesn't even make sense - that we could experience peace in the midst of the storm, but we can. Now that doesn't mean that these things will not try to attack our heart again and again, but it does mean that there is a very real savior who whats to set us free.
Isaiah 61 gives us a glimpse into what our Jesus has come to do for His people. "He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; to proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn, to console those who mourn in Zion, to give them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they may be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that He may be glorified."
I don't understand it all, but God says, "Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted." (Matthew 5:4) God has come to heal and comfort His people. Vengeance is His, not ours. Our portion is peace and joy and praise, even in the middle of tragedy. We will be called "trees of righteousness" so that our LORD may be glorified. But I want to leave you with a word of warning. (Hosea 10:12-13) I said, "Plant the good seeds of righteousness, and you will harvest a crop of love. Plow up the hard ground of your hearts, for now is the time to seek the LORD, that He may come and shower righteousness upon you.. But you have cultivated wickedness and harvested a thriving crop of lies - trusting in military might, believing that great armies could make your nation safe. Now the terrors of war will rise among your people, and all your fortifications will fail."
God is calling His people to believe and to trust Him. If we choose to take matters into our own hands, trusting in our own strength and might, terror will be our portion. Terror is the spirit that is about to be loosed upon the whole planet. It will come to all of those who refuse to turn to the only One who is able to save us. Psalm 127:1 says, "Unless the LORD builds the house, they labor in vain who build it; unless the LORD guards the city, the watchman stays awake in vain. It is vain for you to rise up early, to sit up late, to eat the bread of sorrows; for so He gives His beloved sleep."
My dear friends, it is my prayer that you will find peace and joy and praise, even in the middle of all of the tragedies of this life. The only way this can happen is if our eyes are on Jesus and our heart is wide open to receive his mercy and grace. We have to let Him help us get through this. We cannot do it on our own.
The scripture says, "May you prosper and be in health, even as your soul prospers."