In the five short months since this blog launched, we have written three responses to national tragedies. First, it was A Response to Las Vegas. Next, it was When the Day of Evil Comes. And, just yesterday, it was When Tragedy Hits Home. Never did we anticipate such a task before us when the live button was pushed on September 1, 2017 making By Faith She a voice of faith and hope.
These topics are hard; the writing assignments difficult. We, too, struggle with the “Why’s” and grapple with the fear these events evoke. Like you, we have also asked ourselves, “Where is God in all of this?”
Yesterday’s shooting at Marshall County High School hit my home turf. My niece was in the room right next to the shooter. My friends’ children were in that building. For me, it wasn’t just some tragic event that was on the news. It was much more real. I, too, received the frantic phone call. My social media was one post after another of constant news footage, calls for prayer, and Marshall Strong profile pictures. Today, my friends and family are scared to send their children to school. It will forever leave an ugly scar on the people that I love most.
The one word that I read and heard over and over yesterday was, “senseless.” We cannot wrap our minds around what happened. Our comprehension fails us. There are no quick answers to the “Why’s?” And yet, they still come.
As I went through the motions of tending to house and children last night, heart weighed down by grief, my thoughts were anchored on Genesis 50:20 –
"You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good.”
Good? How could good come from such senselessness? I can hear you thinking right now, "There is absolutely nothing that is good about any of this." And, I agree. There is indeed nothing good about it…yet. Our hope, and the only way we can go forward with healing, is knowing and believing that God will turn this tragedy into something good – something very good.
This confidence in a God who turns evil into good was spoken by Joseph, a man who Scripture says was hated by ten of his brothers. It was Joseph who, with vindictive jealousy, they plotted to kill. It was Joseph who they threw into an empty well. It was Joseph who they sold into slavery. It was Joseph who pleaded for his life. And, it was Joseph who they claimed had been devoured by wild animals to his distraught father.
AND YET, it was Joseph who said, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good.”
How was that possible?
Joseph goes on to say, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.”
What happened to Joseph was terrible. Abandonment. Slavery. Prison. Isolation. There was not an inkling of good in what his brothers did to him. It was tragic, horrific, and, yes, absolutely senseless. Why didn’t God react? Where was God?
It took over 20 years to answer these questions. When Joseph made himself known to his brothers, he told them:
For two years now there has been famine in the land, and for the next five years there will be no plowing and reaping. But God sent me ahead of you to preserve for you a remnant on earth and to save your lives by a great deliverance. Genesis 45:7
God had turned evil into good.
The very thing the enemy used to harm Joseph with, God used to bring about the salvation of his people. Had Joseph not been in Egypt, the sons of Israel would have perished because there was no food in the whole region because the famine was severe; both Egypt and Canaan wasted away. Genesis 47:13
God’s chosen people would have wasted away. But, they didn’t. They didn’t because God used the situation that Joseph found himself in when stripped and chained to a traveling caravan bound for a foreign land for a greater good than Joseph could have imagined. That’s how He works.
The Marshall County tragedy is still fresh and happening in real time. It is hard to see any potential good at this present moment. However, how about Las Vegas? How about Sutherland Springs? If God can bring good out of evil is there evidence of it happening in these two places?
The answer is yes. Absolutely yes.
Last night I reached out to a friend who left the comforts of the Bible Belt last year to plant new roots in Las Vegas. She and her family went for the sole reason to support a church plant. Her courage to step into a foreign world with no guarantee of success are heroic in my book. In my message to her, I asked, “How has the church been impacted by the Vegas shooting? Have you witnessed a revival of any sort?” Her answer gave me chills:
“Everywhere you look you see ‘Vegas Strong’ on car windows, hotel signs, billboards, clothing. It hasn’t stopped lost people from acting lost but I see people being more aware of personal suffering around them. We have about 15 football players at our school who have given their hearts to Christ, followed by baptism, and are now participating in their first ever FCA at the school. This is only a glimpse of what has been going on in our part of the city.”
A school of over 2,000 students now has a Fellowship of Christian Athletes. A fourth of the football team has been saved. Community compassion is growing. And, that is only from one person’s vantage point. Can you imagine how else God is moving in that city? Can you imagine how many more hearts He has revived and rescued?
What about Sutherland Springs, Texas? How can God bring good out of such an evil that occurred in His very own sanctuary? Well, according to CBS News the church had to be moved from a community center to a baseball field in order to accommodate the large crowd of worshippers. The Sunday following the shooting was the largest gathering in the church’s 100-year history. Thousands of people have come to hear the Gospel – some for the first time.
Does this mean that these cities aren’t still hurting? No. But, this does mean that these cities can be filled with hope right now as the Holy Spirit is sweeping through them and turning hearts to Jesus Christ.
Joseph told his brothers that God had sent him ahead of them long before the disaster came so that he could save their lives. The evil act that befell him by his brothers’ very own hands brought about their deliverance. What a beautiful picture of unmerited grace and redemption!
Knowing many of the youth leaders, teachers, counselors, pastors, and people who love on children in Marshall County and the surrounding areas, all men and women of great faith, I know that God put them into their positions long before yesterday so that they would be ready for the salvations that will come from this. Just as Joseph was reunited with his father in an emotionally charged scene in Genesis 46, many of these children, and maybe even some adults, will come to know their Heavenly Father because of the people who are pointing them to Him at this very moment.
The only way that the enemy, who is as old as Genesis, wins is if we let him. My son asked me the other day, “Mom, when does the devil quit shooting his arrows?” My reply was, “Never.” Well, at least not until Revelation 20. Why is that? Because, like Joseph’s brothers hated him, our enemy HATES God. He will plot, scheme, and attack in order to silence the Gospel, paralyze the church, and cripple the people with fear. We cannot let him. Had Joseph languished in prison, rolling around in his plight, the people would have perished. Their salvation and deliverance depended on him rolling up his sleeves and getting to work. The fields were ripe for harvest and so are ours.
Just like Joseph’s story, and so many more in the Bible – from Esther to Jesus to the Early Church – God has used the evil acts that occurred on the soil of Las Vegas and Sutherland Springs, and many, many more lands throughout history, to bring about one thing – the salvation of souls. And, I can guarantee you, He will do it for Marshall County, too.
First, I am a child of God. And, like a child, I am always learning and growing. The more I know Him, the more I love Him. Second, I am a wife to a good man. Missions is his thing while teaching women to love God’s Word is mine. Third, I am a mama to three plus a sweet cockapoo who thinks he’s #4. My children are my ongoing sanctification. Fourth, I am a passionate advocate of all things healthy & natural and a dreamer/designer. Old friends call me Becky, newer ones call me Rebecca, and the most intimate ones call me Beck. You can just call me friend.
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