Dave and I have been in San Antonio for the last couple of weeks visiting family and supporters. Last Sunday, a man dressed in tactical gear and wielding a semi-automatic weapon, began firing at people worshiping inside a church building in Sutherland Springs, TX, not 30 miles from where we are. In a horrific display of insanity and cruelty, he killed 26 people ranging in age from 18 mos. to 72 years, execution style, and gravely wounded 20 more. The First Baptist Church of this small, tight-knit community lost nearly their entire congregation in one day, in what has become the worst mass shooting in Texas history.
Emergency personnel respond to a fatal shooting at a Baptist church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, Sunday, Nov. 5, 2017. (KSAT via AP)
It is at times like this that the world looks on in disbelief of a God who would allow such an awful thing to happen. Even within the Christian community, we falter and fumble with our words and comprehension over such an act of terror. How could God allow this? Why didn’t He stop that man? Why didn’t He protect His people? Why does He allow His loved ones to suffer?
Realizing there are no pat answers to these age old questions, and no “new truth” than what has already been revealed in God’s Word, I wanted to share some things that I have read from Anne Graham Lotz’s book, “Why? Trusting God When You Don’t Understand.” Anne reminds us of God’s purposes as she takes a deeper look into the lives of Mary, Martha and Lazarus in John 11. There is too much to address in this short blog, so I will just share one principle that stood out to me.
Martha and Mary’s grief over the death of their brother, Lazarus, is the type of pain that I have yet to know. But to add injury to insult, the Bible says that Jesus was glad! “….he told them plainly, ‘Lazarus is dead, and for your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe.” (John 11:14-15) Jesus was GLAD? He was glad that Lazarus had died without him? What could that mean? We know He didn’t enjoy knowing that his friend had died or that He enjoyed knowing how much grief and despair the rest of Lazarus’ family was going through. We know He truly felt their pain as we are told in Isaiah 53 that “He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows.”
Jesus was teaching his disciples, and us, a life lesson — There is a greater miracle than physical healing! It’s the miracle of the Resurrection!
Jesus was glad because He knew not only the joy that was coming but the leaping strides of faith that everyone would experience because of it. He was glad because He knew God would be glorified to a far greater extent by the death and resurrection of Lazarus than He would have been by merely healing alone. God had a bigger plan than just immediate relief from pain.
There is more to life……
- than being healthy
- than being happy
- than being free from problems
- than being comfortable
- than getting what we think we want
- than being healed
…………. There is more to life than even living! The MORE is the development of our faith to the extent that our very lives display His glory!
So Jesus is glad — not that we or the people in Sutherland Springs suffer, but that we have the opportunity to grow in our faith and display His glory, which is the fulfillment of the very purpose of our existence.
God does not always protect those He loves from bad things happening, but uses bad things to fulfill His greater plan. Could it be that God has given you (and the community of Sutherland Springs) a platform of suffering from which to be witnesses of His power and grace to those who are watching?
What kinds of trials have caused you to suffer grief and how has God used those in your life? Comment below!