Like many, I was overwhelmed with emotion when I heard about the church shooting in Texas on the Sunday afternoon of November 5th. Every time something as evil and tragic as this occurs, it is heartbreaking. However, these events in Sutherland Springs hit close to home for me. As the details began to emerge I couldn’t help but see the similarities between our towns, our churches, and our people.
Sutherland Springs is much smaller than Globe/Miami and yet we both have the same mentalities of a close-knit community, generational heritage, and good-hearted kindness. Many of the churches in our area are of similar size, look, and layout. Seeing video from past services at First Baptist Sutherland Springs was like looking in a mirror. Ultimately, I recognize what binds me to them (and all followers of Christ) is that we are saved by and worship the same Jesus. We are one body in Christ. And as our brothers and sisters in Christ suffer and hurt, it causes the rest of the body to suffer and hurt too.
Thanksgiving is right around the corner. Will it be celebrated in Sutherland Springs? Will those who experienced such a tragic event even want to set aside a day to focus on giving thanks to God? Honestly, I cannot answer for them. And whatever they decide for themselves is okay. The amount of time that goes into healing from a situation like this varies. It will take time, prayer, and loving relationships for people to be able to truly heal. In times like these, one must hold on to the promises of God even when it seems difficult to do so. “The LORD is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.” (Psalm 34:18)
At the same time, we must remember that followers of Christ are able to give thanks even in the midst of life’s severest storms. Not because we are stronger than other people, but because we have a strong God to lean on. If you’ve ever taken time to read the book of Job in the Bible, the first two chapters make completely no sense if you don’t keep in mind who God is. Job is a man who is blessed with so much of the material possessions we consider to be the good things of the world. He has money, family, and integrity (a rare quality). We look at men like that and say, “Wow, they are really somebody.” But it doesn’t last. Job loses everything in one horrific day. All of his wealth is gone and all his children are killed. What will Job do now? In a moment such as this we might want to follow the advice of Job’s wife: “Curse God and die.” (Job 2:9) Yet, that is not his response. In the midst of sorrow, Job professes his continued trust and allegiance to God, “The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.” (Job 1:21)
How can he do that? How can anyone be so thick-headed as to not see that God must not really care about Job. God must hate Job. Right? Otherwise, why would an all-powerful God allow this to happen? That is where the book of Job really shines as a insight into the mind of God as to the “hows” and “whys” and what God is doing in His people through heart-wrenching situation. God never leaves us or does anything that does not have purpose. Job came to understand this after the long and difficult period of waiting and wondering. “I know that You can do all things, and that no purpose of Yours can be thwarted.” (Job 42:2) It was a time in Job’s life where the temptation is to despise and run from God; yet what we really need in times like these is to come to know God more, to come closer to Him. “I had heard of You by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees You.” (Job 42:5)
Like Job and the many other saints of the past who have trusted God in the midst of sorrow, I pray that followers of Christ today will not waste life’s storms but use them as times to come nearer to your God, to give thanks in the midst of sorrow.
I will continue to prayer for First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs, Pastor Frank Pomeroy, and everyone who has been affected by this devastating moment in time. I pray that God would heal hearts and minds, and that through this, many people would come to see how fragile life is. Come to see that no one is guaranteed tomorrow. So today, if you have not been made right with God through Christ, do so. We don’t always understand this world and the things that happen in it but as Pastor Pomeroy said in a brief interview the day after the shooting, “I don’t understand, but I know my God does.” That is something you can take to the bank. “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28)
By Pastor Nick Jones
Maranatha Baptist Church
1320 E. Saguaro Dr. Globe, AZ