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We are becoming more and more aware of what a dry desert our world has become. It is a desert without love, kindness, safety, justice, love for God and so much more. As Christians, we are called to bloom is this dry place.
Recently, the dryness was clearly illustrated in news reports and in the lives of friends of friends as two different young parents were brutally murdered less than a month apart. They didn’t die of natural causes. Each one was brutally murdered by a hardened criminal. Both made the news in their local newspapers.
In August, a father of four was murdered on his daughter’s first day of school, while doing his job.
In August, a young father of 4 in Birmingham, AL was going about his business, checking on the rental buildings he was responsible for before going to lunch at his oldest daughter’s new kindergarten class. He never made it to the lunch. It was totally uncharacteristic and immediately family and friends started looking for him. Police were called, flyers were handed out.
During the night a house fire was put out not far from where he was earlier in the day. A block away his car was found. Inside the burning house, a body was found. It was totally unrecognizable. After a few weeks, they were able to identify the body as that of this young man. Only the day before a man was let out of prison who lived in that part of town. More details may come out later. It is likely this young man stumbled on some illegal behavior or this criminal mistook him for a plainclothes policeman and killed him, putting him in the house and burning it to cover the crime. At this writing, the details are not all known.
It is a sad story of a loving father taken from his family of four way too early, from our perspective. He was also taken from a loving church community where he actively participated. Once again, it makes no sense with the perspective we have. But God has a very different one. Some day it will make sense, but it doesn’t right now as this family grieves his loss.
His wife is director of children’s ministry and church administrator at Red Mountain Church. We have local friends who were close to them when they lived in Birmingham and have been grieving this loss. Our local friend remembers him as the first man he ever saw who held his children in a baby wrap.. He realized he did it for his wife, to give her a break during church, but he found it so touching to see. This man was a model to our friend of a good father. Now he is gone and his children will be unlikely to even remember him.
The 4 children left behind are young: 2 year old twins up to a 5 year old kindergartener. It is difficult to understand the ways of God.
About a month later, not far away, a young mom was abducted while doing her morning run, assaulted and murdered.
When I heard about Eliza Fletcher in Memphis who was abducted while running, I felt horrible for her and her family and wondered if history was repeating itself so quickly. Sure enough, it was sadly true.
She and her husband came from privileged backgrounds and despite the fact that the crime in Memphis had gone way up, they decided to return to the city and help make it a better place. They attended Second Presbyterian Church where they met. The route where she ran was her routine route. It was not out of the ordinary for her.
Her church had a prayer service last Friday. Sunday, the perpetrator was found. Her body wasn’t found until Monday. Her funeral service is online here if you care to watch. The hymns that were played were the same ones chosen for her wedding. Don’t be put off by the formal service. It is very God-honoring and exalting while still being real about the devastating loss.
How do Christians bloom in morally dry deserts?
The depths of grief for this family and community has got to be overwhelming. It must be beyond imagination. By now, the realities of their loss must just be sinking in. They have often been on my mind and in my prayers. That is what prompted this series. How do we bloom in what seems to be a desert?
One thing is for certain, it doesn’t happen overnight. It takes time. The caricature of Christians being happy all the time is false and fake. Finding our footing after an event like this takes time. God usually gives us time to process all that has happened. It definitely takes time. It is interesting to see that some of the things God said to Job that were hard to hear, were late in the book, not told to him at the beginning.
A little more to the story…
While all murders are senseless, this seems especially so. She was contributing to her community, a happily married young mom. (They recently celebrated their eighth wedding anniversary.) She had 2 young children. She loved the children she taught and was happy to contribute to her community.
This criminal had a history of continued violent rapes since the age of 14. He has already spent 20 years in prison for one crime. The reason he didn’t simply rape her and let her go free was that he didn’t want her to testify against him. Unfortunately, he didn’t count on the cameras that caught him in the act of abducting her.
To add an unfortunate PS. to the story, he raped a woman just about a year ago and the results from the rape kit took 50 weeks to get processed. They came back just about the time he killed Liza. If they had been processed in a timely fashion, the other woman’s rape would have been prosecuted and he would have already been back in prison. Once again, it is painful to understand why these things happen the way they do.
Yes, it is another apparently senseless act. But the truth is that for Christians, nothing is truly senseless…even when it feels that way.
We have a Grand God in every way.
The quote that has helped me so much from Tim Keller is based on Biblical truth. It is the following:
God will either give us what we ask for in prayer or give us what we would have asked for, if we knew everything he knows.
I know this isn’t specifically a prayer request, but it applies to all the things that happen to God’s people. We don’t understand why they happen. But if we knew everything God does, it would make sense. Therein lies the dilemma. It is another chance for us to trust God and His ways.
I don’t say this lightly. There have been events in my life that I didn’t get real insight on until 30+ years later. Soon after they happened, I struggled in that horrible place of trying to get that “Why?” question answered by God. It was futile. It just put me in a deeper hole!
Yes, it may be part of the process you have to go through. It was for me. I had to ask “Why” and realize how futile it was. It wasn’t that God couldn’t handle the question. He could. He could handle that I asked it. He could handle the answer. But I wouldn’t have been able to have even a clue to understanding the answer!
Then I realized there were other questions that were more productive when it came to getting some actual answers. Like, “Who is God and what is He like?” I’m not certain Job actually asked that question, but God answered it for him anyway. I’ll talk about it a couple of posts from now. It tends to give us perspective on what is actually going on.
Change point: 1. Think about how well you would have understood the explanation of a parent to you as a 2 year old even for an event as simple as punishment for running into the street. Would you have understood it? Would you have agreed with the explanation and reasoning for the punishment, whatever kind it was?
Now magnify that by a million and imagine God’s explanation to you for why He does or allows some of the things that happen. How do you make sense of them?
2. Write down some of the insights you gain from this exercise. What Scripture comes to mind as you think about answers? Use Bible Gateway to find Bible passages in any translation you want.
For now, we have to trust God because of who He is and because of His faithfulness so far. Because of those factors, we know He loves us and His people. We know He is doing what is best even though we do NOT see it as such. We know He is with those who are suffering in grief and loss now. and will know Him better as a result.
**I did my best to get the facts of the stories correct. If you notice errors. Please let me know.