I live in a small community in Oklahoma. My kids have fewer than 500 students in their high school, grades 9-12. There are several other districts nearby that are approximately the same size.
I grew up in this community. There are many, many people who have lived here their entire lives. My life has deep, intricate ties to each of the nearby small towns. I have known many of these families my entire life.
And it has been a difficult month around here. First, we had the tornadoes that struck in May. Many families have lost every material possession. They are working to pick up the pieces of their lives and start over. Others have endured flooding from the massive rains. They’ve experienced significant financial trials.
And now this…
Last Wednesday evening, a truck full of teenage boys were involved in a head-on wreck. The 16 year old driver was trapped in the vehicle when it caught on fire and exploded, killing the popular teenager. Fortunately, the other passengers were able to escape with relatively minor injuries.
As if the loss of one teenager was not enough for us to bear, the same evening there was another tragic situation. A family came home from their older son’s baseball game to find their younger son deceased in their home. This young boy was a classmate of my younger son.
There are no words to adequately express the sorrow that abounds in this community. I’ve spent my week trying to make sense of the senseless tragedies, to understand how God could allow these precious lives to be cut so short. I know that my kids are grasping to accept the reality of the situation, feeling as if it’s all just a dream.
On this side, there is no explanation. I cannot explain why God allows these painful circumstances. I cannot explain why children die young, why our community has to endure so much at one time. But I can turn to the scriptures to find hope.
Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world. John 16:33
There are many promises in scripture, and unfortunately John 16:33 tells us that we will have trials and sorrows. They are a part of life, a difficult concept to grasp. But, we can be comforted that God promises his power is greater than all of the trials and sorrows this world throws our way.
In the days following the revelation of my husband’s affair, I remember sitting in a strange church where I knew no one. I had lost everything: my financial security, my ministry, my reputation, and my family. I was overwhelmed.
As the pastor began to preach, he said, “The Bible never promises that God won’t give us more than we can handle. The truth is, he does give us more than we can handle because he never intended for us to handle it. He wants us to give it to him!”
When you feel as if life is more than you can bear, take heart! God wants to carry that burden for you. He wants you to hand him all of the sorrow and the pain. He wants you to run to him, because he wants to overcome every trial you face.
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28
As we look at horrible losses such as those our community has faced this weekend, it is hard to imagine that God could possible bring any good out of these tragic situations. But, it is a promise from God. Somehow. Some way. In his sovereignty. As only he can. God can. And God will. He promises to bring something good out of every trial. He promises that he will use our pain, that it will not be wasted.
I never dreamed that God would bring an entire ministry out of the pain of adultery and divorce that I have faced. However, I am a living testimony of how God can use the trials of this life for our good and his glory. As Pastor Perry Noble always says, “If it’s not good, God’s not done.”
The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. The righteous person may have many troubles, but the Lord delivers him from them all; Psalm 34:18-19
Our trials and tribulations are a set up for us to experience God in all his glory. It is in our pain, our brokenness, that we experience his fullness, his grace, his mercy like never before. When we are suffering, he promises to be near to us, to save us, to deliver us. What better promise than to know that God will never leave us in our pain and misery.
But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 2 Corinthians 12:9
When we are at our lowest point, when we are experiencing the frailty of our human condition, God promises that his power will rest on us. When we are weak, he is strong!
Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. Hebrews 4:16
Sometimes it takes us facing trials and heart aches before we are willing to humble ourselves and seek his face. When we reach that place, God promises that we can approach him boldly, with confidence. We can be certain that he sees our pain and hears our prayers. And, we can be confident that he will pour out an abundance of mercy and grace.
All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is our merciful Father and the source of all comfort. 4 He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us. 2 Corinthians 1:3-4
When we face the trials of this life, we receive the blessing of being comforted by God. After we have been comforted, we can take the lessons we learned, the maturity that we gained to then turn and help others in similar situations.
When I was 20 years old, I lost a friend in a car accident. Through the pain and devastation, I saw his parents pull together and rest in their faith in God. When another family in our church lost their teenage daughter, this couple was the first at their door, offering words of comfort, grace, and empathy. They understood the pain as no one else could.
That is what God wants from the body of Christ.
The suffering won’t last forever. It won’t be long before this generous God who has great plans for us in Christ—eternal and glorious plans they are!—will have you put together and on your feet for good. 1 Peter 5:10
This scripture has gotten me through many, many dark and painful nights. The promise that the suffering won’t last forever. The promise that God has great plans for us, no matter how contrary to our circumstances that may seem. The promise that one day he will have us put together and on our feet for good.
I can’t read those words without being encouraged, without being reassured that God is in complete control even when life seems to be spiraling out of control. My heart overflows with gratitude to know that my God is working everything together so that it will somehow work to my benefit.
I don’t know what trial or tribulation you are facing today. Whatever it is, it didn’t take God by surprise. He is still in control. He is waiting to carry your burden. He is waiting to pour out his grace and mercy on you. He is waiting to use these trials to conform you to his image, to work out his plans for your life by using these trials for your good.
I know the times are hard—we are personally dealing with grief in ways we have never faced it before. But I cling to the promise that the sun will rise again, that there are beautiful days ahead.
Our community covets your prayers as we try to pick up the pieces of our broken hearts and move forward, as we attempt to come to grips with the pain that this world often brings our way. And, as you face your own trials and tribulations, know that you are in my prayers.
Our God is faithful…always.