Comfort in Tragic Times

Posted on November 7, 2017 by Steve Willis in Article from The Messenger

It’s almost unimaginable.  In fact, you don’t even want to entertain the thought of it.

This past Sunday a mentally deranged and perhaps demonically possessed man walked into his in-laws church and killed 26 people.  One of the 26 was the pastor’s daughter.  That hit particularly close to home. 

Belle Pomeroy, the 14-year-old daughter of Pastor Frank and Sherri Pomeroy, went to meet Jesus on Sunday morning. I expected to hear the usual, “She’s in a better place” comments following the tragedy.  While there was some of that, the larger focus was on the fact that the pastor was out of town that Sunday.  In the same way I’ll minister on the mission field three or four Sundays a year, Pastor Pomeroy was doing the same.  I cannot even begin to think of the guilt he must have felt by not being with his congregation on that day.  I would be thinking, “If I would have been there, could I have made a difference?  Could I have stopped the gunman? Would I have saved my Johnna?”

But remarkably, when the Pastor and his wife were interviewed, here is what they said.

"We lost more than Belle yesterday, and the one thing that gives me a sliver of encouragement is the fact that Belle was surrounded by her church family that she loved fiercely, and vice versa. We ate together, we laughed together, we cried together, and we worshipped together. Now most of our church family is gone, our building is probably beyond repair and the few of us that are left behind lost tragically yesterday. As senseless as this tragedy was, our sweet Belle would not have been able to deal with losing so much family."

Wow. What a perspective.  Not only did the parents recognize their daughter was in a better place, they were also celebrating the fact that their daughter was missing out on the emotional pain she would have suffered if she would have survived the attack.  In their minds, God was most merciful, not just for taking her to heaven, but for taking their daughter out of this darkening world.  That’s how close she was to her church family and now the majority of that church family is in heaven TOGETHER. 

When people die unexpectedly, while it is right and normal to grieve, perhaps it’s not a bad thing to also celebrate an early exit from this sinful planet.  As the Apostle Paul stated, “For me to live is Christ.  To die is to gain” (Philippians 1:21).  Missing out on certain aspects of this old world may actually be advantageous.  God is in control, even when tragedy strikes and we send a loved one to heaven earlier than expected.  In times like those maybe our perspective should be that God was blessing everyone involved by allowing them to avoid future untold pain He saw on the horizon.

God is good.  God is sovereign.  God is wise.

If we remember those three things, perhaps we can handle our personal tragedies as well as the Pomeroy family.  At the same time, I hope we never experience a day like our brothers and sisters in Texas. May God continue to bless them in their time of suffering and grief.

--Steve