The prophet Habakkuk could have been speaking about the largest church shooting in American history and the worst mass shooting in Texas history that occurred on November 5, 2017. He wrote:
Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will be joyful in God my Savior. The Sovereign LORD is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, he enables me to tread on the heights (Habakkuk 3:17-19).
The particular Sunday marking the bloodiest day in American church history was designated the day to pray for the persecuted church worldwide. American’s don’t regularly face a hitman charging through their churches on a Sunday morning. Normally, we get to worship God without fear of government regulations or terrorism. It’s unusual that we are the ones who were murdered in cold blood because we worship God. We will need the same enduring faith that Habakkuk came to in order to keep our faith in the goodness of God while we are murdered in church. It's the kind of faith that keeps the persecuted church moving forward. True Christians will go down trusting! They believe that God is who He says He is and that acts of violence prove how desperate we are for Christ’s powerful salvation!
How do we come to that kind of faith? It’s impossible without expressing our human disappointment in God.
God is the One who has the power to stop shooters in their tracks. He can thwart Satan’s plans. Horrific things happen to good people. It’s definitely not karma that rules the world. In fact, it seems the worst people get away with the most. Tragedies like these are the tests of our faith. We all wonder why God does what He does. Faith believes there is a reason, even if we can never understand why on earth.
Corrie Ten Boon, whose entire family died in German Concentration Camps including her sister who died by her side, came to look at her immense suffering as the backside of a tapestry. She saw her life experiences as an unsightly knotted material of unrelated colors, but from Heaven she believed her suffering looks like a beautiful tapestry woven with purpose and meaning. She survived to tell the story of what happened to Christians who hid their Jewish neighbors in Nazi Germany. The greatest spiritual victory in her life was coming face to face with one of the German soldiers who particularly mistreated she and her sister. It was a golden thread of her personal tapestry. Forgiving that man was an act of God in her. It may have felt and looked like a knotted mess from her side of the tapestry, but she believed it was forming something beautiful in God’s sight.
Enduring faith will be the only way the Texas town wills survive their utter tragedy. They will need to grieve and walk through their anger or disappointment in God. If they have true faith, they will believe in the goodness of God the way Habakkuk did. Even when it seems that God is not supplying the most basic comforts of life, safety in a place of worship, they will trust Him. They will go down trusting like the members of the persecuted church, like the martyrs. God is bigger than every human tragedy we face.