The question is not, Why us? The question is, Why not us? Why do bad things happen to good people? The short answer is this: sin.
This post is an excerpt from Terrie McKee's book I've Been Shot! Encountering Christ in Trauma, available here. The book details the attempted armed robbery which left her husband Greg paralyzed and its aftermath -- and how Christ worked in and through that tragedy.
When Eve made the choice to listen to satan instead of God in the Garden of Eden, she not only brought damnation upon herself and her husband, who was standing right there and did not stop her, but also all their descendants and even Creation itself. God told Adam:
“Because you listened to your wife and ate fruit from the tree about which I commanded you, ‘You must not eat from it,’ cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat food from it all the days of your life. It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return,” [Genesis 3:17-19 NIV].
Before sin appeared on the Earth, there were no weeds, briars, or thorns. Sin brought these dastardly hurtful things on the planet. No longer would the Lord God walk with his children in the cool of the Garden, talking and in perfect fellowship.
Committing that first sin was as much a choice as Darren had when he pulled the trigger.
Because of Darren and Terrell’s choice, Greg is paralyzed. Another way: Because of Darren’s sin, Greg is paralyzed. All sins affect others–even the ones done in shadow and mystery. Just as Adam and Eve’s sin affected all of humanity, Darren and Terrell’s sin affected us, causing Greg to be paralyzed. All of us experienced ramifications of that terrible night.
Now, some might ask, where was God? Don’t we often hear that from nonbelievers during times of trauma and tragedy? Asking that question shows not only a lack of faith but also a lack of knowledge about the character of God.
God placed the bullet square in the L1 vertebrae, making Greg paralyzed but not killing him. He allowed or even led that man to spit in the water fountain, causing the custodian to clean it with bleach water, which gave a perfect canvas upon which Terrell left two perfect latent fingerprints.
Where was God? Scripture says that He “hem(s) me in behind and before, and you lay your hand upon me,” [Psalm 139:5 NIV]. As we were shuffling boxes around the morning of November 28, God was already moving. As we were waving goodbye, God was putting into place the detectives, the troopers, even the custodian–setting the stage with all the players He wanted in this drama. He went before us and came up behind us.
As I was driving down I-85 to the hospital, seeing a sea of red lights ahead of me, it was Jesus who heard my heartfelt and desperate prayers to “split the Red Sea again.” With my hazard lights blinking and horn blaring, Jesus moved the cars in front of me and allowed me to drive right down the middle line between the cars. It’s all Jesus. He is sovereign.
Sovereignty means God rules all. We may think we have it all figured out, and we’re in charge, but we aren’t in charge of anything. We shake our fists heavenward and say, “When I get to heaven, I will ask God __________________.”
I love what God said to Job. “Then the Lord spoke to Job out of the storm. He said: “Who is this that obscures my plans with words without knowledge? Brace yourself like a man; I will question you, and you shall answer me” [Job 38:1-3].
It did no good to demand an answer for the shooting from God. Did God allow it? No, and yes. While Greg getting shot was the natural consequence of sin, God has bigger plans for Greg and everyone affected through the shooting.
Luke 8:2 states that Jesus cast seven demons out of Mary Magdalene. Why had seven demons possessed her? We have no idea why seven demons took control of her mind, when one would have done the trick. What horror she had to have experienced! What possible good could have come out of demon possession seven-fold?
When Jesus cast them out, Mary Magdalene, in her right mind and freed of the torment she had suffered, became a staunch supporter and disciple of her Lord. In fact, the five times in Scripture she is not named within a group of other female disciples, she is a leading lady in the story of Christ’s death and resurrection. In fact, it is Mary Magdalene who, after experiencing the risen Savior, runs to tell the other disciples that the tomb was empty. Glory!
As seven in biblical terms means “completeness,” perhaps Mary was possessed by so many demons to illustrate that she was completely overwrought with sin and wickedness. With Christ’s healing, the seven demons drive home the point that only Jesus could completely and permanently heal her. No one else. Only a complete healing from the One Savior could completely eradicate wickedness. After the change of management, she had a purpose and mission drastically different than her life before: to share her Savior with others.
Greg was shot in a senseless crime, but Jesus has a higher purpose than for Greg to be a statistic. Before the shooting, he was wrestling with depression and weight gain. He didn’t have an understanding of what the Lord had in store for him. But God did.
The Bible says, “’For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you’” (Jeremiah 29:11-12 NIV). Verse 11 is often quoted but verse 12 is just as powerful. When bad things happen, we need to look at them as plans that the Lord has put in our path, not to harm us, but to draw us closer to Him. When we call on Him, He is faithful and just, and will listen to us.
This is a hard concept, especially for people who have had loved ones die in shootings, bombings, terrorist activities, and car accidents. This is a hard concept for parents who are holding lifeless little ones, or children who have been hurt. As followers of Christ, we must have the faith that our Lord is Lord in the good times and in the bad.
Some people might ask, why didn’t God stop the shooting? Greg is alive, isn’t he? Had that bullet traveled one-quarter of an inch in any direction, he would not be here today. The bullet was fired from less than three feet away—the detective called it a “kill shot.” But God is sovereign. He did not want Greg dead. He wanted to use Greg because of the shooting to minister to others.
This is a hard thing to understand, but just perhaps, we are not meant to understand it. Some things are too hard for us to grasp, and we cannot imagine a sovereign God who would allow such wickedness. Listen: when sin entered the world, everything changed. Ramifications of sin meant that all would pay the consequences. This is little hope in the unnatural act of a parent burying a child, but just as much as we cry, Jesus cries too.
Jesus cries because He knows what started all this mess in the first place: rebellion against His sovereignty in the Garden of Eden. He cries when His children—you and I—experience the ramifications of sins like murder, bullying, pornography addictions, and drunkenness.
Jacob, when he was little, rebelled right after his dad and I divorced. He started shoplifting. After discovering a little stuffed bear in his room that I didn’t recognize, I questioned him about it. The truth came out: he shoplifted the bear from a restaurant that had a gift shop. He and I drove to the restaurant, where I asked for the manager and made Jacob tell what he had done. I then made Jacob pay for the bear, and we walked out with it. He was told that despite money eventually being exchanged for the bear, he could not have it. I had him throw it in a trashcan at the restaurant. Jacob’s sin of stealing meant the bear went into the trash and he lost a stuffed animal. There were ramifications that occurred.
Where was God the night of the shooting? Jesus prevented Greg from passing out as he looked inches away into a pool of his own blood, enabling him to give the trooper detailed descriptions of the suspects. He delivered strength to me to keep Jacob from going after those men, who would have hurt or killed him. He provided someone to comfort Laura when I had to be helping Greg and talking with police. Jesus was there in every God-ordered step. No, Jesus did not prevent the shooting, but He did something even more powerful: He demonstrated His incredible grace to us.
Grace is giving a gift to someone who doesn’t deserve it. We did not deserve Jesus’ power, presence, and peace that night, but He gave it to us anyway, knowing that we needed it. Because of that grace shown to us, we must extend that same grace to other undeserving people, namely, Darren, Terrell, and Keyona.
Greg dealt (and is dealing) with the ramifications of Darren and Terrell’s sin of shooting him, however—in God’s sovereignty, this was part of a bigger plan that He had for us all. We had to go through the desert to get to the promised land—and we had to trust Jesus that the promised land was on the other side of the desert though we could not see it over the towering mountains that lay before us.
Romans 8:28 (NIV) states: “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.”
This passage can be an extraordinarily hard one to understand, given the pain that life can bring. We don’t want to think of our God as being Someone who orchestrates hardship upon our lives. That’s not what this powerful verse is sharing. “We know that in all things.” Even in life’s deepest hurts, even when it involves someone being paralyzed or killed, in all things, God is moving. He is in the background and the foreground, working things out for the good of those who love Him.
This may mean that He works in us and gives us a choice: to retreat in our misery and become bitter, which hurts our health more; or to reach out for Him, extend forgiveness, and move forward with our lives—whatever that entails.
Terrie McKee's book I've Been Shot! Encountering Christ in Trauma is available on her author website, at Park Road Books in Charlotte, NC; The Book Lady in Monroe, NC; and at Pages Books and Coffee in Mt. Airy, NC. To book Terrie to speak about Christ's power, presence, and peace in trauma, simply email her here.
(c) 2019 Terrie Bentley McKee All Rights Reserved
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