the Church on the Hill
by D. Eric Williams
Pastor, Cottonwood Community Church
To begin with I want to say that none of you should feel as if you are somehow responsible for Elizabeth Duman's actions. Each person stands or falls before God on their own. Elizabeth may have been deeply depressed and in need of help, but that does not somehow transfer responsibility for her behavior onto the shoulders of her husband, her family or friends. I say this in order to remind you that you cannot allow yourself to be swallowed up by undeserved guilt. Weep for Elizabeth and Abraham, but do not assume responsibility for what has happened.
Secondly I would like you to remember that God is not responsible for these deaths either. No doubt, God is sovereign and there is nothing that happens that is outside of His control. At the same time, human beings have free will; we are not puppets but are creatures who are able to make decisions which are uncoerced. I know that this sounds contradictory, but the Bible plainly teaches that God is sovereign and that man has free will. This is a paradox that I don't want to delve into here; my point is that you should not feel that God has failed you. Indeed, the Bible tells us that all things - not some things but all things - work together to shape the people of God into the image of Jesus Christ. In other words, our Father in heaven will somehow use even this tragedy for His glory and the good of His people who have been affected by it. If God were not sovereign than this could not be true. Because He is omnipotent, you may be assured that He has not failed you and so you can confidently turn to Him for consolation.
Additionally, I encourage you to embrace your sorrow rather than allow it to master you. In other words I enjoin you to truly understand why it is that you are grieving and consider the purpose of the emotion. God has made us emotional creatures and our feelings are designed to alert us to certain truths. Sorrow awakens us to the fact that something we cherish has been lost and God would have us to use the energy of grief to heighten our awareness of His goodness. I am not trying to be clever; I'm encouraging you to recognize that heartache is actually designed to remind us of God's tremendous blessings. All to often we do not recognize the gifts of the Father until they are gone. All too frequently we take this life for granted and complain about the state of affairs rather than give thanks. Sorrow is designed to alert us to the wonder of this life and to sharpen our focus as we recall the blessings we received from those who are gone.
In closing I want to assure you that I am praying for this community and especially the Duman family. I hope that this attempt to help will be of benefit to someone. If I can be of any service to you, please let me know.