Trusting God after Tragedy

0 comments Posted on August 1, 2021

by Taylor S. Schumann

If you asked me before I was shot during a school shooting in Virginia in 2013, if there was a “right kind of survivor” I would have vehemently told you “No, of course not!” But, deep down, I probably did have ideas that crept into my subconscious through shows like Dateline and 20/20 that showed what “good survivors” did in the aftermath of their trauma.

We watch these videos and share them and maybe without intending to, we hold them up as examples of how victims should respond, how victims should forgive, how victims should live. We create the perfect victim, the good victim, the one people want to follow and look up to. And in doing so, we create an impossible and unnecessary standard for victims to live up to.

No one ever told me what kind of victim or survivor I should be, not explicitly anyway. I discovered the desired traits simply from the things said to me in casual conversation.

“At least it was only your hand.”

“This will make you stronger.”

“You will overcome this.”

“God saved you for a reason!”

“God has great plans for you!”

If God had big plans for me, I was absolutely not crushing it. I was failing miserably.

Ephesians 2:8-9 (NIV) says: “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.”

There’s a reason God reminds us that we can’t earn any of it. There’s a reason he tries to help us understand the importance of this truth. Because any attempts at earning his love or proving our worth to him, or to anyone else for that matter, will always come up short and unfulfilling. It only causes us to strive harder and we end up spinning our wheels in a field of mud. I was learning this the hard way. The new physical needs of my body were exposing what was already inside my heart.

So much of what I thought I knew about the world and about God shattered right along with my hand when that bullet hit me. My constant striving for approval revealed a heart and mind that never truly rested in the promise that God loved me no matter what I did, because I never had to. I had never been limited like I was after the shooting. I could always work at it, without ever really realizing what I was doing. I’m not saying I didn’t truly love the Lord. I believe I was serving God and loving him the best I knew how. I had a really comfortable life for the most part. I never had so little that it felt like God was all I had, and I was learning now what it looked like to sit in a valley of death and look to the Lord as my sole source of comfort and hope.

Adapted from When Thoughts and Prayers Aren’t Enough by Taylor S. Schumann. Copyright (c) 2021 by Taylor Sharpe Schumann. Published by InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove, IL.

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