Harbour Lights: Hope for Dispair (Sept-Oct 2002)

By Matt Dabbs

By Michael Harbour

Everyone has a story to tell. Mark Zach was a Nebraska state
trooper. He had stopped Erick Vela and ticketed him for carrying a
concealed weapon. The officer entered the serial number on the handgun into
his computer, but transposed the digits. If he had entered them correctly,
he would have learned that the gun was stolen and Vela would have been
jailed. Instead, Vela was free to join two other men in a deadly bank
robbery attempt in Norfolk, Nebraska. The day after the robbery, Mark Zach
killed himself with his service revolver. Apparently, Zach felt responsible
for the deaths of the five people killed in the bank robbery.

Can you place yourself in Mark Zach’s position? Probably the
families of the victims will file suit. You did make the mistake. In their
grief, they will blame you for what happened, even though it was the choice
of these three robbers to destroy the lives of the families’ loved ones.
You wanted to be an excellent law enforcement officer. Your mission is to
protect and to serve. You failed. How would you cope with the pressure?
Mark could not handle it, and instead chose the fierce good-buy.

How do you cope with personal failure? How do you manage to stay on
an even keel, even when the hurricane is bearing down on you? Perhaps it is
impossible to stay on an even keel, or even to stay on course. However, I
am convinced that it is possible to stay afloat, to reset the course of your
life.

Rarely can anyone think or see clearly, once they are in the eye of
the storm. We need help. We need people around us who can help us with
perspective. We need someone who might say, “Yes, you made a mistake. Yes,
you failed. You are neither the first nor the last to fail. You are not
ruined beyond repair.” Maybe you will lose your career. Your identity is
not swallowed up in your career, is it? Sometimes I believe that mine is.
Maybe there will be consequences for the choices that you have made. You
can bear them. Could you endure bad publicity? Could you endure divorce?
Could you endure financial ruin? Could you endure jail?

You remember the story of David and Bathsheba, don’t you? David
committed a series of sins. He was breaking commandments one after the
other. He wanted a woman that was not his wife. He committed adultery.
When he found out that she was carrying his baby, he sought to deceive her
husband. When that did not work he ordered her husband killed. When a man
of God confronted David with his sin, he could have resigned as king. He
could have been crushed in spirit and swallowed in shame. Instead he turned
to God in brokenness, in confession, in commitment. He asked God for mercy,
for forgiveness. He acknowledged before God that he was helpless. He
prayed, “Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit
within me. Do not cast me from your presence, or take your Holy Spirit from
me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and grant me a willing spirit,
to sustain me” (Psalm 51:10-12).

God forgave David. David was still useful for God. David also
suffered the consequences of his actions. He had ripped apart his family
with his infidelity. How wonderful it was that he had prayed for a willing
spirit, to sustain him through the challenges that he was going to face.
This is our story, too, I believe. This is not just a story in the
Bible that has a great plot. This is a message from God that says,
sometimes you might make a huge mess. The mess could happen because of sin
in your life. The mess could occur simply because you made a mistake.
Sometimes, even, the mess happens to you, and you had very little to do with
the cause. The storms come. The story also says that you can be forgiven.
However, we should not confuse forgiveness with freedom from consequences.

This is the story that is for us. David says in another Psalm, “The
Lord is near to the brokenhearted, and saves those who are crushed in
spirit” (34:18). God cares about how we feel. He is aware of the storms
and wants us to be well.

Suicide is such an ugly event, such a tragic story. Nearly
thirty-thousand people in the United States kill themselves each year. One
person every eighteen minutes decides that the storms of life are unbearable
and succeeds in suicide. Some estimate that 730,000 people attempt suicide
each year in this country. Many more consider suicide without attempting to
carry it out. God gives us freedom to choose how we respond to our
circumstances.

I am convinced that God intends for the story of our life to be a
good story. We were meant to thrive, to have an abundant useful life that
has peace and joy and goodness. Is this your story?

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About...

Profile photo of Matt DabbsThis author published 1577 posts in this site.
Matt is the preaching minister at the Auburn Church of Christ in Auburn, Alabama. He and Missy have been married 12 years and are raising two wonderful boys, Jonah and Elijah. Matt is passionate about reaching and discipling young adults, small groups, and teaching. Matt is currently the editor and co-owner of Wineskins.org.

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