July 9, 2010 – man shoots 3 year old before turning the gun on himself outside Toronto, OH
September 3 – Martins Ferry man shoots his wife and then turns the gun on himself.
September 10, a Wellsburg man stabbed and killed his estranged wife and 8-year-old stepson. The man was later found dead in the couple’s former home in Harrisburg, Pa.
September 23 – a man shot and killed the mother of his child and another woman in East Liverpool before turning the gun on himself.
October 6, 2010 – Carrollton woman commits suicide after killing her 8 year old daughter and 18 month old son
Within 50 miles of Sycamore Tree Church there have been at least 5 men or women whose lives have been so filled with desperation that they killed not only themselves but others. And not strangers, they killed people they loved. Four of these instances involved children and in three more than one person was murdered. All in all 13 people’s lives were lost in what seems like one of the most tragic ways imaginable. In just four months time, less than 120 days, five counties who seldom see violence of any kind, have experienced not only violence, but violence of the most desperate, most heart breaking kind.
One man loses his job and faces foreclosure on his home. A former respected city employee begins drinking, gets a few DUI’s and seems to loose it when he faces the possibility of going to jail. A woman set to deploy soon is living with serious depression. All come to the point where they feel like they can’t go on another day, they come to a place with no hope.
There was a man in the Bible who felt like he had no hope. This man loved God, he was devoted to his maker. So much so that God was bragging on his faithfulness when the angels came before him. Despite his faithfulness to God, in a matter of just moments, this man lost all his wealth, his crops, his flocks and moreover, his children. Seven sons and three daughters all lost their lives in one tragic accident. And then just a short time later he finds his own health stolen from his as his whole body is covered by boils, open sores that are some of the most painful things one can imagine. This man of God curses the day he was born. The pain he is enduring and his loss is so great, he wishes he could die.
But through it all, he trusts in God. When his wife says, “curse God and die,” he replies, “can I only accept blessings from God and not sorrow?”
In the midst of his friends insisting he must have done something to displease God, Job cries out:
JOB 13:15 Though he slay me, yet will I hope in him;
I will surely defend my ways to his face.
Job knew God. Job knew the source of his hope. So that even in the midst of the most tragic event a man of his time could imagine, Job survived. In fact, he went on to say
JOB 13:16 Indeed, this will turn out for my deliverance,
for no godless man would dare come before him!
Job knew that God was still with him even though he couldn’t see him. He believed the Almighty was in control and would deliver him even when there looked like no deliverance was possible. Job had hope.
Hope is more than just believing a fairy tale. Hope is based on fact. Job had witnessed God’s goodness. Job had lived a life of faith and was sure that God was real and His word was true. Hope is belief that what you know to be true, really is. Hope helps us go on when it looks like there is no reason to.
I’m guessing those five people I mentioned earlier, the ones who did these things we think of as heinous and unforgivable, had no hope. Although we should be very careful about assuming, I’m going to go out on a limb here and assume that these men and women who took the lives of those they loved before taking their own did not fully know the One who gives hope, the Creator who gives strength to keep going when life gets tough.
Job had three friends who came to visit during his life struggles. And while they didn’t do a good job of giving Job comfort, they did understand what happens to those who don’t know God. Listen to just some of their philosophy:
JOB 8:11 Can papyrus grow tall where there is no marsh?
Can reeds thrive without water?
JOB 8:12 While still growing and uncut,
they wither more quickly than grass.
JOB 8:13 Such is the destiny of all who forget God;
so perishes the hope of the godless.
JOB 8:14 What he trusts in is fragile;
what he relies on is a spider’s web.
JOB 8:15 He leans on his web, but it gives way;
he clings to it, but it does not hold.
Job’s friend’s words, while not much help to Job, are true. Which, on a side note, reminds us that sometimes when we’re comforting others, it’s best just to keep our mouths shut. Just because something is true doesn’t mean it will make others feel better. Just wanted to put that out there.
Job’s friends were sure Job had done something to make God mad. But bad things happen to everyone, not just those who don’t honor God. The only difference is those who lean on God have hope.
Papyrus need a marsh, reeds need water and trusting on anything but God is a lot like leaning on a spider’s web. Often we trust in our jobs, our family, our money, even our church. Trusting on any of these is like leaning on a spider’s web.
I tell you this almost every time I share, but I want to remind you again, we have an enemy. Job had the same enemy. The Bible says that the enemy tortured Job to try to make him turn his back on God. Jesus said, “The enemy comes to steal, kill and destroy.” Our enemy is the devil, and he proved Jesus correct in Job’s life. He stole all of Job’s wealth, he killed all of Job’s children and he destroyed Job’s life. The only thing he couldn’t take away was Job’s hope.
Now, it’s important that you know Job’s hope did not come from a casual relationship with God. Job 1 describes him as “blameless and upright.” It says “he feared and shunned evil.” Then it says “he was the greatest man among all the people of the East.” He offered a sacrifice every day just in case his children had sinned against God.
Job’s friends may not have known their friend Job very well, since they tried to convince him to trust in God more to overcome the sin he must have committed. But they did know this truth about the Almighty. Listen to what they advised Job:
JOB 11:13 “Yet if you devote your heart to him
and stretch out your hands to him,
JOB 11:14 if you put away the sin that is in your hand
and allow no evil to dwell in your tent,
JOB 11:15 then you will lift up your face without shame;
you will stand firm and without fear.
JOB 11:16 You will surely forget your trouble,
recalling it only as waters gone by.
JOB 11:17 Life will be brighter than noonday,
and darkness will become like morning.
JOB 11:18 You will be secure, because there is hope;
you will look about you and take your rest in safety.
JOB 11:19 You will lie down, with no one to make you afraid,
and many will court your favor.
JOB 11:20 But the eyes of the wicked will fail,
and escape will elude them;
their hope will become a dying gasp.”
They were correct. If we completely devote ourselves to the Almighty, if we stretch out our hands to him, if we put away the sin in our hands, we can hold our heads high and fear nothing. Our trouble will be forgotten like water that rushes by, our life will be brighter and the darkness in our lives will be like the morning.
Christians can’t avoid bad things. As long as there is evil and the one who causes evil roams on this earth, trouble will come. But we can have hope in the midst of the evil. We can be sure that if we devote our hearts to God, we will be secure, we will have hope.
And do you all know what happened to Job at the end of the story?
Job 42:10-17 tells us:
JOB 42:10 After Job had prayed for his friends, the LORD made him prosperous again and gave him twice as much as he had before.  All his brothers and sisters and everyone who had known him before came and ate with him in his house. They comforted and consoled him over all the trouble the LORD had brought upon him, and each one gave him a piece of silver and a gold ring.
JOB 42:12 The LORD blessed the latter part of Job’s life more than the first. He had fourteen thousand sheep, six thousand camels, a thousand yoke of oxen and a thousand donkeys.  And he also had seven sons and three daughters.  The first daughter he named Jemimah, the second Keziah and the third Keren-Happuch.  Nowhere in all the land were there found women as beautiful as Job’s daughters, and their father granted them an inheritance along with their brothers.
JOB 42:16 After this, Job lived a hundred and forty years; he saw his children and their children to the fourth generation.  And so he died, old and full of years.
God restored to Job all that he’d lost and added to it. He ended up with twice the sheep, camels and oxen. God wants to bless us. He wants to restore us. He wants to give us comfort in the midst of our troubles. He wants us to have hope. He wants us to have enough hope that we spread it to the rest of the world.
Paul said in Romans 10:
How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them?  And how can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!”So, go ahead, take your beautiful feet and spread hope . . . Because in Christ, we have hope.