Horror wound around me like a chokehold. “Charles Wesco was shot in the head.” I was standing in my kitchen on a cold Tuesday morning when the news from distant Cameroon reached my ears. Those seven words would resonate in my mind for days, interwoven with tears and prayers.
Snippets of memories tied to the Wescos mark my childhood years. I grew up in church with this family—playing four square in the church parking lot, listening as two of the Wesco brothers taught my children’s class, curiously watching as one of them tuned the piano in my living room, seated in a pew among the audience at one of their weddings.
And now . . . Charles Wesco had been killed on the mission field in Cameroon.
Searching for the Why
When Charles Wesco died in West Africa on October 30, 2018, just weeks after he and his family had moved across the world to become missionaries of the hope and love of Christ, shock and sorrow rippled through families and churches back home in the United States.
In the wake of the tragedy that left Charles’s wife, Stephanie, a widow and his eight young children fatherless, many of us were trying to grasp why this had happened. Why a mother must tell her children that their daddy is never coming home to them. Why a Cameroonian fired at a stranger who had come to Africa motivated by love. Why God had not intervened.
When life doesn’t make sense, Romans 8:28 is the passage we often run to. “And we know that for those who love God,” we are promised, “all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.”
What good, God? my heart cried. What good is there in this? What purpose?
But this certainly wasn’t the first time God had chosen not to intervene on the behalf of one innocently killed. When Jesus—came to earth motivated by love to save us all—hung on a cross, God didn’t lift a finger. He didn’t pause the suffering. He didn’t slay Jesus’ killers. God didn’t rescue Jesus, because Jesus was hanging on the cross rescuing us.
Some watched and mocked, others wept, but neither side understood. They believed God had forsaken Jesus. They thought His death was in vain.
But they were wrong.
Because in that sacrifice, in that degrading death, were the seeds of life that nothing could touch ever again. What man did in sin, God transformed into the most beautiful gift of all. Life for death. Love for hate. Freedom for bondage. Through Christ’s substitutionary, sacrificial death and resurrection came our salvation. Good for evil.
Filling the Gap
Doubt is like a wisp of air that blows out tender flames of faith. When we begin doubting God, we can quickly find ourselves dragging all manner of truth across the coals. You’ve likely tasted it, too—bleak heartache, in some shape or flavor, that threatens to drown out all of God’s promises to you.
Maybe you’ve asked yourself, What if God is not good? What then?
If God is not good (Ps. 27:13), He is not really true. If He is not true (John 14:6), then He has lied to us. And if He has lied to us about His goodness, what other aspects of His character has He lied about? His love and compassion? His power? Salvation itself?
So we face a choice: belief or unbelief in who God claims to be.
I once heard someone explain our wrestling match between faith and sight this way:
When there is a gap between what I see and what I know to be true of God’s character, I must fill that gap with trust.
Friend, this is where sight meets faith—not blind, unfounded faith, but faith in something that has always been constant. It’s the faith that you have in gravity or in air that you cannot see. The faith that you have that the sun will rise again tomorrow, as it always has. Faith in the changeless, the consistent, the unfailing.
Resting in the Constant
In every bit of ugliness, every senseless atrocity, every death that comes far too prematurely or much too cruelly, we find rest in who God is.
- He is always good.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD forever (Ps. 23:6).
“As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today” (Gen. 50:20).
- He is always sovereign.
Our God is in the heavens; he does all that he pleases (Ps. 115:3).
- He is always sufficient.
The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want (Ps. 23:1).
- He is always wise.
For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men (1 Cor. 1:25).
- He is always compassionate.
Sing for joy, O heavens, and exult, O earth; break forth, O mountains, into singing! For the LORD has comforted his people and will have compassion on his afflicted (Isa. 49:13).
And still we have not even begun to scratch the surface of His character. Beneath every wave of His love is more grace, more mercy, and more comfort. Behind the senseless tragedies that occur, beyond the brutality and violence that should never be but are, there is a good, loving God with a purpose, and He will someday make right every wrong (2 Cor. 5:10; Heb. 4:13).
And here’s the unwavering hope in every circumstance we will ever face in this life: Our God cannot contradict His character. He is incapable of being anything but who He already is. “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever” (Heb. 13:8). This is why God cannot sin. And it’s why He cannot be anything but good.
We do have a very caring and loving God to lean upon (be it here [in Cameroon] or in the U.S.A.) who is beyond doubt in sovereign control of who falls and where and to what weapons—even down to the small sparrow. —Charles Wesco, nine days before he was in the presence of Jesus