With a great deal of trepidation I am going to allow access to the darkest crevice of my mind. It’s an area I have vigilantly tried to avoid since June 8th, 2017, to no avail. What if? What if we had not allowed Sarah to sign up for the mission trip to Botswana? What if we had not allowed her to get on that bus that day? What if Sarah had not been killed in that horrible crash? What if?
I didn’t want Sarah to go to Botswana. She is the most childlike and innocent of my four girls and the thought of her being that far away was almost unbearable. I was shocked when she told me she wanted to go. This seventeen year old who is afraid to take the dog outside to go to the bathroom at night by herself wants to go to Botswana without her family? I still remember the moment she told me. She was standing in the den right next to the couch when she said she had been praying about it and she knew she was supposed to go. On more than one occasion after that she reaffirmed that she was confident she was supposed to go because she had peace about it. I told her she would have to earn all the money herself to go, and then I secretly hoped she would just give up. The more she prayed and the harder she worked to earn all that money the more confident and excited she became. The week before the trip she said once again that she knew she was called to go, so she knew that whatever happened was within God’s will. So, what if we had refused to allow her to go? What if I told her she couldn’t go because in my gut I was afraid something was going to happen to her? What if?
My entire adult life I have been scared to ride in buses, they terrify me, and that fear is compounded when my children are in them. For the past few years Scott has driven the 44 passenger bus, “the big bus” as most of us refer to it, for many if not most of our student ministry trips. Some of my fears are alleviated with him driving because he takes the responsibility so very seriously that his prayerfulness and intense focus are visible and palpable. When he agreed to drive the students to Atlanta we assumed he was driving the big bus with the students in it. I planned to ride along with him so I could eat lunch with Sarah that day before seeing her off in Atlanta, and then keep him company on the way home. The day before they were to leave he received an email informing him he would not be driving the big bus with the students, but would instead drive the smaller bus full of luggage, by himself following behind the big bus. We were both very disappointed. That night I gave vent to my fears. I can see and hear the conversation Scott and I had that night as if it were ten minutes ago. I spoke these words, “We have never ridden with him, I have no idea how he drives. What if something happens? We would be right behind them and see it all, that is my worst nightmare.” After a lengthy conversation Scott told me I should not go, and I reluctantly agreed. So, what if Scott had disagreed with the email and had requested or demanded that he drive the big bus instead? What if I had heeded my fears and refused to allow her to get on that bus? What if I had told her she had to ride on the smaller bus with her daddy instead? What if?
What if Sarah had not been killed in that crash that day? What if God had not preserved her journal and put it in our hands that very night? What if God did not clearly speak to us moving us to share her journal and text message with the world? What if God had not created in our hearts a longing for revival the year before? What if God had not moved in the hearts of multiple reporters and news channels to not only listen to us urging people through Sarah’s journal and text to come to Christ, but to air it in its entirety on national television? What if James Spann had not shared that very press conference and 1.2 million people had not seen it? What if CNN had not shared nationally in writing the parts of the transcript that clearly pointed to Christ? What if the countless people who have contacted us to say they have been complacent in their faith, but are now on fire for the Lord because of Sarah, were instead left in their complacency? What if those individuals so impacted by Sarah’s testimony that they have surrendered their own lives to Christ, were never impacted? What if Sarah was not where she longed to be, worshipping at the feet of Jesus?
God is so very gracious and merciful. For the year leading up to Sarah’s death He had my family and me going through an intensive period of preparation. Through a pastoral search process He was nailing down vital truths my family and I already held, battening down the hatches for the hurricane coming our way. He put me in a position where my ability to hear Him was painfully challenged. Out of that anguish He graciously spoke and led me clearly, powerfully, and miraculously. He trained my ear to hear His voice even when it is only a gentle whisper, and He gave me confidence in His faithfulness to speak and answer when I cry out to Him. I did not learn those lessons alone, though, we shared and learned every lesson during that time as a family. He is a gracious and merciful God who prepared us in advance to walk through this deep dark valley.
We praise Him that because He trained us to listen for and hear Him, His voice now rises above the cries and accusations of the enemy who longs to cripple us with his “What ifs.” We let Sarah leave to go to Botswana, we let her get on that bus and she was killed in that crash. But in the midst of those truths our precious child who told each of her sisters separately and on multiple occasions that she “can not wait to go to heaven” and she is “so excited about heaven” is there now. She has heard her Lord and Savior say, “Well done, my good and faithful servant.” Sarah loved the Lord with all her heart, soul and mind and she is basking in His presence at this very moment, worshipping Him and adoring Him. She truly is rejoicing evermore, and as Scott has said on multiple occasions, even if she could come back, she wouldn’t want to.
God spoke clearly and firmly to me almost immediately after the accident that Satan was attempting to sift us, but that He, God, would take what Satan had intended for evil and use it for good if we will remain faithful. So, we trust Him that He is working all things out for our good and His glory. It is good that Sarah is with Him, though our hearts ache so deeply with longing for her presence. It is powerfully good that He has used His united body in a multitude of churches and denominations across the state and nation to continue to carry us through this valley in prayer. It is exceedingly good that the number of people who have shared they have been shaken from complacency in their faith is so great that we have now lost count. It is indescribably good that God is stirring at Mount Zion Baptist Church and beyond, answering Sarah’s and our prayers for a holy revival.
So, What if? What if you don’t believe God is God alone, and He is good? What if you don’t believe God can or will speak to you? What if you doubt He loves you enough to answer you when you cry? What if you think your sin is too deep and too wide for Him to look your way? What if? If you hear any of those things, you have heard the voice of the enemy who comes to steal, kill and destroy. Take those lies captive and cling to the truth of His Word. He alone is God, and He is good. He longs to speak to you personally and intimately through His Word and prayer. He is a long suffering God of compassion and is faithful to answer us as we cry out to Him. And praise God, there is nothing that can separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus.
So, what if you surrender fully to Him today and “live redeemed”?
Lord, I want to thank you that I found You when I sought You with all my heart. I’m again in fellowship with you and I want to thank you for showing me that in You I find the peace that surpasses all understanding. I tried to find it before, but I just tried to do what was right without fellowship with You. But I have found the peace and for that I greatly rejoice! Whatever comes my way, I will never lose you and therefore will never lose the peace. Thank You Lord for continually teaching me new things. And thank You for continually showing me new aspects of Yourself and new mercies! I love You, Lord. In your precious name I pray, amen.
~ Sarah Harmening
“I am the LORD, and there is no other; Besides Me there is no God. I will gird you, though you have not known Me; That men may know from the rising to the setting of the sun That there is no one besides Me. I am the LORD, and there is no other, Isaiah 45:5-6 [NASB]
“Give thanks to the LORD, for He is good, For His lovingkindness is everlasting.” Psalm 136:1 [NASB]
“The LORD is near to all who call upon Him, To all who call upon Him in truth. He will fulfill the desire of those who fear Him; He will also hear their cry and will save them.” Psalm 145:18-19 [NASB]
“Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? Just as it is written, “FOR YOUR SAKE WE ARE BEING PUT TO DEATH ALL DAY LONG; WE WERE CONSIDERED AS SHEEP TO BE SLAUGHTERED.” But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:35-39 [NASB]