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Tragedy-stricken Sutton: ‘You can trust the Lord’

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP)–Five days after experiencing what he called the “darkest moment of my life,” Jerry Sutton told a March 3 chapel audience at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary God can be trusted to help believers through life’s difficulties.
“I’ve been to the bottom, and I want to say to you out of the experience of life that the Word of God is sufficient for every need,” Sutton preached. “It is sufficient for every crisis. It is sufficient for every unknown and every question.”
Sutton, pastor of Two Rivers Baptist Church, Nashville, Tenn., struck a pedestrian on his way to pick up evangelist Jay Strack early in the morning of Feb. 26. The two ministers were planning to ride together for Strack’s preaching engagement later the same morning the Louisville seminary’s semiweekly chapel service. A 47-year-old woman was killed in the traffic accident and Strack never made the trip to Louisville, resulting in an impromptu time of prayer and reflection on the tragedy during the chapel service.
Sutton, who had been scheduled to speak in chapel before the beginning of the spring semester, thanked the seminary community for its prayers on his behalf and announced that he decided to put aside the sermon he intended to deliver and instead told the community, “I want to share with you this morning what God dealt with me about in the past week.”
The deceased woman, Pamela Douglas, “was a dear, precious lady … . She loved the Lord Jesus,” Sutton said, explaining the never-married woman lived with her invalid mother whom she cared for. It was while crossing the street to catch the bus that Douglas stepped in front of his car, Sutton said, adding, “I didn’t see her until I was about five feet from her.”
According to Sutton, Douglas worked at the Nashville public library office and coordinated the annual Christmastime Angel Tree project for Prison Fellowship, an evangelical para-church ministry to the incarcerated and their families.
Sutton said the moment of tragedy happened after a “mountaintop experience” the church enjoyed during the Strack-led revival services at Two Rivers church earlier that week. The night before the accident, 22 people had been baptized.
“I asked the Lord, ‘Why did you let this happen?'” Sutton said. “There is no answer on this side. I’ll understand when I get to the other side. But for now there is no answer,” he said.
The trustworthiness of the Bible was demonstrated in the time of crisis, Sutton said, noting his daughter, fellow ministers and friends reminded him of biblical passages from which to seek comfort and assurance: Job 1:6, Psalm 84, Matthew 11:28-30, Romans 8:26-28, Galatians 6:2 and 1 Peter 5:7.
“What looks to be a horrible, horrible situation God will make a place of nourishing in time,” Sutton said, citing Psalm 84. “God will take the horrible experiences of life and he will make it a source to minister life to people who need him.”
In spite of crisis, Sutton maintained, “You can trust the Lord. When things are going wrong, you can trust the Lord. When you do not know where to go, you can trust the Lord. When there are multiple options of what you can do when you graduate, you can trust the Lord. When there is only one door, you can trust the Lord. When there are no doors, you can trust the Lord. When times are good, you can trust him. When times are bad, you can trust him. He is a trustworthy God.”
An outpouring of love and support from church members, fellow ministers and friends came quickly after the news of the tragedy became known, Sutton recounted. He personally experienced the benefit of Galatians 6:2 which teaches Christians to “bear one another’s burdens.” The Sutton home received more than 100 calls in the first day as friends offered encouragement, he said. Church members and others came to his house in order to offer comfort and support. Baptist Sunday School Board President Jimmy Draper left his office after hearing of the accident and spent five hours with Sutton the day of the tragedy, he noted gratefully.
“We felt the ministry of the body of Christ to us,” Sutton said.
“Last Thursday was the darkest moment of my life,” Sutton said. “I went to the bottom. I want to tell you, dear friend, when you get to the bottom there is a solid rock upon which you can stand. God was present because he cares. I can tell you not as a salesman but as a satisfied customer, whatever God says is true. There is a reality in the ministry of the Holy Spirit and the ministry of the Word of God in times of crisis, and God Almighty will never leave you hanging.”

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  • James A. Smith
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