The letter came today.
Voice of the Martyrs (Nancy and I receive their monthly newsletter and give as led to their ministry from time to time), fiercely devoted to serving the persecuted church across the globe since 1967, confirmed what I had already heard via the internet.
Executive Director, Tom White, took his own life last month. This husband, father, grandfather, and articulate voice for the persecuted (I know, I’ve read many an editorial by the man), himself once imprisoned for his faith in Cuba, did what to many, especially Christians, can only be described as the unthinkable. He committed suicide.
Not much is known about the circumstances. But, to VOM’s credit, they revealed that the day before his fatal choice, “allegations were made to authorities that Tom had inappropriate contact with a young girl.” Here’s what the writer of the letter speaking on behalf of VOM gave as his settled-upon explanation: “I personally believe that rather than face those allegations and the resulting fallout for his family and this ministry, Tom chose to end his life.”
What are we to make of this? How are we to respond?
I say let there be compassion. Only days ago I read in 1 Kings 19:4 of the great prophet Elijah’s plea, gripped with fear, for God to take his life as he fled into the wilderness to escape the threats of the evil Jezebel. God’s servants can and do know cavernous depths of depression. William Cowper, poet and hymn writer (he gave us, among others, God Moves in Mysterious Ways His Wonders to Perform) made multiple attempts on his angst-filled life. Believers do not escape the slough of despair.
I say let there be perspective. By that I mean providence perspective. I have no earthly idea if Tom White did anything untoward the girl in question. Of course that is possible. I admit, it doesn’t look good. But what if he didn’t? What if he was entirely innocent? What if the truth lies somewhere in between? Only eternity will tell.
But one thing is for sure. In interpreting the hard providence of dreadfully incriminating accusation, Tom White, who, from what I can tell, no one believes was a false professor of Christianity but rather a true believer, failed to count Romans 8:31 ultimately true for him – If God is for us, who can be against us?
Who knows how God was plotting for the man’s good through a Romans 8:28 kind of working out of things? And this cancer survivor and pastor of four churches over time does not say such a thing flippantly.
Naomi made the same mistake, an incomplete and inadequate interpreting of providence in her crushing circumstances in the book of Ruth. That is the subject of my Mother’s Day message this Sunday. I wish I didn’t have such a pertinent and recent illustration with which to work. But the truth is I do.
I trust the Lord will use it, the text, and my words somewhat to serve us all on the journey from bitter to blessed that will keep us from such a fate and oh so much more – deep, abiding, exquisite, even-in-the-hard-providences joy in Him.