Just before Easter in 2009, Fred Winters, pastor of the First Baptist Church in Maryville, Illinois, was shot and killed during a Sunday morning service by a disturbed young man. The tragedy shocked the church and the pastor’s family, but it did not destroy their faith. The next week the newly-widowed Cindy Winters was interviewed on a national news broadcast. When asked about her husband’s killer she said, “I do not have any hatred or even hard feelings toward him. We have been praying for him. One of the first things that my daughter said to me after this happened was, ‘You know, I hope that he comes to learn to love Jesus through all of this.’ We are not angry at all, and we really firmly believe that he can find hope and forgiveness and peace through this, by coming to know Jesus. And we hope that that happens for him.”
Though Easter is ultimately a triumphant story, it certainly did not start out that way. It started with what appeared to be the worst possible defeat—the death of Christ on the cross. God’s plans are not our plans, and He uses difficulties and disappointments to accomplish some of His greatest work. In the darkness when we cannot see Him, He is still in control. Paul endured a great deal of hardship and persecution for his faith, yet despite all that he wrote: “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28).