For this month’s article for CalvaryChapel.com, I felt pressed to share my space with an amazing young gal named Skylar who I have the privilege of teaching and discipling at the new Calvary Chapel Bible College in New York City—led by visionary Jimmy Schauerte. I have kept edits at a minimum so the reader can truly get Skylar’s voice, her pathos and her refreshing transparency. I believe that after you read this, you will join me in rejoicing over the new generation of young soldiers Christ is raising up for such trying times as these. Shalom.
On February 14 at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, 17 young lives were taken by the cruel act of Nicholas Cruz. This is my city, and some of those murdered teens were my friends. If God hadn’t called me to graduate high school early and attend Calvary Chapel Bible College in New York City:
I actually could’ve been in that very classroom of seniors where much of the shooting took place.
When the breaking news began on that Wednesday afternoon about an active shooter at Douglas High, I watched from my New York City dorm room. Over the long few hours as they continued the manhunt for the shooter, the casualty list kept growing, and my heart was breaking more and more. My mind raced as I couldn’t stop crying out to God saying, “That should have been me!” I was angry. I was confused. And I found myself wishing I was in the place of the slain students.
The pain I was feeling was so overwhelming. Honestly, there were moments when I started to doubt and question the Lord. But I had to keep reminding myself that God does not delight in the wicked and hates violence, as Psalm 11:5 makes clear.
In the midst of my devastation and brokenness, later that evening, I sensed the Lord telling me, “Skylar, it was not you for a reason, but be ready.” As God kept putting those words on my heart, I was reminded of the story of Esther, and how the Lord had prepared her throughout her life for that moment when she finally went and stood before the King to stand up for her people. The Lord had strategically put Esther in a place where she would have a voice in the most difficult hour. She was born “for such a time as that.” So on that Wednesday night, I read over the Esther story, and it confirmed so much for me. I realized that I was also born for such a time as this. And while I could have very well been at that school during the shooting, the Lord had been preparing me and had now put me in a place where I could comfort my community and exalt His name high through this storm.
Even though the Lord had confirmed a lot in my mind, I was still heartbroken and confused.
Before that day, I had become a little numb to hearing about school shootings and horrific events, because of how often they’ve been occurring. But I never imagined it would be my hometown high school. I never imagined the deaths would consist of people I knew. I never imagined this would be happening in a community I love so dearly.
Sometimes I have this mindset that I must always be nothing but strong through trials, so that I can be a symbol of God’s strength for the world. However, the truth is that faith doesn’t exceed pain. Yes, we have the living Christ’s matchless comfort and His peace which surpasses all understanding, but that doesn’t mean we don’t experience profound hurt and sadness in this life. As an example, I look at Jesus after the death of Lazarus. In John 11:35, the shortest verse in the Bible, we read that “Jesus wept.” Our God sent His own Son to experience all the same deep emotions we experience. Through my deep mourning that night, I slowly began feeling God’s heart in a way that I’ve never experienced before. I felt God’s heart breaking. I felt His heart breaking not only for the victims of Stoneman Douglas, but I felt God’s heart breaking for the world. I even felt His compassion for His own people.
“In all their distress he too was distressed, and the angel of his presence saved them. In his love and mercy, he redeemed them; he lifted them up and carried them all the days of old” (Isaiah 63:9).
So as the stories continued unfolding from South Florida and the names of the deceased were released, my heart was still aching. But I held tight to the fact that Lord was going to somehow use this horrible tragedy. So I spent most of that Wednesday praying for God’s Spirit to fill me afresh, because I knew that students from Stoneman Douglas and people from back home were going to be texting me with all types of questions—many of them knowing about my faith in God. I knew I wouldn’t have all the answers, and I knew there was no way I’d have the strength to comfort so many on my own.
I just had to let my brokenness be a vessel for God’s strength.
And sure enough, over the next couple of days, I started receiving lots of texts, phone calls and social media messages from friends and from students who witnessed their classmates being murdered.
“If you say God loves everyone the same, how does He love Nicholas Cruz?”
“If God is greater than Satan, why does it seem like Satan is winning at everything?”
“Why did God save me, but kill my friend?”
The messages I received were absolutely heartbreaking and overwhelming, especially the ones where people seemed to somehow think that God was actually the One doing the killing. But I experienced the Lord using me to speak life and comfort into the broken hearts who were reaching out. I had multiple opportunities to share the Gospel with people in my life who had been so opposed to hearing it before. I got to pray with people over the phone who I have never even had a full conversation with in person. Through this devastating, horrific event, I got to show my community in South Florida the love of Jesus Christ, even while being 1,262 miles away.
Broward County still has a long road to recovery. Honestly, there are parts of our hearts that will forever be changed because of this. We will always remember the 17 beautiful lives that were lost that day. There might not ever be a full recovery in our city, but thankfully, I have found rest in knowing that the Lord has already won the battle. I can continue to be heartbroken, and I can even be broken and defeated at times; but I can still rejoice because Jesus has already won the battle between good and evil. And Jesus has already overcome the grave. I do not have to fight FOR victory in this world; rather, I am fighting FROM a place of victory and peace through Christ. And my job is to show others this same freedom and comfort, and to let everything in my life, and every season of my life, point back to the wonderful cross.
I was born for such a time as this.
Skylar Schott is from Coral Springs, Florida. She is super passionate about people and reaching the lost. She is currently a student at Calvary Chapel Bible College New York City and is excited to fulfill her calling from the Lord to run Christian conferences as she is gifted and learning many roles including event planning, marketing, design, public speaking etc. She also is involved with a new ministry called UNFLTERED TRUTH in which a group will go out to the city, hold up a sign that says, “Tell me your story, and I’ll tell you mine,” as a platform to hear people’s stories, and in return, share their own testimonies and the love of Christ.