Challenge SPORT

Faith in the face of loss

Blake Bivens
Blake Bivens pitching for the Bowling Green Hot Rods in 2016

Australian Baseball League pitcher and Perth Heat import Blake Bivens entered the toughest storm of his life in August 2019 when he found out that three of the most important people in his life had been killed by his brother-in-law.

Blake, who joined Perth Heat for the 2019-20 Australian Baseball League season, recently sat down with Travis Gore, a pastor from Virginia, to talk about it as part of the pastor's sermon series titled "Storms."

The 24-year-old was waiting to board a plane home to Virginia when he checked his social media and learned the horrifying news that his wife Emily, 14-month old son Cullen, and mother-in-law Joan Bernard, had been found dead in a southern Virginia town. Matthew Thomas Bernard, Emily's 19-year-old brother, was charged with the triple homicide.

Blake Bivens with family
Blake Bivens with his wife Emily and son, Cullen.

"I think the greatest comfort for me has been knowing without a shadow of a doubt where my family is," said Blake, who has attended church since childhood. "I know they are in the arms of Jesus. They are waiting for me to be there with them. Knowing that in our hearts has been the greatest comfort to us. It's been amazing how the Lord has helped and gave us peace through everything."

In his interview with Travis, Blake said that he learned of the tragedy through a Facebook headline while at an airport. "I immediately began to scream," he recalled.

He said the hardest part was after he returned home and walked into his son's bedroom and realized he was never going to see him again in this life.

"That was the worst moment of my life," Blake said. "Nothing ever will come close to feeling the way I felt that day at that moment. Then again, I know I will see him again one day and it won't be long."

I know
without a
shadow of a
doubt where
my family is

Shortly after his loss, Blake read John 16:33. In the verse, Jesus states: "I have told you these things, so that in Me you may have peace. In this world, you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world."

"When I read 'take heart for I have overcome the world,' it completely flipped the switch in my heart," Blake told the pastor. "I knew from that moment on, this was not going to beat me. I just knew God was with me. I was going to live in victory for the rest of my life and I was going to use this as a testimony to show that what He has done for me, He can also do for others."

Travis asked Blake to explain how he came to have such courage and conviction.

"It all begins with being blessed enough to be raised in a Christian home," Blake answered. "Having grandmothers that prayed over you since the day you were born and continue to look out for you even from Heaven. I think that is the main reason, to be honest."

"I have told myself that I don't even believe this faith is me," he said. "I [wonder] at times how I can have this faith. It's got to be something He has given me. It's not me, but it's Him. I ask myself the same questions: how can you continue to have faith like this? I just believe that it's the heritage of those people who have prayed for me for years. I believe that it doesn't matter what plans I make, God's purpose is going to be done no matter what."

Travis believes it is more than that: "It's Jesus that lives in you."

Matthew Bernard
Matthew Bernard, the killer.

Travis asked Blake to share some things he's learned as he continues to live out the pain more than eight months later.

"One of the things I have learned from all this is that whenever we feel like there is no one that really understands or nobody that can comprehend the pain, the frustration and lack of understanding that I have, if we can just take a step back and understand that there is Someone who does," Blake said.

"God understands every bit. He understands every tear. He understands every sleepless night."

Blake admitted that he was depressed for a while as he was "constantly searching for answers" as to why his family was now gone.

Then he remembered the suffering God had to endure watching Jesus die on the cross.

"I think people need to understand that it doesn't matter the pain that they feel. It doesn't matter the situation. God understands. He knows your heart and if you continue to seek after Him, He will reveal Himself to you in a way you never imagined."

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