It was an unremarkable Monday evening, back in May of 2013. A young couple, Tim and Sharlene Bosma, had just tucked their little girl into bed for the night. A hockey game was playing on the television, and the Bosmas were waiting for a potential buyer to show up to look at the Dodge Ram diesel pickup truck they had posted for sale online. It was getting late. It seemed strange that someone would come to look at a vehicle after dark. “When they come, should I go with them?” Tim asked.
“Yes you should because we want the truck to come back,” Sharlene replied. Words spoken innocently. Words that would come back to haunt.
Two men arrived shortly thereafter, walking down the long rural driveway, no vehicle in sight. They claimed a friend had dropped them off and was waiting at a nearby coffee shop.
One man smiled and appeared friendly, while the other hung back in the shadows. The men barely looked at the truck.
Tim smiled at his wife. He said they were going for a test drive and would be right back.
As the truck slowly pulled down the driveway, Sharlene and her downstairs neighbour agreed the situation was ‘weird’. “That might be the last time we ever see him”, the neighbour joked.
Just yesterday, the two men who had arrived for the test drive were both convicted of first degree murder in a Hamilton courtroom. Evidence presented at the four and a half month trial showed that Tim had been shot at close range in the front seat of his truck, and that his body had been burned beyond recognition in an animal incinerator called ‘The Eliminator’.
It is a story too gruesome to comprehend. That a man who the killers had never met would be murdered and disposed of so callously.
Over a truck.
And perhaps the sick thrill of taking a human life.
It causes one to question how a good God would allow such a tragedy to occur. Why did He not intervene and spare Tim’s life? Tim was such a good man, dearly loved by all who knew him.
Of course, there are Sunday School answers… That His thoughts are nothing like our thoughts, and His ways are far beyond anything we could imagine or understand (Isaiah 55:8). But in the face of such tragedy, these answers fail to satisfy.
And yet, may I suggest that God is redeeming these tragic circumstances for good.
No, I would never say that Tim’s murder itself was good. It was pure evil. Of that, we can agree. Nor did God cause or plan for this to happen. God is not the author of sin. He is not capable of it. But in His sovereignty, He does allow evil some latitude for reasons we are not likely to understand.
Although we may not understand God’s ways, we can choose to trust Him anyway – trust in the promise that He is a good God who is always with us. That He is in control. That He has plans for our good, to prosper us and not to harm us.
How dare I say that, you may ask. After all, a family who loved and honored God has lost a son, a father and a husband to a brutal, senseless murder.
And you would be right.
We cannot begin to understand how a loving God would allow such a tragedy to happen, or how any good could possibly come out of such insidious evil.
And yet, we have seen glimpses of it.
The Bosmas have inspired hope in the midst of this darkness. They have shined the light of Christ into our community from the very beginning of this horrendous ordeal. Beautiful testimonies of faith were shared at Tim’s memorial service that was attended by over a thousand people, many strangers. The service was also broadcast live over a local network.
We have been inspired by the amazing strength of Tim’s wife, Sharlene, who has bravely spoken on behalf of the Bosma family, sharing her Tim with all of us. Inspired by the determination of the family to attend each day of court, despite how difficult it was to sit in the courtroom with Tim’s killers and listen to disturbing testimony as the case unfolded. Not only did they attend tirelessly, but often brought in treats to share, even with the lawyers of the accused.
In media interviews, the family is quick to credit God with the strength to persevere through this nightmare. They are down to earth, and so very real. They acknowledge their questioning and anger. Tim’s mother, Mary, says, “It’s a challenge…Of course we’re angry. God did not do this, but He didn’t stop it…But we could not have gotten through this without God”.
Our community has been deeply impacted by the Bosmas. We grieve with them and for them. We have prayed for justice, for strength, and for peace. An ‘army’ of supporters held a prayer vigil on the lawn across from the courthouse every day during deliberations. Many in our community stopped to write notes of support for the family we have come to respect so much. The family we have come to love.
The week before deliberations began, an announcement was sent out by the Christian Reformed Church inviting other churches to join them in prayer for the Bosmas on Sunday, June 12th. In addition to prayer, churches could demonstrate their support by singing one of Tim’s favourite hymns, ‘In Christ Alone’. The lyrics speak of the truths embraced by the Bosma family – that God is our hope, that Jesus died in our place to pay the penalty for our sin, that sin’s curse has been broken, that we are His precious children and that “No power of hell, no scheme of man, could ever pluck [us] from His hand”. In His power, we stand. Redeemed. Forgiven. Chosen. Loved.
My church prayed for the Bosmas that Sunday, and sang Tim’s favourite hymn. It was incredibly powerful to consider the truth of the lyrics in light of all that had happened. Many of us wept openly. It was powerful to know that churches across our community, our province and indeed our nation were doing the same. A glimpse of solidarity of Christ’s Church. Beauty born out of tragedy.
Just before the verdict was reached, three prominent journalists sat down to answer questions submitted by the public. When asked how the trial had impacted him personally, Colin Butler, a seasoned crime reporter commented,
“I’ve done a number of trials up to this point, and I think I have a lot thicker skin than I used to when I was younger and less experienced, but one of the things that I’ve also noticed is just seeing the strength of the Bosmas and seeing how they relied on their faith to weather that storm and to get them through the darker parts of this proceeding…I find it fascinating…I’ve seen them pray…They have faith that the jury will deliver the justice that they want…Before now, I don’t think I ever really thought of things happen for a reason or things happen a certain way, but I’m appreciating their sense of that and that point of view, and I think I’m seeing it more often than I did before.”
Tears welled up in my eyes as I heard Butler share that spending time with the Bosma family had planted a seed in his heart. To not only respect the Bosmas and their Christian worldview, but to increasingly see the truth of their beliefs for himself.
Tim Bosma’s death is tragic. A loss that will be carried for a lifetime. Those who knew him, loved him dearly. Their lives will never be the same.
But Tim’s influence extends far beyond those who had the honor of knowing him and loving him. We will forever be changed by the Bosma family – their love for Tim and for each other; the outpouring of support from their friends, church, and community; their incredible strength in the face of such unimaginable horror. Their amazing legacy of faith that will surely have a kingdom impact that far surpasses anything the Bosmas could ever ask or imagine.
May our loving, heavenly Father continue to bless the Bosma family with His peace that passes all understanding. Thank you, dear Sharlene, Hank and Mary, for sharing your precious Tim with us. We will continue to pray for you all.
Deepest Respect and Much Love,
photo credits: photos of Tim Bosma and family taken from CBC files / photo of ‘In Christ Alone’ lyrics taken from Facebook