A minor league baseball player whose wife, 14-month-old son and mother-in-law were tragically killed last year, shared how God is comforting him during the hardest experience of his life and how he's overcoming Satan’s attempt to destroy him.
Blake Bivens, a 24-year-old pitcher in the Tampa Bay Rays farm system, sat down with Pastor Travis Gore from the River Church in Danville, Virginia, last Sunday for a lengthy interview to finish out the pastor’s sermon series titled “Storms.”
Last August, Bivens entered the toughest storm of his life when he found out while on the road in Tennessee for an away game that three of the most important people in his life were taken from him in a triple homicide committed by his brother-in-law.
“I think the greatest comfort for me has been knowing without a shadow of a doubt where my family is,” said Bivens, who has attended River Church since his 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.”
Bivens said the hardest moment for him during the ordeal was after he returned home following the news that his lived ones had been murdered. He said he 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,” Bivens 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.”
Gore noted during the talk that Bivens had previously testified at church that he's finally able to “laugh at the devil’s plan.”
“We know Emily [wife] and Cullen [son] are beyond [Satan’s] grasp now,” Bivens said. “I just felt like this whole ordeal had just been a ploy from the enemy to destroy me and destroy my family and just drag us down.”
Gore recalled one day when he 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,” Bivens told the pastor. “I knew from that moment on, this was not going to beat me, this was not going to beat my family. 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.”
Bivens said that moment was one of the “biggest moments where I just knew God was with me.”
“The only thing I knew to do is just laugh in the enemy’s face because he had thought he had won,” Bivens said. “But all he has done is awoken a sleeping giant. Every day I wake up, my goal is to pile drive him right in the face.”
Gore praised Bivens for having courage. He asked Bivens to explain how his walk with Christ has enabled him to have the courage to overcome the ordeal and not let Satan win.
“It all begins with being blessed enough to be raised in a Christian home,” Bivens 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 can I 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.”
Gore responded by saying that Bivens’ courage comes “not just [from] that heritage.”
“It’s the Christ, God, Jesus that lives in you,” Gore responded.
Gore stressed that even though the murders occurred over eight months ago, Bivens is still “living this out.” Gore asked Bivens to share some things he's learned as he continues to live out the pain.
“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,” Bivens said.
“He understands every bit. He understands every tear. He understands every sleepless night.”
Bivens admitted that he was depressed for a while as he was “constantly searching for answers” as to why his loved ones are now gone.
“I just didn’t understand why this would happen, why this would happen to a little boy, and I just didn’t think anyone understood my pain,” he said. “I believe one day the Lord just kind of opened up my eyes in that, ‘I sent my only begotten Son to the cross. I had to turn my back on Him as He was brutally murdered and beaten as He was hanging on the cross.’”
“Imagine the pain that He suffered watching that. I said, ‘If there is someone who really understands, You do. You really understand everything I am feeling,’” Bivens continued as he got choked up. “I think people need to understand that it doesn’t matter the pain that they feel. It doesn’t matter the situation. He 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.”
Bivens' wife, Emily, son, Cullen, and mother-in-law, Joan Denise Jefferson Bernard, were found dead on Aug. 27, 2019, in a southern Virginia town. Matthew Thomas Bernard, Emily’s brother, was arrested and charged with three counts of first-degree murder.
In his interview with Gore, Bivens said that he learned of the news of his family’s passing through a Facebook headline while at an airport.
“I just immediately began to scream in the middle of the airport,” he recalled. “Obviously, people are concerned and looking at me funny. It was within a minute after that I saw that I got a phone call and it was the manager of our team, Morgan Ensberg. He was going to come fly home with me to make sure I got there and make sure everything was OK. So that was really when that day began.”
Bivens thanked the Rays organization for being so supportive of him and his family during that time.
“I look back and I am extremely grateful for the people that were there at the time,” Bivens said. “It could have been a whole lot worse for me if I didn’t have anyone there.”
Bivens was drafted by the Rays in the fourth round of the 2014 draft. He is currently assigned to the Double-A Montgomery Biscuits in Alabama.