I remember Wednesday, February 12, 2007 like it was yesterday. It was the first time in my life I was confronted with death in such a helpless and tangible way. I had been a pastor for ten years and I felt like I understood sickness, sorrow, and grief. That day thirteen years ago I realized how little of life I understood. I realized that my faith was more firmly grounded in my faith than in my Savior. I believed that if you have big faith you get good results. That day was the beginning of the end of my trust in faith and the beginning of a long journey to truly trust Jesus alone.
I started down a path that led me through the fear of death thinking I would die early. It led to two years of me becoming undone in such a way that I began to realize as a pastor I need Jesus as much as the people who come through our doors every Sunday. It led me to a hope a true hope that made me realize no other hope will ever do. Matt McCullough in his Book Remember Death says this about sorrow and loss.
Honesty about death leads to grief, and grief over what’s true about this world leads to hopeful longing for the world to come. But there is another way in which our heightened feeling for death’s sting clarifies our hope for redemption and resurrection. It helps us see that any hope we have rests completely on a Savior who died and rose again. No other hope will do. The Heidelberg Catechism opens with a clear and profound question: What is your only comfort in life and in death? I love this question for the assumption underneath it. Any comfort in life must also provide comfort in death. If the object of our hope can’t stand up to death’s onslaught, it can’t offer true hope in life either.Matt McCullough
Any comfort in life must provide comfort in death. Thirteen years ago I didn’t have that. Today I do. I have been a Christian my whole life and yet for thirty-two years of my life, I secretly feared death. I publicly proclaimed Christ and privately I clung to this life.
I don’t know why Robert died. I don’t. But every time I think of him and his death I smile as tears come down my face because I don’t think I would have been able to cling to a hope that can stand up to death’s onslaught if it wasn’t for his life. Weibel family I love you forever but Jesus loves you more. He is enough in our deepest pain. He is our hope. He gives us hope in this life because only he has withstood the onslaught of death.
Robert, we miss you and we can’t wait to see you again.
Ah my dear angry Lord,
Since thou dost love, yet strike;
Cast down, yet help afford;
Sure I will do the like.
I will complain, yet praise;
I will bewail, approve:
And all my sour-sweet days
I will lament, and love.
God sometimes does the opposite of what we desire. In response, we must more often act in the reverse of how we feel.
Nine years ago today one the kids in our kids church suddenly went home to be with the Lord. Walking into the ER moments after he passed altered my life forever. I still do not understand why but through the years I have become more aware of who God is in the midst of life’s storms. It isn’t until you hit a storm head on that you realize how fragile life is. How weak we actually are and how strong God always has been. When 100-foot waves are crashing over you, it is easy to forget the anchor that is holding you that is keeping you. The past few months I have been meditating on a verse in Hebrews it says this.
Hebrews 6:18-19 Therefore, we who have fled to him for refuge can have great confidence as we hold to the hope that lies before us. This hope is a strong and trustworthy anchor for our souls.
The result of seeing Christ in this way leads us to worship, often through tears. Robert, you are missed. I long for the day when Christ returns and makes all the sad things in this world untrue.
Eight years ago today one the kids in our kids church suddenly went home to be with the Lord. This lead to me to try and reconcile how a loving God could do such a thing. Through that process inside my heart of hearts I let go of God, only to find out He never let go of me. One of the means of grace that God used to help me understand the gospel was Sally Lloyd-Jones for that I owe her and Tim Keller a debt I will never be able to repay.
Every year on this day I am filled with sadness and joy because one day, one day. I will see Robert and his family reunited. That is my prayer that is my prayer every day but especially on this day.
BY THE HAND!
When you’re in the dark or on a narrow path, you need someone to lead you by the hand, to hold your hand tight. You need someone to rely on.
God says you can rely on him:
I’ve got you by the hand
And I’ll never let you go!
No matter where you go,
No matter what you do,
You always have
A hand to hold you.
I will lead you,
Even through death
I won’t ever let you go!
(Taken from: Thoughts that Make your Heart Sing, Sally Lloyd-Jones)
Five years ago today the son of a family who means the world to me past away. The thing that never ceases to amaze me is that you learn more of who God is in pain than you do in joy. In the past years dealing with my own disappointments I have grown in my faith but all of that pails in comparison to seeing how the Weible family has responded. Every time I think of what they have gone through and how they have responded I feel ashamed for the way I so often respond to the trivial things life hands my way. It’s humbling. Every time I think of Robert my heart is filled with a hope filled sorrow. I know that one day we will see him which gives me hope but I still feel sorrow when I think of the day he passed. We miss you Robert.
1 I will extol the LORD at all times;
his praise will always be on my lips.
2 I will glory in the LORD;
let the afflicted hear and rejoice.
3 Glorify the LORD with me;
let us exalt his name together.
4 I sought the LORD, and he answered me;
he delivered me from all my fears.
5 Those who look to him are radiant;
their faces are never covered with shame.
6 This poor man called, and the LORD heard him;
he saved him out of all his troubles.
7 The angel of the LORD encamps around those who fear him,
and he delivers them.
8 Taste and see that the LORD is good;
blessed is the one who takes refuge in him.
9 Fear the LORD, you his holy people,
for those who fear him lack nothing.
10 The lions may grow weak and hungry,
but those who seek the LORD lack no good thing.
11 Come, my children, listen to me;
I will teach you the fear of the LORD.
12 Whoever of you loves life
and desires to see many good days,
13 keep your tongue from evil
and your lips from telling lies.
14 Turn from evil and do good;
seek peace and pursue it.
15 The eyes of the LORD are on the righteous,
and his ears are attentive to their cry;
16 but the face of the LORD is against those who do evil,
to blot out their name from the earth.
17 The righteous cry out, and the LORD hears them;
he delivers them from all their troubles.
18 The LORD is close to the brokenhearted
and saves those who are crushed in spirit.
19 The righteous person may have many troubles,
but the LORD delivers him from them all;
20 he protects all his bones,
not one of them will be broken.
21 Evil will slay the wicked;
the foes of the righteous will be condemned.
22 The LORD will rescue his servants;
no one who takes refuge in him will be condemned.