Those were the first words I read upon awakening this past Friday.
“May he rest in peace and rise in glory”
I hail from a large extended family and some I know better than others. Ben, not so well. But, his father, my cousin, is like a brother to me, having lived in our home for a substantial period of time when I was growing up. He gave me my first Beatles album. (Rubber Soul) He let me drive his pink corvette one day. He has an infectious smile and laugh. I have a million memories of and with him. Like each of us, he has strengths and weaknesses. Like me, He loves Jesus. I have dearly loved him as long as I can remember. Although he is miles away, I am grieving with him today and will be in the days to come. There is a hard road ahead.
Ben was his youngest. His one and only son, from a mother I have yet to meet. He was the child who most resembled him, from where I stand. He was the husband of a kind and beautiful wife who loved him and a sweet daughter he claimed. He had siblings who also grieve. Shockingly, his exit from this life on earth has been splashed across television screens which omit his name, for now. A devastating end to a sometime tumultuous life. But then, whose isn’t?
In the wee hours of the morning while riding his motor cycle on a deserted street in a town I once called home, Ben was struck by a car. His broken body slammed to the pavement and abandoned. A helmet lay on the ground near a single white shoe. A lone witness called for help as the driver of the car fled the scene, no doubt fueled by sheer panic and fear.
Emergency crews arrived to transport him to a local hospital, where a kind young woman tried to reach my sister, several states away, via Facebook. Having found Ben’s ID, she searched for his name there and and saw my sister as a friend and attempted to reach her in the hours before dawn. The kindness of strangers.
In a sterile emergency room, surrounded by the good people who worked hard to save him, Ben breathed his last breath. And now, we, his extended family grieve, praying that he crossed over to glory.
The witness at the scene of the accident shared information allowing the police to identify a suspect early on. He was urged to surrender and tell his story. His car was found, windshield shattered and other damage to the front. But he was in the wind.Truth be told, there was no where to run. Adding more sorrow to an already tragic situation, he was found dead, from what is assumed to be a self-inflicted gunshot wound. My mind shouts “senseless-tragic-why?” But- I am not God, hence I cannot comprehend the whys. But, what I do believe, is that God will somehow use it all for His purposes and our good as this sad story continues to unfold.
There is more “collateral damage” than is known to us. Both of the dead were 41 year old- young men who were sons and fathers, loved by those who suffer in sorrow today and who will grieve for many days to come. No doubt many will ask the perennial question, “why?” 1 Peter 5:8 reminds us that we have a ruthless enemy, described as “a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour.” He is always anxious to tear us away from everything that is good, every gift God freely offers us. By all we can see, it would that the enemy and his lies seem to have won this battle.
Here’s what I know for sure:
- In God’s economy, nothing is wasted or lost. His Word says that when we submit ourselves to Him, we can move forward from any situation, confident that He will work every situation, every loss, every tragedy and every triumph for our good. Romans 8:28 assures us He uses all things- the good, the bad and the ugly, for our good and His glory.
- God knew both of these men’s hearts and He was there with both of them in their final moments. While I do know Ben heard the Gospel and acknowledged the emptiness of a God shaped space in his heart, I cannot speak for the other victim in this tragedy. But, God. God knew and knows. By His grace, up until the final moments of life, He hears the cry of a sinner surrendering to him and responds with forgiveness and mercy, just as He did to the thief on the cross beside him, when he said, “Today you will be with me in paradise.” (Luke 23:43)
- As we grieve we all have a choice; either to grieve as those who have no hope, (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18) or to grieve in expectation of being reunited with those we have loved here on earth, changing a hard good bye to a confident, “I’ll see you in Heaven.” After his infant son died, David said in 2 Samuel 12:23 that “some day I will go to him, but he cannot come back to me.”
- When we suffer such great loss, (and we all will) we must never forget that He still has work for us to do. We must war against allowing our sorrow to consume us. When it’s time for us to be reunited with those who have gone before us, He will then bring us Home. too. Until then, we can either be paralyzed by grief or we can use it for His good, by serving as He calls us, waking every morning with the mindset of a soldier reporting for duty, asking for marching orders. This is our great challenge and the proof of our faith. This faith trusts in Him more than in the emotions that might derail us from his plans and purposes for our individual and collective lives. It’s us saying, “It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So I live in this earthly body by trusting in Christ who lives in me.” (Galatians 2:20)
A mere three days into what might aptly be described as a nightmare, I have seen God’s hand at work in so many ways…in the kindness of strangers…in the emergency workers at the scene of the accident…in the witness who acted so quickly to call for help and to share information with the authorities… in the media professionals who withheld Ben’s name so as not to be the first to notify loved ones of his death…in the many who have reached out to both grieving families and– in the visit between a father and a son so recent that it had the finger prints of God all over it.
It is no coincidence that come July, this extended family of Ben and of mine, will once again gather together for a long ago scheduled reunion. We will celebrate an imperfect, unpredictable family that reaches far and wide across our country and the love and legacy we share. Unbeknownst to us until now, we will also grieve and celebrate Ben. Some of us will come to know him better in death than we knew him in life as we share stories and remembrances from those who knew him and loved him best. It is going to be a glorious time of remembrance, sprinkled with some grief, but not without joy.
And I, for one, can’t wait.
The joy of the Lord is our strength. If you are grieving, and in need of comfort and encouragement, please won’t you open your Bible (or your device) to the following encouraging Words from the God of all comfort. It is my experience that
| JESUS NEVER FAILS. |
Please Read This and let me know how I can pray for you today: