We buried a friend today. He was a few years younger than me. Left behind a pregnant wife and a very young son, and many many loved family and friends.
He was too young to die.
I didn’t know him as well as others did, but we were fellow workers in the kingdom for a while, and had talked about what it meant to be a shepherd and fisher of people. I didn’t see him around a lot, but the evidence of his impact was all around me: in people, in words. Now I remember glimpses of him over the years: amongst friends, with his longtime sweetheart who became his wife, then holding a baby, then with his boy in tow. Always amongst friends.
I hadn’t known about the illness until our senior pastor stood on stage one Sunday a few weeks ago and asked for the entire church to pray for him, because only a miracle could save him now. In retrospect, I already had a premonition of trouble through my brief glimpses, though I didn’t understand what it meant. I think he knew he was going to die.
But as we prayed that Sunday, I had a distinct vision of a lifeline thrown into a bottomless ocean, and many, many people climbing into the water down that cable — to save not him, but his family. And the hands pulling up that cable from the surface weren’t human hands, but divine ones.
Indeed, many people, far more than I could imagine, rallied with support. The friends told stories of his last few months alive, and said that his faith never wavered. Indeed, burned even fiercer, encouraging and strengthening everyone around him, spending itself without holding back, until the very end.
It was an honour to be at the memorial service.
The Lord stands at the threshold of eternity, the keys of life and death in his hands. And when he calls a man’s name, he can’t help but come. To death. To resurrection.
But he was just too young to die. Was the work really done, when things were just beginning? Is it time to lay down the tools, when one is just entering the height of his powers? Is it really time to rest now, when there is so much more to do?
The man rests now. –Rests, and rejoices before Christ our Lord. But for us left behind, it’s time to rise and take up those tools put down, and remain faithful. This is the way to defy the unfairness of it all.