John 12:24 (NLT) I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat is planted in the soil and dies, it remains alone. But its death will produce many new kernels—a plentiful harvest of new lives.
Around a month ago, one of my daughter’s Vanessa’s best friends died. Gus was only 17, a talented musician and a committed Christian. A senior in high school with plans to go to college, marry, and audition for American Idol. One of the last times I saw him was on a vespers we had in my house. We discussed how to know God’s plan for your life. He came in his motorcycle, (fashionably late but with style) and even though he was young (only 17) his participation and friendliness brightened the room.
As a pastor, we attend, participate and perform funerals on a regular basis, but I have to admit this one has been a tough one for me. So, in honor of Gus, and the ones you may have lost, I decided to share some thoughts on God, his plan and our mortality.
1. God has a plan, even though we don’t understand it.
People that are going through the grief process often try to understand “why.” One day I was meditating on this, and God gave me this thought:
Do you want answers or solutions?
Answers only can be understood from the perspective of eternity, and when we get there, we will. For now, I must hold on to the promise of resurrection. Part of God’s plan was to abolish death. He has. I can take comfort in that reality. It’s not my job to understand, but to trust even though I don’t.
2. God has a plan, even in the midst of pain.
God did not send death to Gus in order to “convert” more followers. Death is a product of sin, and we should assign blame to whom it belongs: the evil one. Yet, as Joseph said so eloquently in Genesis 50
“Joseph replied, “Don’t be afraid. Do I act for God? Don’t you see, you planned evil against me but God used those same plans for my good, as you see all around you right now—life for many people…”
I already see this. The impact of a life well lived is being felt far and wide. Young people returning to Jesus. Recommitments made. Decisions to live for the same Jesus Gus loved. Promises to see him in heaven. Picture this for a moment: A young person meets Gus in heaven and tells him: “Gus, after your death, I changed my life. God turned me around. Thanks for your testimony, in the form of your life.” I believe that will happen. The worse thing the devil can do to any of us, God can turn around for all of us.
3. God has a plan, even though we don’t agree with it.
I reject death. I wish I could go back and fix all of the events that led to where we are today. I know intellectually that God did not produce his death, but at the emotional and human level, it’s impossible not to grieve with his parents. Gus could be my kids. He could be yours. He might already be. I don’t always agree with what happens to me, yet I hold on to the hope that is in me, Jesus. The key is to trust, even though _____________ happens. Death happens. Divorce happens. Cancer happens. Accidents happens. Separation happens. Yet I trust in a God that is big enough to take my anger, despondency and hurt. I don’t have to hurt alone. I know I will see Gus again. So will my daughter. So will many others he touched. During these hard times, this passage has brought comfort to me and my family:
Romans 8:35Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death? 36 (As the Scriptures say, “For your sake we are killed every day; we are being slaughtered like sheep.”) 37 No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us.
38 And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. 39 No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Rest in peace, Gus. We will see each other again. That is in God’s plan.