As I write this post [ED: originally, March 31, 2007 at about 9:30 p.m.], I am very tired. It has been a long week and emotionally draining. Last Sunday night, at about 10:30 p.m., I received a phone call from my pastor. He told me that a friend of mine, a little brother in the Lord, had died suddenly while having dinner in College Station, Texas. To my knowledge, Jeremy Kersh had no history of medical problems. His death was unexpected and without warning.
Jeremy worked in our office for awhile before he went off to A&M. His younger brother, Josh, currently works for us and has for quite some time. They are godly young men. It was very difficult for me to receive that call, but I cannot imagine how crushing that news was for Jeremy’s mother, father and two younger brothers.
Though I have no doubt that Jeremy is present with Christ, I have found my gaze drifting more toward the window in my little office trying to process all of what has happened. I am sure there will be more in the weeks to come, but my mind has settled on three immediate lessons from Jeremy’s death.
1. We do not grieve like those with no hope.
How does a Christian deal with such great loss? I do not doubt that if someone had asked his mother on Saturday what she would do if Jeremy suddenly passed away, the thought of it would seem so overwhelming and unbearable. How could any parent fathom the depth of such pain and sorrow? How could you find any remaining joy in life? There is only one answer, the grace of Christ. What does the Scripture say?
No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it. 1 Corinthians 10:13
From Sunday night when I went to their house after I heard the news until Friday afternoon at the graveside, I have observed and heard testimony of the rock-solid confidence of Jeremy’s mother, Debbie, in the goodness and mercy of God. She did not crumple in despair. She did not lash out in anger.
Debbie laughed as we all rehearsed some stories about Jeremy. She cried at times when the grief would get caught in her throat. But, there was never gut-wrenching despair. In fact, Debbie expressed her confidence in Christ by comforting other members of her family and the friends who gathered around them. She did the comforting, the reassuring, and the encouraging for those around her who also felt the loss of her son. How?
Paul knew something about suffering. Consider this passage of Paul recounting his dealing with a secret hurt.
Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong. 2 Corinthians 12:8-10
Grace for the moment. I am not so naive to assume that the worst is behind the Kersh family. There will be long days ahead. I am sure the family is already exhausted beyond measure after this past week. Holidays, birthdays and other special family gatherings will seem a little less bright, to say the least. However, I pray for their joy in Christ in the midst of this loss. May the Lord continue to shower His grace upon them moment by moment.
2. We should always reckon today as being our last day to glorify God on this earth.
When I sat down in the sanctuary prior to the beginning of the funeral, I took some time to read through the handout I received at the door. What I read pricked my conscience on how much I cling to this life. Jeremy had chosen a Bible verse to be placed in his senior year book. He chose Romans 14:7-9, a peculiar verse for a young man with his life before him and a promising future. It says this,
For none of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself. For if we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord. So then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s. For to this end Christ died and lived again, that he might be Lord both of the dead and of the living.
What I read next knocked me out of my seat. His mother wrote this under Jeremy’s chosen verse:
I believe that the Lord was preparing Jeremy even then for his homecoming! His heart was truly not earthly minded and he had a grasp of living for the Lord and dying unto Him!
What is she saying? “God knew my son was going to die and did not prevent it! Instead, He sovereignly prepared my son for death.”
I don’t know where the Kersh family stands on theodicy, meticulous providence, or a host of other similar theological issues. What astounds me is the natural inclination of believers to trust that their all-powerful Father is good and merciful in all He does.
So, where does that leave us? Do I work to the glory of God? Do I mow my yard to the glory of God? Am I a father to His glory? Am I a husband to His glory? Do I treat my brothers and sisters in Christ in a way that honors Him, even when they are not treating me the same? All of life is a gift for His glory, and we should reflect His glory in all of life.
My life in this tent is a breath, a blade of grass, and it fades quickly. It is a knot on the kite string of eternity past to eternity future and I only have one life before I stand before the King and give an account of how I lived it. May the Lord grant us all the grace to press on in spite of pain, failure, and the deceptive distractions that plague us in this life.
3. We should hunger for Heaven and the glory of God in the face of Christ.
I don’t want to give the impression that I am suicidal, but this whole experience has intensified my longing to be with Christ. What will I hear as I stand before my God and my King once this breath fades?
Take some time and read through the passages that describe the throne room of God, Heaven, and the glory of Christ. Do you long for what is eminently more real than the shadow we experience here? Or do you look upon the time you will stand before His throne with dread, or even worse, apathy?
What is Jeremy experiencing right now? He was rarely without a smile on this earth. I wonder, how big is his smile as he stands perfect before his Savior?