Some of you may already know that I write a devotional on weekdays. I normally leave it to its own blog, but this one is being brought over here with a few additional thoughts and some formatting changes.
I got word Tuesday morning that a dear friend of mine, a fellow brother in Christ and a warrior for the faith had fallen in battle. No, not on the fields of physical warfare in some foreign land. This was a spiritual battle that claimed the highest toll. I spent much of the day alternating between tears and disbelief. There are all the questions that come in times of grief and loss, especially a loss such as this. As ministers, we are not immune to the stress of life and the pressures of ministry can often add a dimension that few are aware of unless they experience it firsthand. Yet, there are still the promises of God and His Word. I found this promise appropriate to where I am today:
6 On this mountain the Lord of hosts will make for all peoples
a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wine,
of rich food full of marrow, of aged wine well refined.
7 And he will swallow up on this mountain
the covering that is cast over all peoples,
the veil that is spread over all nations.
8 He will swallow up death forever;
and the Lord God will wipe away tears from all faces,
and the reproach of his people he will take away from all the earth,
for the Lord has spoken.
9 It will be said on that day,
“Behold, this is our God; we have waited for him, that he might save us.
This is the Lord; we have waited for him;
let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation.” – Isaiah 25:6-9
Death will be done away with someday. Jesus Christ has proved that this is true by His own resurrection from the dead. The tears will be wiped away someday, just not today, at least not yet anyway. But we wait for Him and the day we can rejoice with no tears to dim the celebration. Please pray for my fallen brother-in-arms and for his family during this time of sorrow.
That was the basic content of the devotional post I wrote to post on Wednesday morning, but I felt the desire to expand further and so I carry on over here. As I write this, it has been over 12 hours since I first got word of Bill’s death. The shock and dismay and hurt and grief have been so raw at times that I have been able to do nothing but weep. The Scripture about mourning with those who mourn has been in my head most of the day. Bill was one of the first guys that I really got to know well after we moved to South Dakota almost 9 years ago now. I spent many hours driving across the state with him and two other pastors just a month or so after we first arrived. By the time we had spent a couple of days in Sioux Falls together, he felt comfortable letting me drive his Durango most of the way back to Rapid City (either that or it was due to the fact that I was the one who offered to drive through the wee hours of the night rather than sleep another night in the hotel). It certainly might have been the fact that he needed to give his knees a rest after driving all the way there a couple of days earlier. Either way, he showed a lot of trust in a 20-something kid he had only known for a couple of days.
I am not sure that I can think of anyone I know who was more giving and selflessly so than Bill. It was my honor to spend so much time hanging out with one of his sons and mentoring him in youth ministry for a while(at least he says that he learned something from me, sometimes I had to wonder what I had to teach). It might have been the only thing I could have done that could in any small way repay the ways that Bill had an impact on my life. He was a big encouragement to me and his church was faithful to support us during our stint in the hills as MSC missionaries. In my mind, I have replayed some of the many happy memories he has been a part of over these years. I still remember him coming up to my kids at an annual meeting a couple of years ago and commending them for their good behavior before he handed them each a $2 bill. His giving heart and kind spirit will be greatly missed on this side of eternity. His funny impressions and cut-up nature will also be missed. He touched many, many lives along the way in his ministry and his life. I cannot adequately express with words all that I want to say. All I know is that I have all the more reason to look forward to that day that Isaiah spoke of and the apostles affirmed was true because of the hope we have in Jesus Christ, when death is swallowed up and the Lord wipes away our tears and takes away our reproach and gives us the full joy of our salvation.
Maranatha! Come quickly Lord Jesus!