Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Wrestle Until Death

I got the news over six months late that a friend of mine passed away. He died just a few days after I left for Basic Combat Training last fall and I was cut off from the outside world. The unexpected news hit me hard this morning. We lived on a tight knit floor of about 40 guys in college and he was a freshman when I was a junior. My buddy was wrestling with what it meant to follow Jesus, to be out on his own and making his own decisions. That's a good place to be- especially for an 18 year-old. And the group of guys on that floor known as the 2A Titans couldn't have been a better place for him to wrestle.

I got to mentor a few underclassmen that year and whether he knew it or not, he was one of them. Most of those freshmen I met for breakfast on a regular basis and we'd talk about life, but this guy wasn't ready for that. So I worked out with him, took him skydiving, and brought him along to the occasional Bible study. The next year he decided the school wasn't for him. We didn't talk much after that and the last I heard before this morning was that he spent his summers on a fishing boat in Alaska and went to another Christian school closer to home.

I haven't mourned in a long time, but I stood in the kitchen this morning and just let the tears stream down. No sooner, could I hear the voice of my Lord reminding me of the death of his friend Lazarus and how he got there too late- his friend was in a tomb and Jesus just wept. I know the rest of the story and that Jesus raises Lazarus from the dead, so I asked him, "Why were you weeping for your friend when you knew you could do this?" And he answered me, "because this is not how it was supposed to be." When Jesus breathed life into Adam he never intended on one day taking it from him, but the penalty of sin is death. Jesus wept because he was a man who lost a friend he loved and that wasn't part of the plan. Not for Lazarus, not for my friend, or for you or me.

The news of his death hit hard because I don't know what happened to him in the last few years, I don't know how his struggle with the Lord was going or if there were any other godly men that stepped in and walked with him. It makes me think of my own brother and how he has been wrestling with the same questions- or if I am completely honest, with my own life and how I still choose to do things my way. The Lord reminded me this morning that just like I know the end of the story with Lazarus, I know the end of this story too. In the end, love wins. Not in a Rob Bell kind of way where everyone gets a free pass to Heaven, but in the way that Jesus described it to Lazarus' mourning sisters: “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die." In the end we are perfected by Jesus' love.

I'm at peace knowing my friend placed his faith in Christ, and that my brother has, and that I have. From there I pray that we would all continue to wrestle with who Jesus is. Take the blows and the punches, the highs and lows all in stride as our savior shapes and refines you to be more like himself. Let the Lord strip away any false pride that you have have that would lead you to believe that your own righteousness is any less filthy than your brother next to you. Believe in the one who came to save you and wrestle with him until death.

His name, Josiah, means "healed by Yahweh" and right now, the same Jesus- the same Yahweh that started a good work in him has carried it out to completion and Josiah couldn't possibly be any more healed than he is now. See you soon brother.
2nd Titan Airborne


  1. This hardly seems like the appropriate occasion to launch into a theological discussion and I am very sorry for your loss. Nevertheless, a couple things you said stuck in my mind.

    1.) The reason for Jesus weeping:
    My thought has been that Jesus was not weeping so much out of a feeling of personal loss (though I think we should appreciate His distaste for death itself), but more so out of compassion for those who were mourning (John 11:33).

    2.) God's plan:
    Does anything exist or happen apart from God's plan? It is true that God is holy and remains separate from all that is sinful and corrupt, but can anything thwart God in any way so that He would need to implement a plan B? (Romans 8:28-30; Ephesians 3:10-11)

    I would be interested to hear your thoughts on these points.

  2. Thanks, Mark. Those were both questions I was thinking through as I was writing this morning. As I come to know more and more about who Jesus is, I can't help but realize how much I've looked over the complete humanity of Christ. It is a lot easier for me to think of Jesus as fully God and forget that at the same time he was also fully man. That being the case, I think it is totally reasonable to infer from the story in John that Jesus felt loss- just as you or I feel loss when we lose someone we love. I also think that with everything going on in the scene it is probable that it wasn't just one thing that made Jesus break down. Human emotion is a complex creation. So did he weep out of compassion for the others as well? I'm sure.

    Did Adam & Eve's sin surprise God? Absolutely not. Was his intention to set them up for failure in a paradise he only intended to last a short while? Absolutely not. I don't think it's worth getting in a argument over predestination over, but when humanity fell it totally changed the original design where death and separation from God had no part. I am positive that God still choses to work in situations that we mess up. Plan A is that God is glorified, and since day one that's never stopped.