The phone was ringing at three o’clock on Sunday morning….
“Can’t be good…” Frank thought to himself.
Tragic news followed that Frank’s brother, Stuart, had been found unconscious, and was being rushed to the hospital. Even more tragic, upon performing several tests, there seemed to be no activity whatsoever in the brain.
How could this be possible? Our youngest son, Woody, just played golf with Frank and Stuart, and Frank’s son-in-law, Jonathan, three days prior to this. They’d had a blast playing in a scramble to benefit A Woman’s Choice Resource Center. (www.awomanschoice.org )
Within hours this past Sunday, conditions worsened. With family clutching Stuart, and each other, at his bedside, “Uncle Stuart” as we all knew him, was ushered into Heaven Monday evening. God rest his soul.
First, I want you all to know Uncle Stuart. Second, I want us to be reminded of what God’s Word tells us when something as startling as this happens…
Let’s talk about sweet Uncle Stuart for a moment. John and I were blessed to know Stuart and his precious wife Emma because Woody dates their niece,L.T.(Lindsey Taylor). I believe Stuart “approved” of us because of our allegiance to the University of Kentucky Wildcats.*
There was no bigger fan of the Kentucky Wildcats than “Stuie”. Three years ago when L.T. found out she’d been accepted at UK, the first phone call she made was to Uncle Stuart.
Equally huge was Stuart’s heart. Woody told me that just last week in the golf tournament, when they were raffling off door prizes, people nearby them kept winning, including their own foursome. Stuart kept looking down at his ticket stub sayin’, “Come on, come on, …come on NOW!!!”
Sure enough, the last number was called and it was Uncle Stuart’s!!! He went up to accept the gift, never looking in the bag, handing it straight to Woody. He wanted Woody to have something too. He was all heart.
Oh, it hurts. We cannot believe he’s gone. Oh, but we know where he is! We will see him again!
Stuart’s brother, Frank, and his sister-in-law, Aletia, Frank’s wife, are the original connection for us to Stuart. Frank and Aletia are very dear friends of ours. (Those of you who hail from Lebanon, Kentucky probably know Frank as “Frankie Joe”. Frank only has fifty-two first cousins!!! Now THAT’s a family!)
Frank and Aletia have many claims to fame. Being LT’s parents is one of them! (Not to mention their other daughter Chelsea and son-in-law, Jonathan.) The entire, extended Thompson family is amazing and has blessed our family abundantly over the years.
I ask you sweet readers to lift them all up in prayer. Especially Frank’s brother Mitchell, who is patiently enduring cancer in Lexington right now. They also have a brother, Tim, and sister, AnnCoury, here in Louisville.
You may have heard the saying, “You may be the only Bible that someone ever reads.” The Thompsons live that out on a daily basis, wherever they go.
So what does God’s Word tell us about dying, especially so suddenly?
A great passage in 2 Corinthians 5:1-10 is known as “Our Heavenly Dwelling” and is worth our review today. Paul talks about our earthly bodies as earthly tents. And tho’ we may groan while on earth in these tents, to be absent in our earthly body is to be present with the Lord. Heavenly dwellings await those who’ve made a commitment to follow the Lord Jesus Christ.
My Life Application Bible says about vs. 6-8, “…facing the unknown may cause us anxiety, and leaving loved ones hurts deeply, but if we believe in Jesus Christ, we can share Paul’s hope and confidence of eternal life with Christ…
And here’s the kicker:
“For those who believe in Christ, death is only a prelude to eternal life with God. We will continue to live. Let this hope give you confidence and inspire you to faithful service.”
Two favorite books with hope-filled words on death are Traveling Light–Releasing the Burdens You Were Never Intended to Bear by Max Lucado and When the Bottom Drops Out—Finding Grace in the Depths of Disappointment by Robert Bugh.
Max Lucado reminds us, “In God’s plan, every life is long enough and every death is timely. And though you and I might wish for a longer life, God knows better.
While we are shaking our heads in disbelief, they are lifting hands in worship. While we are mourning at a grave, they are marveling at heaven. While we are questioning God, they are praising God.”
But….what if you’re uncertain of your loved one’s beliefs?
Max reassures us, “Who among us is privy to a person’s final thoughts? Could our God who is partial to the humble, resist it? Maybe you never heard your loved one confess Christ, but who’s to say Christ didn’t?
God is not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance. (2 Peter 3:9 NKJV) He wants your loved one in heaven more than you do.”
Rob Bugh, senior pastor at Wheaton Bible Church, wrote of his experiences of losing his best friend, Tom, to cancer and a year later of losing his wife, Carol to cancer. His book I mentioned earlier, When the Bottom Drops Out, is by far one of the most encouraging books on dealing with loss and/or tough circumstances I’ve read.
Rob shares, “My faith in God’s goodness and love was my safety net and it kept me out of the abyss of anger and unbelief…the net was secure tho’ the bottom fell out.” What tethered Rob to the Lord were the beliefs he’d learned and built on over the years from studying God’s Word.
Rob adds, “…After years of pastoral ministry, I have concluded that a KEY DIFFERENCE between Christ followers who transcend their circumstances (see last week’s post on sinking under vs. soaring above circumstances…), and those who don’t is that long before crisis ever hits, the first group is deeply passionate about their faith, and deeply rooted in the Word, while the second considers faith just one more good thing in their lives. As a result, when difficulty comes, the first group focuses on and lives in light of the divine realities of life, while the other is unable to do so.” Yikes…
Rob closes with, “God taught me nearly as much about joy as about sorrow during and after Carol’s illness. I discovered that happiness apart from Jesus is fleeting. Joy, however is a natural outgrowth of our relationship with Christ.
When He becomes the root, or Lord, of our life, joy is the fruit. Joy is a second thing; Jesus is the first thing. Joy, therefore, isn’t the absence of problems, but the presence of Christ in the midst of them.”
Lord Jesus, we come to you heavy hearted. We may not know the “why” this side of Heaven, yet WE WILL TRUST IN YOU. We grieve, and we trust. Please hold us. May we keep putting one foot in front of the other when things are so, so sad and difficult. You are Sovereign and WE WILL TRUST IN YOU. Amen and amen.
Friends, our tomorrows may be different from today. They may bring life. They may bring loss. Cling to your faith, savor God’s Word, and be ready.
‘Til next time!
(This week’s post is an obvious dedication. We salute and pray for the Thompson family. The visitation and funeral is this week and we pray for love, support , comfort, and encouragement to all of you. You are a gift. “Stuie” was a gift. May God hold you tightly.)