God was there.

Lake Monroe, IndianaSave me, O God, for the waters have come up to my neck. I sink in the miry depths, where there is no foothold. I have come into the deep waters; the floods engulf me. I am worn out calling for help; my throat is parched. My eyes fail, looking for my God. (Psalm 69:1-3, NIV)

These words pretty well summarize what David experienced–not the David who penned these words but David Richards, my brother-in-law.

David died last Friday.  He drowned in Lake Monroe, about 60 miles south of Indianapolis.  He was a strong, 33-year-old father of three who was just out to have some fun with his boys, like they had done many times before.

Why did David drown?  I don’t know that we’ll ever know for sure.  Maybe it had to do with the strong current.  Perhaps he had strong cramps. It could have been related to the cold water.  But one thing we know: David was overwhelmed.  He reached a point when he could go no further.  His strength was gone.

His brother, who was swimming with him, described to me David’s last moments.  At first, when David realized he was in trouble, he hung on to his brother’s life jacket.  Then, realizing that the life jacket wouldn’t support both of them, David’s brother had to force his brother away and swim back to the boat to try to get help.  A “look of terror” was in David’s eyes as he realized he was now in a life or death situation.  He pleaded with his brother to save him, to not let him drown.  He spoke of his need to take care of his children.  And then he began to sink.  His brother threw all kinds of flotation devices and other things into the water for him to hold on to, but he didn’t have the strength to hold on.  By the time he could get the boat over to him, all David’s brother could see was the tips of his fingers as he drifted down into twenty feet of water.

Six hours later, divers, with the assistance of sonar equipment, pulled David’s lifeless body back out of the lake.

Tragedy.  Horror.  Life-altering.  Heartbreak.  Shattered Dreams. Precious.

PRECIOUS?!  But that’s exactly the word the Lord uses to describe this kind of event:

Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his saints. (Psalm 116:15, NIV)

How can something like this be considered “precious”?  David’s life was cut so short from what we would expect.  His kids will grow up fatherless.  His wife is now a widow.  How is this precious?

It’s precious because God loves David.  He always loved David.  Long before David ever trusted in the work of Jesus Christ, he was loved.  And now, David sees the face of God.  He knows firsthand why his death was necessary in the plan of God.  He knows that God will care for his family.  All is well.

David wasn’t the first Christian to die by violent means.  Thousands of Christians through history have died; in fact, many have given their lives for the cause of Christ.  Many have drowned, not only through accident but because of their faith.  And in those moments between life and death…that time we fear the most…the unknown…the pain, God is there.

Three young Hebrew men were thrown into a fiery furnace, according to Daniel chapter three.  Their crime?  Failing to bow to the king’s idol in worship.  But in that furnace–where they could have died–God was there.

Then King Nebuchadnezzar leaped to his feet in amazement and asked his advisers, “Weren’t there three men that we tied up and threw into the fire?” They replied, “Certainly, O king.” He said, “Look! I see four men walking around in the fire, unbound and unharmed, and the fourth looks like a son of the gods.” (Daniel 3:24-25, NIV)

There is a view of death, popularized by film and television, that suggests that a person in death is drawn toward a light or that an angel takes him by the hand and escorts him to Heaven.  I have a different theory.  I think Jesus Himself takes us through death.

“Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. For I am the LORD, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior…” (Isaiah 43:1-3, NIV)

Would Jesus make us a promise and then not keep it?

“And surely I am with you always…” (Matthew 28:20)  “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” (Hebrews 13:5)

And I believe the teaching of the omnipresence of God:

If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast. If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me,” even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you. (Psalm 139:8-12, NIV)

Consider this: if God is with us, loving us, strengthening us, even at the point of death, even in tragic death, then is not death truly precious?  God wasn’t far away when David was gasping for his last breath; He was right there with him.  Jesus, His Savior, the One who redeemed him, the One who loved him, transported David from death to life, eternal life.

That doesn’t mean David’s death was not painful or that we who mourn him do not suffer.  But it does mean for those “in Christ” that death’s “sting” is taken away.  For most people, death is the entrance to eternal judgment for their sin.  But for Christians, death is the entrance to Heaven, to the place God has prepared for us.

I feel badly that David died like he did.  With just a simple life jacket, his life would probably have been spared.  I know his family will grieve for a long time.  But in time, they will heal.  Life will go on.  This moment in history will slowly dim.  But I feel more badly for those who are not prepared for death.  Jesus was once asked about a tragedy involving the collapse of a tower.  Here’s what he said:

“Or those eighteen who died when the tower in Siloam fell on them—do you think they were more guilty than all the others living in Jerusalem? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish.” (Luke 13:4-5)

The life lesson that all of us need to learn when a tragedy occurs is simply this: be prepared for death!  It could come at any time.  And as Jesus said, the only way to be ready is to repent.  That means to turn away from sin and turn to Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior.  You can learn more about this by clicking on this link: http://www.matthiasmedia.com.au/2wtl/2wtlonline.asp

Finally Home

When engulfed by the terror
Of tempestuous sea
Unknown waves before you roll
At the end of doubt and peril is eternity
Though fear and conflict seize your soul

But just think of stepping on shore
And finding it heaven
Of touching a hand and finding it God’s
Of breathing new air and finding it celestial
Of waking up in glory and finding it home

When surrounded by the blackness
Of the darkest night
O how lonely death can be
At the end of this long tunnel
Is a shining light
For death is swallowed up in victory

© 1971 New Spring
Don Wyrtzen | L.E. Singer
CCLI License #418309

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8 responses to this post.

  1. I’m sorry for the loss of your brother-in-law. Will pray for his children and family!

    Reply

  2. Posted by Cathy K French on July 21, 2009 at 12:28 pm

    My prayers are with you and your family as they have been since I received the first e:mail. I know we are not to question God’s reasons for they are bigger that anything we could ever think of. With that in mind, we move forward embracing the moment we will be with our loved ones again.

    God be with your sister, her family and you and your family.

    Reply

  3. Posted by Linda Evans on July 21, 2009 at 2:46 pm

    To Our Dear Pastor Brian,

    As church family, our hearts are indeed heavy for you, your sister and your entire family right now. We would rather you not have to walk through these difficult times. So many questions in a life shortened so suddenly. When words cannot explain such a time as this, I find comfort in Ecclesiastes 3:2a “a time to be born and a time to die”. For me, to know that our God is the one who appoints our time to be born and our time to die helps me to let go of those questions. He is sovereign. He alone could have stopped David’s death. No matter how hard anyone tried to save David, God’s appointed time for David was Friday, July 17th to be called home to Himself.

    We love you and we are praying for all of you.

    Reply

  4. Posted by Jim on July 21, 2009 at 7:00 pm

    Brian,

    I heard that story on the news over the weekend. We will be praying for your family and
    I will relate this in Prayer Meeting Wednesday at church.

    Your Brother in Christ,
    Pastor JimDewar
    Connersville, IN

    Reply

  5. Posted by Doris Pigecella on July 22, 2009 at 2:56 pm

    Dear Pastor Brian,

    Read your blog, and was very moved by it. I am sorry for your sister’s
    loss, and also for those precious children. But, God knows what is best, and in this situation it so difficult to see; however you spelled it out very well. There is a reason for everything, which we do not understand, but will understand it better by and by.

    Our Love,

    Frank and Doris Pigecella

    Reply

    • Posted by Peggy Kinney on July 25, 2009 at 7:17 pm

      Dear Pastor Brian,

      I can’t help but think how the Lord has brought you back to Indiana in a time to be close to your sister and her family in this time of great need. Praying for your sister and her precious children. Knowing God will give you wisdom to give comfort and support to them.

      Reply

      • Posted by Kaye Connell on July 26, 2009 at 8:02 pm

        Dear Brian and family:
        When your mom and dad told our congregation we were taken back, but God knows all and we love Him and try to do His will. We as christians tend to make a mess of things but when we go to Him for forgiveness He is always there for us. He promised to never leave us or forsake us and since my mom passed away July 17, 1964 I have relied on this verse in Heb.13:5b ever since. It is such a joy to know He is there walking beside us holding us up. God Bless you and yours. Just talked to your mom and Lisa just walked in. She was with David’s family. It had to be very hard not having David beside her as the rest of the family were in two’s.

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