I can’t stop thinking about him. I’m shocked, I’m sad, I’m confused, I’m challenged… I’m envious. Paul’s words from Philippians 1:21 come to mind. “For me to live is Christ and to die is gain.” All of us who have been impacted by Brian have experienced an unbearable loss. Those who never knew him have missed out on an unspeakable blessing. I’m one of the blessed ones. I have lost a dear friend, brother, and partner in ministry. I will miss Brian in a million ways. A friend of mine says, “Grief is the price we pay for love” and I am certain, the greater the love, the greater the grief. This is why we are all grieving so much.
I’m often asked at a time like this, “How do people who do not know the Lord make it through something like this?” My answer is always the same: “They don’t.” Oh, they may live on; they may make it to the next day somehow. They may press on in some way and “make it through”. But God has not called us to just make it through life. Following Jesus means that we experience His abundant life in us through all things. The NIV says, we are “more than conquerors” through Him (Romans 8:37). The NLT says it this way: “No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us”. Those of us who cling to the grace of Jesus and seek to live in step with the Spirit, live above and beyond whatever may come our way. We know that we are fully alive as we grieve with hope and weep through breaking loss. The Gospel is not that we receive Jesus and all of life will go well for us, or we’ll never get sick, or never walk through tragedy. The Gospel is this: Whatever we face in life (or death) we get Jesus and He is more than enough for us. We are called to live life to the full in Him. His love that defines us comes without condition, never changes, and will never fail us. The extraordinary life that Jesus envisions for us is one of reckless abandon and unrestrained joy because we have Him. We are defined by His love and that is enough for us.
I know Jesus better because I encountered Him in Brian. He lived like Jesus – for others. He has forever impacted my life for the better. In Galatians 5:22, Paul, this painter with words, presents a portrait he calls the “fruit of the Spirit”. Here is Paul’s list of qualities that are present in a life that is being transformed by His Spirit. You tell me (if you knew Brian), do these words not describe him? “Love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control..” This is the Brian I know and love. This is a portrait of Jesus.
Thank you God for the great gift you have been to me through Brian. I look forward to seeing him soon. By the time I do (and it could be today), he will have met every person in heaven and will be ready to joyfully introduce me to each one. I look forward to that. Until then, for me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.