Today’s dismal sky mirrors my mood. The cold clouds seem to notice my demeanor. A crystalline winter shower sifts down as they try to shake off their indifference – the closest thing to empathetic tears they can muster this time of year.
One of our former pastors died earlier this week. The funeral was today. He didn’t die of illness. Or old age. Or an accident. He died of depression. Of desperation. Of irrepressible despair.
Not because he failed. God blessed him with the spiritual gift of evangelism and he used that gift to lead thousands of people to Christ through over 30 years of ministry. Not because he didn’t seek out help during the recent months when something new and unfamiliar, depression, overwhelmed him. Not because he wasn’t well-loved or well-respected. Not because an army of people, and angels, weren’t standing with him in battle. But because… well, I don’t know.
So today I mourn. I mourn the loss of the man. I mourn for his family left with questions that can never be answered on this side of heaven. I mourn for the congregation that lost its shepherd.
Most of all, I mourn for Pastor Bill. This man who brought God’s light to so many was momentarily overtaken by darkness. He must have been in inner agony as flesh battled spirit, as war raged between demons and angels in spiritual realms, as he struggled to stay afloat in a seemingly overwhelming surge. The thought that he ultimately felt forsaken by the One who would never forsake him breaks my heart.
Of course, I wouldn’t want this one moment to define his life, any more than I want my darkest spiritual hour to define my life. Perhaps it’s because dark moments were so out of character that Pastor Bill’s passing hits so hard. The thousands of people gathered at the church and around live podcasts, people touched by one man’s faithfulness to God’s call on his life, define how he lived.
So, I mourn. But not without hope. Not without comfort. Not without peace.
“But we do not want you to be uninformed, brethren, about those who are asleep, so that you will not grieve as do the rest who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep in Jesus…. Therefore comfort one another with these words.”
-I Thessalonians 4:13-14, 18