A little over a year ago I hugged my friend Matt a day before his little girl was laid to rest. Tomorrow, I’ll do the same for my friend Chris who lost his son, John Luke, last Saturday. Today, I want to admit to each and every one of you that I’m struggling to rationalize why these things happened to two of the best men I’ve ever known.
For those of you who might not know, John Luke Pitcock is the sweetest little boy I’ve ever known. For the last few years I’ve had the privilege to be the minister where his family faithfully attends. I want you to know his smile is contagious. He makes you feel better every time you’re around him, and somehow, he actually makes the sun shine brighter. I know that sounds cliché (and in other circumstances I’d agree with you), but it’s true. Not a person who knows him would disagree with me. He is the brightest sun in a room full of clouds, the joy in a room full of gloom, and hope personified.
For years, people all across the United States have prayed for John Luke. His story and the sheer awfulness of it couldn’t be ignored. John Luke developed a rare disorder that attacked his body. He has struggled with uncontrollable convulsions and recently took a turn for the worse that couldn’t be overcome. I made the sad announcement to our congregation on Saturday evening that he had passed and encouraged them to remember the profound reality of John 11:35.
I want to admit that I have personally struggled with the enormity of his burden (and his parent’s burden for that matter). I’ve wanted to help them bear this burden, but always felt my contributions to their welfare were lacking. I know many people felt just like me. They wanted to do more and would have gladly sold every earthly possession they owned to find a cure, if only that could’ve helped. My family, like almost every family I know prayed every single day multiple times for John Luke and his family. Eventually, my prayers lost the right words and I simply sat in silence and hoped the Holy Spirit would fill in the blanks.
In the end, none of our efforts and none of the efforts of doctor after doctor could heal his broken body. That means the world is a worse place than it used to be because John Luke is no longer a part of it.
When things like this happen, it’s easy to ask why? It’s easy to point our finger at God and blame Him. It’s easy to lose some amount of hope because we simply don’t understand how this could happen. It’s easy to lose patience, and it’s easy to wish this world was different. It’s easy to turn to those thoughts because theology is hard in moments like this.
Make no mistakes or assumptions. I believe in God more today than I ever have before. I’m not having a crisis of faith. I know God is good. I think you do too. We know He comforts the heartbroken. We know His ways are beyond ours and we know He understands all things, even when we don’t.
I’m glad I don’t have to understand everything, because I don’t understand this, try as much as I like.
Instead of being angry at God, I want to thank Him for the years John Luke blessed my life. I am honored his life overlapped mine and I am anxious to see him again one day in Paradise. I am also thankful beyond measure that his suffering is over. But I still wish we had more time. More time to sing Jesus Loves Me or The Little Boy Named David song.
Of all the things God is, being the One who knows “why?” is what I respect the most today. I’m so glad I can turn my undeveloped and irrational feelings over to Him without judgment or hesitation. I’m so glad that He hurts when we hurt. I’m so glad I got to worship Him yesterday with my Church family. I’m so thankful that Chris and Amber came to worship with their daughter Gracie. I’m in awe of their grace, strength, hope, and courage. I want to be more like them and I want them to know I’ve never respected anyone more in my entire life.
Today, all my theology and all my experience with death and loss doesn’t help me much, but my God and His Church does. They brought John Luke into my life and gave me just a few moments to see the beauty of that sweet boy’s soul. A soul that is still just as precious as ever. A soul that will forever be one that my family reveres.
John Luke was the best this world has to offer. He was kind, beautiful, and more like Christ than I can describe in these few short words. Thankfully, I don’t have to, Jesus already did. For there’s no child I’ve ever met who embodies this description more:
Jesus called a little child to Him, set him in the midst of the crowd, and said, “Assuredly, I say to you, unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever humbles himself as this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.Matthew 18:2-4
Thank you John Luke, for being the child that taught us how to be great. I promise, we’ll never forget it, because we’ll never forget you.
All Scripture is taken from the New King James Version (c) 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. All rights reserved. Used by permission.