by Roy Eyre
The Wycliffe Canada community is grieving with the families who have lost so much in Calgary last weekend.
Early Saturday morning, two young men died and four were injured in a tragic sledding accident at Canada Olympic Park. A number of them had Wycliffe connections, including two of the injured teens who are sons of Wycliffe staff.
So the loss and pain is very personal. These boys were friends with some of our kids, they were classmates with others, and their parents were personal friends of many of our staff.
My wife and I have marvelled as two precocious, red-headed, rosy-cheeked, one-year-olds in our church nursery grew into the amazing young men who will be remembered at a funeral on Thursday. We ache as we consider how Jordan and Evan Caldwell’s young lives could be snuffed out so suddenly. We also agonize with those remaining in hospital and the boys who will carry emotional wounds from this event. To be honest, we’re devastated. We’re spent of tears after three days of visiting at the hospital.
What do we make of a tragedy like this? I was recently reminded of some thoughts I posted in September 2014 as I considered the autumn colours, and they seem relevant today in light of this tragedy.
Have you ever stopped to consider that God has made death beautiful?
The Preacher in Ecclesiastes 3:11 states boldly that God “has made everything beautiful in its time.”
It’s a good sentiment, but have you ever taken time to think about the implications? The author reaches this conclusion after considering a long list of contrasts. You know the passage . . . or the Pete Seeger song:
For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:
a time to be born, and a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted . . .
a time to break down, and a time to build up;
a time to weep, and a time to laugh. . . (Ecc. 3:1-4)
God has made everything beautiful: death, plucking up, breaking down, weeping. They’re all beautiful in their time. This season is a perfect one to consider that truth. Rather than simply letting the leaves brown and wither, God opted to allow them a glorious goodbye. In some ways, the fiery golds and reds of autumn declare the glory of God better than the vibrant reds and golds of spring.
So how can even this be beautiful? To be honest, it’s difficult to see it right now. Hebrews 11:1 reminds us that faith is the conviction of things not seen. Of all people, it was one of the boys who miraculously walked away unscathed from the accident, who reminded me of this. On Sunday night, he stepped to the platform in church and read a verse with broken voice:
And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28). All things. Our faith may be feeble, but we can hold on to that promise. There will be good that will come out of this. God will work in and through this. One day we’ll see the reds and golds in this horrible accident.
The Scriptures are a lens by which we can view our circumstances. Jesus said in John 12:24: “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it produces much grain.”
I sincerely believe that God will use, and is using, Jordan’s and Evan’s deaths to bring new life. Because Jesus didn’t stop with verse 24. He goes on to say,
“He who loves his life will lose it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. If anyone serves Me, let him follow Me; and where I am, there My servant will be also. If anyone serves Me, him My Father will honor” (John 12:25-26).
Jordan and Evan enjoyed life. In the last few days, we’ve reflected on their crazy pranks, their zest for fun, their generous spirits and volunteer service. But they didn’t cling to this life to the extent that they weren’t prepared for the next life. On Jordan’s bedroom door, he posted a verse that gave him perspective:
“O Death, where is your sting?
O Hades, where is your victory?” (1 Corinthians 15:55)
The twins didn’t flinch at dying. Sure, they didn’t seek it. But they knew death was simply a door to the next life, and what they did here on earth stored up treasure for eternity. Many have already seen their story as a wake-up call, and a number have already given their lives to Christ as a result. Already we’re beginning to see the reds and golds of new life that springs up out of death.