I got the news last night that my good friend Frank Gonzalez was killed in a car accident. I spent last night with a few friends who knew him, and we shared the pain of losing him, and the joy having known him. He was a light to all of us, and we'll miss him greatly.
And yet, it's amazing what perspective faith can give you at a time like this. When I heard I felt that first jolt of pain in my heart, but the only way I can describe it is that it's like being cut deeply and finding that you don't bleed, or being scalded and finding you don't blister. I'm sad that Frank is gone, sad because I will miss smiling, and laughing and talking about God with him, sad for his family, and for his children, but I am not sad for Frank.
Not long ago, another good friend of mine went on an extended trip overseas, and I missed him. He missed us, too, but while we missed his company, we knew how much he loved being where he was, and could not begrudge him that. What I am feeling now is much the same -- I feel a sense of loss, but I am happy for Frank. He lived for Christ, and now he lives with Christ. The only difference between a trip across the sea and a trip to where Frank has gone, is that I don't know exactly when I'll see Frank again. God willing, in fifty or sixty years. But then again I very well might see him tomorrow, as any of us who share his faith might.
This is the hope that comes from faith in Christ. Not a hope against all odds, or a hope against hope, but a sure and certain hope of eternal life, not only for yourself, but for all of those who are your family in Christ. An event like this could easily make you fearful and despairing. Frank was young, strong, and healthy, and now he's dead. I could look at all my friends with dread, and say to myself that if I could lose him, I could as easily lose any one of them. But in fact as I think on each of them, I realize that precisely the opposite is true -- I cannot possibly lose any of them who are in Christ, because we are all of us held in the grasp of the Living God, and no one can pluck us from His Swift, Sure Hand.
And so, though absent in the flesh, Frank still lives with us in spirit -- not as mere memory, nor as some vague emanation of the things he accomplished in life, but in reality. He is part of the Body of Christ, and there is no part of that Body that is dead, for Christ said "I am He that liveth, and was dead, and behold I am alive forevermore, and have the keys of hell and of death." He is Frank's God, as surely as he is the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and Jacob, and He is not the God of the dead, but the God of the living! Whether those who still struggle on Earth, or those who dwell triumphant in heaven, we are all one body, one family, and not one member of that family can ever, ever be lost to us! We live forever in the Communion of Saints, and those no longer with us here are with us there, and will always be with us. This is not hollow metaphor, but glorious truth. And in it, I find comfort, and peace that passes understanding.
If there is anything that Frank's passing has reminded me of, it is that I must use the gifts that God has given me, as Frank used those that God gave Him, to make Christ famous. The truth is I waste so much time, and though we have an eternity to glory together, my friends, we have only a short time to fight together! And so I pray now, as I have seen my brother-in-arms Frank taken from our side in the fight, that God would not leave us lacking, but as it was with Elijah and Elisha, give to each of us whose life Frank touched a double portion of the zeal Frank had to use his gifts, that we all might use our own particular gifts with such fire and determination. In Jesus' name, Amen.