On Monday, Brad and I attended a funeral where that “Why” question certainly seemed applicable. This funeral was for a young man named Ben Crowley. Ben was our sister-in-law’s brother. He was a handsome guy, 38 years old, had a beautiful godly wife, and a baby girl on the way. He was a rabid Auburn Tigers fan, and he loved the Lord. He had overcome a lot in his life, including drug and alcohol addiction as a younger man. He also was fighting a battle that had gone on for many years … a battle against mental illness. And on the evening of March 20th, somewhere between 5:30 p.m., when he talked to his wife on the phone and told her he was cooking dinner for her, and 8:30 p.m., when she arrived home, he took his own life.
His family and friends were stunned and heartbroken. How could this happen? Ben was doing so well … He loved his wife, he was excited about his baby on the way, and he was making plans for the future. Yet on that evening, his mental illness took over, and his earthly life ended.
His dad preached his funeral on Monday, and did a wonderful job of sharing who the real Ben was. Anyone who came that day who did not know Ben left there feeling like they had “met” him.
One of the things his dad said really stuck with me. He quoted 2 Timothy 4: 6-8 -- "For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that Day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing."
I have to confess, when he read that, I thought to myself, “But Ben didn’t finish the race. He took his own life.”
But then, Ben’s dad said the same thing I had been thinking ... “When I read that, I thought to myself, ‘But Ben didn’t finish the race. He took his own life.’ And he continued on, saying, "But then God reminded me of something … God is the one who draws the finish line. God had drawn the finish line in Ben’s life on the evening of March 20th, and Ben reached it.” He reminded us that God drew the finish line in His own Son's life after six hours on the cross. Death by crucifixion usually took two or three days, but God determined that Jesus had suffered enough ... and He drew the finish line.
Wow! God draws the finish line. God drew the finish line in Ben's life, just as He drew the finish line in Hannah's life ... and they both finished the race that He had set out for them.
That doesn’t mean that we have to like the course of this race. I would much preferred to have reached my finish line before Hannah did … I mean, isn’t that the way it’s supposed to be? I know Ben's family feels the same way.
But sometimes God had a different plan for our children, and for us, as their parents. And my job now is to continue to fight that good fight, to keep the faith, and to run that race. And one day, when I receive my own crown of righteousness, Hannah will be there smiling her big bright smile, and saying, “That’s my Mom!”
Please keep Ben's mom and dad, his wife, his unborn daughter, his siblings, and his many friends in your prayers as they face the difficult days ahead.