To Live Is Christ, to Die Is Gain

On Saturday, Josh Eddy, age 19, stood on the banks of the Rogue River in southern Oregon. The river, one of the original eight rivers designated as “Wild and Scenic” by Congress in 1968 for its amazing beauty and wilderness, was in spate with snow melt and raging with power. Josh, an artist with the camera, adjusted his camera settings, turned to the river to take a picture, and… fell in.

Josh was one of nine children in a homeschooling family that moved from Portland to Grant’s Pass a few years ago. He was very much a part of the huge homeschooling community in Oregon and Washington. I never spoke to him myself, but he was a dear friend to young people I know and love. Their world has been rocked. There is a sense of invulnerability when all life is in front of you, your body works well and you move with confidence, and your mind is sharp and facile. Then to have one of your own snatched away in a moment… Life suddenly becomes, oh, so precious, and oh—so fragile.

I prayed with some of Josh’s friends on Sunday at church. I wanted to just make it okay so badly, but I couldn’t. God is sovereign, and He is always wise and good, and always does what is best for His children out of His infinite love. That is our comfort, our peace, and our joy even when it hurts so much we hardly want to draw the next breath. These children are learning that lesson so early in life. I would have spared them, but I am not God and I don’t love them like He does.

I am thankful that these young people have a staunch faith in God. They hurt, but they know that Josh is rejoicing with Jesus, and they would not wish him back. They know that “precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of His saints,” and “a good name is better than precious ointment, and the day of death than the day of one’s birth.” They know that for a Christian, “it is not death to die.”

Josh was in love with God and focused on His glory. You can learn about the heart of this young man here: The Bright and Hopeful Unknown.  A post dated April 6th is entitled, “To Die Well…” He thought about death a lot, and deeply desired to sacrifice himself for something worthwhile…to die that someone else might live. I have no doubt that God is answering that prayer.

It is easy to speculate about the ministry this extraordinary young man may have had in life, but already people near and far are being impacted by Josh’s writings and by testimonies shared about him. His blog has had more than 10,000 views, almost all of them in the past few days. Visit the Facebook page created on Sunday as a memorial, Joshua Steven Eddy, and read what friends and family have posted about his life and how he encouraged them to fight the good fight of faith.

What the world sees as a senseless, wasted death, God is using to bring Himself great glory.  “God works all things together for the good of those who love God and are the called according to His purpose.” Josh will have a wider and deeper ministry in his death than he would have if he had lived. In God’s economy, nothing is ever senseless or wasted.

Scripture: Psa. 116:15; Eccl. 7.1; Rom. 8:28. Song title from Henri Malan (1787-1864) translated into English by George Bethune (1847).

Another place to learn more about Josh is here: First Impressions: The Movie. Josh was Director of Photography for this movie written, produced, directed, acted in, and filmed by homeschoolers. “First Impressions is an original full-length film based on the book by Jane Austen, ‘Pride and Prejudice,’ set in modern times, but with ‘flashbacks’ into Jane Austen’s story weaved in as the protagonist reads the book.” It is in the editing process, and is projected to be released in the fall. The picture is of Josh poised on the roof, filming.

The Kingdom Comes Through Weakness and Suffering

Almost daily we hear stories, whether on the news or from friends and family, of atrocities committed against the innocent; teen suicides; broken marriages; loved ones dying; financial devastation. The list goes on and on. How excruciating life is in this sin-sick world, this vale of tears. How often we simply grit our teeth and hold onto the promise of heaven. How often we cry out, “Lord, come quickly!” not because we want to see Him but because this life is untenable.

How do we find joy in the midst of so much anguish?

I don’t always enjoy Easter sermons. Most of the time they dwell on the horrendous suffering of Christ on the cross, and how grateful we should be for His infinite love and that we can spend eternity in heaven with Him. All true. Or how the disciples didn’t know our risen Lord when He walked with them on the road to Emmaus until He revealed Himself. Also true. We are all guilty of spiritual blindness more often than we know.

This Easter the sermon reached down into my soul and brought comfort, healing, and encouragement. It gave me new understanding. For the first time I heard that the kingdom of God comes through weakness and suffering; this is the message of the resurrection.

The resurrection was God the Father’s divine amen to Jesus’ “It is finished” on the cross. He had been weak in the garden, asking if at all possible, the cup might be removed. Then He was obedient even to death on the cross—the most humiliating death possible—after suffering more than anyone could ever imagine, including His Father turning His face away from His Son who became sin for us.

Jesus’ glory is the same glory He had before He suffered, bled, and died for us, but it is a greater glory because of His suffering. Jesus has a glorified body, but He carries His scars still. They are the evidence of His love for us.

Jesus will redeem all of history, including ours. Our failures, weakness, and suffering become an acceptable sacrifice because through them we learn humility, insight, compassion, wisdom, courage, and love: the character of Christ.

Perhaps the truth that affected me most profoundly is that this world is the best that God can give us. Why? Because we have the choice to rise above temptation, and insult, and injury. Because of self-sacrifice, courage, compassion, endurance, and love in the face of evil, bringing glorious victory over that evil. When the earth is restored from death, it will have a greater glory than if it had retained the perfection of the creation.

We find joy in the midst of anguish when we remember that God is sovereign. Not only is He sovereign but He is wise, and not only is He sovereign and wise, but He is good. All things work together for good to those who love God and are called according to His purpose. All things. It’s all right to be weak and to suffer. Hold fast, beloved. Glory is coming.