Death is never easy. But death is even harder when someone is too young to die or dies under especially difficult circumstances. The tragic and untimely death of Dave leaves us almost speechless. It is hard for most of us to know exactly what to say. No words seem good enough.
But there are some topics I think we need to talk about today. We need to talk about Dave's death, about Dave's life, and about God's grace.
Dave's death was tragic. He was too young. He was not physically ill. His family loved him and wanted him. There were too many good reasons for him to live.
His death seems profoundly out of order. Parents are supposed to die before their children, yet Dave's parents lost a son. Death is supposed to steal life from us rather than be surrendered. It is something done to us; not something we should ever do to ourselves.
Dave's death is difficult for us to understand. We cannot imagine how he could feel so desperate, so depressed, so hopeless. We cannot imagine that he could not see the better and brighter alternatives. We don't understand, because those not traveling the black hole of depression really can't fully understand.
All we can do is accept and forgive. We can say that it should not have been. We should not be here today. As much as we all loved Dave, we hate the choice he made.
One thing that we should not do is blame. To the contrary, from all I know and have seenfamily, friends, and professionals did your very best. You were there for Dave; you loved him, stood by him, and helped him. But, as necessary as it may be to talk about all this, it is a disservice to measure Dave's life by his death.
Dave's life was long and was good. He lived 51 long, happy, and productive years. He blessed his family. In fact, his family is Dave's greatest and most impressive heritage. Dave and Diane were married for more than 20 years and have two wonderful children.
Dave was a man with friends as well as family. Lots of friends. Long-time friends. He was a good friend to have. Some of you remember Glen, a friend to Dave and to many of us. Glen was a delightful man, once deeply involved in our church and the singles' ministry here. When Glen was diagnosed with terminal cancer, Dave rallied to meet Glen's needs. He helped care for him and find others to care for him.
I remember a short time before Glen died, when Dave brought him here to church and the three of us talked together out in the hallway. Dave's love, friendship, and energy seemed to flow out of him to sustain Glen in his weakness.
When the family sat down and talked with me on Sunday, the stories about Dave flowed like water from a fire hydrant. One person after another told a long string of happy memoriescoaching Amy's softball team, watching Jeff and Amy in the marching band, playing every kind of sport, working overtime at airport snowstorms, singing in church music groups, working hard on political campaigns, and more.
Dave's life was full and busy and energetic and good to others. These and ten thousand other memories filled Dave's 51 years full of life. So please, remember the half-century of Dave's life, not only his death.
I mentioned earlier that there are three topics for us to talk about today: Dave's death, Dave's life, and God's grace. David was a Christian who was the beneficiary of the grace of God. God's grace is his good favor and gift through Jesus Christ.
The greatest gift from God is Jesus, his Son, who came from heaven to die on the cross for our sins. In fact, it was because of the sin and pain and difficulty in our lives that Jesus cameso that we could be redeemed from the problems of this life and assured of heaven in the next life.
We read earlier some words from Romans 8 that may be specially connected to Dave's life and death:
I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth [not even the deep depths of depression and its consequences], nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 8:3839).
Did Dave's death separate him from the love of God? Of course not! Far to the contrary, God loved Dave just as much in his death as in his life. Today, Dave is in the presence of God and experiencing the joy of God himself.
But to talk about God's grace raises a question: "If God is so powerful and good, and his grace is so great, why didn't he stop Dave from dying?" That is a very good question!
The truth is that Dave was stopped from dying multiple times. Some of you were God's agents, like angels, intervening to preserve his life. But it is also true that God does not completely overrule the bad choices we can make. That's true for all of us.
God's grace for us is like a bright light. In good times, it can be hard to see. It shines brightest in darkness. And death is the greatest darkness we can face.
The best advice for us all is not to focus on the darkness, even though there may be lots of it around. Focus on the brilliant love and grace of God in the person of our Lord Jesus Christ.
When I was a boy, a friend and I took a detour on our walk home from school. We visited a new subdivision that was being built, and we discovered a tunnel under a new road. It was a long, dark, and wet tunnel that kind of scared me.
My friend insisted that we go through it, but there was no way I was going in there. I was scared. So my friend went without me. When he disappeared out of sight into the darkness, I was sure he was a goner forever. I remember thinking how hard it would be to tell his mother what had happened to him.
A few minutes later, to my surprise, he called to me from the road above the tunnel. He said that he had gone all the way through, come out the other side, and was now standing above me telling me to come on through and that he would meet me on the other side.
Many times since, I have thought that this was much like deatha long, dark, and damp tunnel that seems so dangerous and frightening. And then our friend Jesus stepped ahead of us, died on the cross, and traveled the tunnel alone. He came out the other side and now stands in heaven promising to meet us there.
I believe Dave traveled the tunnel too soon. But I am convinced that he met Jesus waiting for him on the other side, welcoming him to heaven and eternal life.
"For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Romans 8:3839).