Rev. Dr. Andre Johnson
Pastor, Gifts of Life Ministries
“What We Don’t and Do Know”
Romans 8: 35, 38-39
Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
But God will redeem my life from the grave; God will surely take me to himself.
As humans, we have this insatiable appetite to know the answer to “why” questions. We want to know why stuff happens; why this and not that; why up and not down; or vice versa. We want to know the why questions. It starts when we are a child, when our parents tell us we can’t do something or go somewhere, then we look up to them and ask “why?” And it continues as we grow older, we just want to know the answer to the why, “why you don’t like me?”
This is especially true when events happen in our lives that shake our foundation. When our world spins out of our control and when we begin to lose a grip on reality, we then really want to know what’s going on here. So when the going gets rough and the going gets tough, we want to know why. Why Lord is this happening? Why do I feel like this? Why am I always in this same trouble? Why did he or she leave me this time? Why Lord, do I always feel lonely and depressed?
However, even though it may take some time, and it really does not feel good while we are going through, we sometimes get the answers that we have been searching. For you see sometimes, we cause our problems and after we get over our pity parties and feeling bad about ourselves, the Spirit comes and gently reminds us that it’s simply our fault. Sometimes the answer is that it’s another person or group that causes our pain and suffering. But whatever the reason, even though we are still ask the why questions and wonder about what’s going on, we do get some sort of answer and it allows us to rectify the problem and we can then move on with our journeys.
Then something like this happens (suicide) and everything is off script—the “why” questions are asked, but the answers don’t come too quickly. When something like this happens, your whole equilibrium is off and you can’t seem to find balance. When something like this happens, you don’t have to worry about folks too much getting on your nerves because many of them don’t know what to say or how to act. When something like this happens, it stops everybody in their tracks trying to figure all of this stuff out. And it is then that you realize a profound truth about being human—we are finite beings with limited knowledge and even though we may ask, there are just some things that we just do not know.
We don’t know. We don’t know why Alex died this way—we don’t know. We don’t know what was going though his mind at that particular time—we don’t know. We will never understand the cloud of confusion and frustration that he bore in his body and mind—we don’t. We don’t know how he felt the day before or the last week—we don’t know.
We don’t know why every two hours in this country some young person commits suicide; deciding that it was the best option that was available—we don’t know. We don’t know why African American males make up 81% of the black youth suicides in this nation—we don’t know. We don’t know why folks with messed up theologies have already assigned Alex to hell when that is the furthest thing from the truth. As if, you have a heaven of hell to put anyone in at all—we don’t know. We don’t know why Alex felt that his only option out from his pain and suffering was to end it all—we don’t know. And all of our guessing, all of our blaming, all of our shaming, all of our innuendos, all of our guilt trips, all of our should ofs could ofs or would ofs, will only not bring Alex back, but in the end we still will not know—there are some things in life that we just will not know. As I told G’Life on Thursday, our foreparents had a saying for that—we will understand it better by and by. They understood that in a fallen creation, stuff happens!! It’s messed up and no theological, exegetical, deep philosophical analysis will make any of this better. There are some things we just do not know!!
But while there are some things that we don’t know, there are some things, by faith, that we do know. We know that we still serve an awesome God—one that sits high and looks low—there are some things that we do know. We know we serve a God who is there with us—one that knows everything about us—there are some things that we do know. We know we serve a God who understands what it is that we are going though. All of our trials, all of our pain, all of our suffering; all of our ups and downs; our ins and out—there are some things we do know. We know that we serve a God of love and compassion. That’s why Paul can write as he reflected over his life, “Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?
Then he writes, “For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
And what Paul was trying to say, is what I am trying to tell the family today—nothing shall separate us from the love of God. Not relationship issues, not family squabbles, not frustrations and vexations, not anxiety, worry and doubt, not cloudiness or confusion, not he said or she said, not mistakes in the past or mistakes in the future and sure (as heck) not suicide—nothing can ever separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord!
That’s why the Psalmist, even before Paul wrote, “But God will redeem my life from the grave; he will surely take me to himself.” What that tells me is that even in the grave; even after we pass on from here; even as we are entering a new eternity; even as we cross over into a new reality, God still loves us and nothing can ever separate us from the love of God. And even is Alex’s darkest hour, this loving and compassionate God met him and provided safe passage through his own valley of the shadow of death,—for God was and is with him.
And I came to remind this grieving family with more questions than answers, that instead of focusing in on what you don’t know, start to focus on what you do know. Because you know, that you loved some Alex Heidelberg. You know, that he was (and is) a precious gift from God. You know that he brighten up your lives and that we are all better because he came into our lives. You know that he loved you and wanted to be the best he could be.
So in that spirit we can come to thank God for the life of Alexander Heidelberg. And to use brother Rod’s (Alex’s father) refrain that he yelled out at the altar this past Thursday night, thank you Lord for the 19! Thank you Lord for 19 years of blessings. Thank you Lord for 19 years of gifts and abilities. Thank you Lord for 19 of love and affection. Thank you Lord for 19 years of joy and happiness. Thank you Lord for 19 years of having a son, grandson, nephew, cousin, brother, and loved one in my life. Thank you Lord for the 19!!!
So no, we don’t know some things, but what we do know; we are going to hold on to it, because that’s how we are going to make it through this trying and tough situation. We will miss you Alex, see you real soon!!