He Gives and Takes Away: In Memory of a Friend, Father, and Missionary

I woke this morning to the news a friend of mine, his wife, and their three children died in car accident last night. They were travelling as a family to their final training before departing to be full-time missionaries in Japan. Just short of nine years ago Jamison was a groomsman in my wedding. This week Emily and I will celebrate our anniversary, but we will do so with heavy hearts. Jamison was a dear friend of mine, and more importantly a co-laborer in the kingdom of God. I have many fond memories of him, and a lot of grief at this unexpected news. I must admit, I don’t know what to think, let alone what to write in the face of such a devastating loss. My grief though cannot be compared with the sorrow of the family impacted by this tragic loss.

I am not sure why I am even writing this, probably because writing helps me to process what is going on, and I have a lot to process today. I met Jamison freshman year at Northwestern, he had known my wife Emily in high school, and in a short time we became good friends. I remember the hours we spent playing football, basketball, and volley ball and just hanging out and growing in our faith that first year.

Today many of the conversations we had are running through my mind as I think of Jamison and what made him the man he was. He was a man of God. He cared for people and he loved God. Jamison was a true friend who helped me through a difficult time in my life and who helped to shape me into the man I am today. What I remember mostly is his passion for God and his deep belief in God’s sovereignty. One night junior year, Jamison and I had a discussion about Calvinism. Jamison was explaining to me why Calvinism was true and how his class with Dr. Helseth had shaped his thinking on this topic.  My response was typical; in my obstinate tendencies I explained why Calvinism didn’t make any sense at all. God does have a sense of humor as it wasn’t long before I admitted my errors and adopted Calvinism (also after having a class with Dr. Helseth). Jamison was shaped by this view of God, his sovereignty, and that true joy could be found in the gospel alone. That is what motivated Jamison to be a missionary, a friend, a father, and a godly man.  

It was this trust in the sovereignty of God that led him to desire to be a missionary in Japan. He wanted to dedicate his life in service to God. He had a passion to bring glory to God by living in dependence on God’s sovereignty. That was who Jamison was. Last year, we sat down and talked about his upcoming ministry and what stood out to me was his dedication to sacrifice what he knew and loved here in America in order to follow God’s call for his life to Japan. He wanted others to know the God he knew.

Jamison and Katheryne trusted in the sovereignty of God.  They lived that out without regret. They died in service to God’s kingdom and I do not believe they would change a thing if given a chance.

  Picture from Jamison's blog

Picture from Jamison's blog

It is at times like this that we who are left behind start to question God’s goodness and his sovereignty. Why now Lord? Why on the eve of seeing all that his family worked and sacrificed for to serve you that you would take them? It simply doesn’t make any sense to me at all.  I have no capacity to get my head around it today. This though is not what Jamison would want for me or for us. He would look at me and remind me that God is good and that he is sovereign, even when this sovereignty is bittersweet and makes no earthly sense.  

Here are some thoughts on what I believe Jamison would want from us this day:

  • Jamison would not want us to question God’s goodness and his sovereignty. In the face of this suffering, he would remind us to trust in who God is even more. To draw near to God when we don’t understand why this is all happening. He would want us to turn to God in faith and trust especially when it’s difficult. He would encourage us to continue to praise God for who he is. 
  • He would want this tragedy to somehow and some way further God’s kingdom. Jamison and Katheryne dedicated their lives to bringing God glory and to expanding his kingdom through reaching the lost. As they are now in God’s presence, that desire has surely only increased. They would want us to share the gospel knowing it is the only hope for a world full of tragedies. They would want someone else to pick up where they left off by bringing the good news to Japan.
  • Finally, Jamison would remind us there is no balm and no healing for tragedies like this found in the world apart from the gospel. What comfort and what hope is there offered in secularism in the face of such an unthinkable tragedy? None. There is only trite sayings and an avoidance of the all-consuming nature of death. Yet in light of God’s sovereignty and the gospel of Jesus Christ, we may mourn, but we do not mourn without hope.  In the cross of Christ death has been overcome and a new creation is coming where there will no longer be such tragedies. The Pals family is with the sovereign Lord who they love and they are now at peace. There is hope alone in the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Jamison, Katheryne, Ezra, Violet, and Calvin have entered that rest which is promised to God’s people. It is days like today that I long for that rest to come to this earth with a renewed vigor. Come Lord Jesus, quickly! The Lord truly does give and take away, but his name remains blessed.  God remains sovereign, and in the cross even this terrible tragedy is overcome by the blood of the Lamb. That is our anchor in times like these.

“Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,

Let this blest assurance control,

That Christ has regarded my helpless estate,

And hath shed His own blood for my soul

It is well, it is well with my soul”

Maranatha!

 

Levi Secord