The Worst Day Ever

Today will be a great day. Here's why: Nine years ago today, I had lunch with my buddies at Bill's BBQ in Henderson, TN as I did every Thursday in college. Stuffed with sweet tea and the best BBQ in the world, I returned to my dorm room to grab my books and head to a fantastic class with Terry Edwards on the Background of the New Testament World. My answering machine light was blinking, so I checked it before darting out the door. It was Bro. Billy Smith. He wanted to see me ASAP. "Oh great," I thought. "He's finally going to give me an ultimatum to get a hair cut." My locks had grown rather long, and Bro. Billy like his Bible majors clean cut (I love you, Bro. Billy!).

I walked in his office and he had a forlorn look on his face. "My hair is a little long but it's not that long," I thought. Bro. Billy sat me down and broke the news.

My dad had died.

Tragically. Suddenly. Unexpectedly.

My dad, my best friend, my football-watching buddy, my preacher, my mentor, my rock.

Nine years ago today, I lost my dad. Two days later, I preached his funeral. It was the most difficult thing I've ever done.

But today will be a great day. Here's why:

Four years ago today, my beautiful wife and I were planning to leave out on our honeymoon. We had married five months prior, but our honeymoon had been scheduled for September. In early August we found out we were expecting a baby. We were newlyweds and weren't ready to have kids yet, but our shock and anxiety began to morph into joy and anticipation at this early edition.

But on the eve of our departure on our honeymoon, Sara had a miscarriage. We were both devastated. I had already began dreaming of the joy this child would bring to our lives. And now it had been snuffed out before it had began. Sara was a real trooper on that trip, both emotionally and physically. It's one of the very many reasons I adore her so. But I remember the tears we shed in the Jeep as we drove west. The one immediate comfort was this: My dad was no longer alone in heaven. He had my kid, his grandchild, to keep him company. That brought tears to my eyes, but also a smile to my face. Dad loves kids.

On this day, September 16th, I have a lot to think about. But it will be a great day. Here's why. I'm en route to Florence, AL today to speak in chapel tomorrow at Heritage Christian University. Because of the immense generosity of family friends, a copy of my latest book is being donated to the students there in memory of my dad, a HCU (then IBC) alum from 1994. Today will be a great day because I'll be staying with those friends tonight and dining around their table, a place where I have shared a lot of joy, memories, and stimulating discussion about spiritual things. I've also eaten a lot of Orange Salad at that table, and thanks to Mrs. Pam, I'll eat more tonight. It's one of the many reasons I love Mrs. Pam.

The anniversary of the death of a loved one is always difficult for a family, but thanks be to God that he has mercifully robbed this date, September 16th of its evil, negative power. Though it is the anniversary of the death of my father and child, I do not dread it. This will be a great day. Here's why:

But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep. For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. Therefore encourage one another with these words.

1 Thess 4:13-18

I'm especially fond of that last verse. "Comfort" or "Encourage one another with these words." The reason I can say Sept. 16th is a great day is because my Lord has redeemed it. The date is just like all the others in September, a day that the Lord has made. A day that he gives grace and joy to his people. The day he robbs them of sadness and grief with the reminder that he will come again, that there will be a great homecoming in the clouds, and that I will see my dad and child one day.

This is a great day because I will spend part of it with my dad's best friend in the world. We will reminisce. We will laugh. We might even cry a little. But my dad will be present in spirit, for he is always present where there is joy and laughter and the spirit of Christ. I will be reminded of the wisdom of the Proverb: "Do not forsake the friend of your father."

Today will be a great day because God still reigns, Jesus is still Lord, and he will return one day to take his saints home. What a day, glorious day, that will be.

Comfort one another with these words.

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