It’s painful to consider who he left behind: An awesome wife, and two great kids. It’s painful because he gets rest but his family gets questions.
The Psalmist, who some theologians consider to have had depression in one form or another, said these words:
10 Do you show your wonders to the dead?
Do their spirits rise up and praise you?
11 Is your love declared in the grave,
your faithfulness in Destruction?
12 Are your wonders known in the place of darkness,
or your righteous deeds in the land of oblivion?
The psalmist has the same questions I do. Jamie loved Jesus. Is he now at rest in God? (If you have questions about death and the resurrection of Jesus, I encourage you to read N.T. Wright’s book, Surprised by Hope.)
Over 9 years of theological study, I’ve come across a lot of material about depression and suicide. Articles, papers, theology, and stories.
I have also personally interacted with a handful of students over the coarse of my ministry who have talked about suicide. One of them went through with it.
Yet strangely, there is little comfort in experience. All I feel is pain, tears run endlessly, I feel dehydrated and sick to my stomach. The tables have been turned. I was a student of his. The mentor is supposed to lead by example. Right?
The tears…streamed down, and I let them flow as freely as they would, making of them a pillow for my heart. On them it rested.” – Augustine Confessions IX, 12
As we mourn, we find comfort in the fact that Jesus himself mourned over his friend, Lazarus, as recorded by Jesus’ disciple John, in chapter 11 of John's gospel.
33When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled. 34"Where have you laid him?" he asked.
"Come and see, Lord," they replied.
36Then the Jews said, "See how he loved him!"
Jesus understands both the tragedy that death is and represents, as well as what it feels like to lose a friend. Jesus is us. Fully human.
Nicholas Wolterstorff, a man well acquainted with the tragedy of death, wrote:
Made in the image of God: That is how the biblical writers describe us. To be human is to be an icon of God. This glory is one we cannot lose. It can be increased or diminished, though; our imaging can be closer or farther, more glorious or less. Authentic life is to image God ever more closely by becoming like Jesus Christ, the express image of the Father.
In what respects do we mirror God? In our knowledge. In our love. In our justice. In our sociality. In our creativity. These are the answers the Christian tradition offers us.
One answer rarely finds its way into the list: in our suffering. Perhaps the thought is too appalling. Do we also mirror God in suffering? Are we to mirror him ever more closely in suffering? Was it meant that we should be icons in suffering?
May Christ meet us as we suffer. Those who grieve well...heal well. May Christ encounter us as we grieve.
Jamie meant a lot to us. To me, he showed me how to be a man of God, a great husband, a good preacher, and disciplined in exercise and prayer. I miss him.
But most profoundly I miss him for this reason:
Jamie, I miss your hand on my shoulder.