I will never forget where I was and what I was doing on Sunday, December 11, 2016. At approximately 8:50am, while at church, I received a phone call from my wife, Misty, that our 25 year old nephew, William Gaige Bolden, had been killed in a tragic care wreck. In an instant, our lives were forever changed. Gaige was a big part of our family. He was a brother to both Kat and Zach. His mom, Robin, is extremely close to us, and so is Pa. The family asked me to preach his sermon. An incredible honor. Below is a manuscript of that sermon. I post it in hope that it will be a continual encouragement to my family. (If you would like to help the family with funeral expenses, a go fund me page has been set up. Click here to help.)
If I could tell you just one thing today, it would be this: “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding…” (Proverbs 3:5). The reality is that sometimes things happen in life in which there are no explanation. During those times, it is vitally important to press deeper into your relationship with Jesus, not run farther away. Life is hard enough with Jesus. It is virtually impossible without Him.
The story is told of a young man who was condemned to solitary confinement in a cold, pitch black dungeon, for a crime he did not commit. His cell was so dark he could not even see his own hand in front of his face.
After several days of being alone, while crawling around the floor, the man found a small rock about the size of a golf ball. He decided he would spend his time, and occupy his mind, by throwing the rock into the dark air, listening for it hit the floor, and then crawl to the sound. Once he found the rock, he would throw it in the air again…and again…and again. He repeated this ritual for days…then weeks…then months…then years.
One day, he threw his rock into the darkness and waited for it to hit the ground. But nothing happened! There was no sound. The rock never came back down. Frantically, the man crawled around the floor, hoping to find his only possession. But to no avail. It was as if the rock had disappeared into thin air. The man had no logical explanations for what had happened. The more he tried to find an answer, the more he contemplated what must have happened, the more frustrated he became. The more he looked for explanations that were not there, the angrier he became. Eventually, his search for answers drove him mad and he died.
When the guards came to remove his body, and clean out his cell, as they opened the door, for the first time in years, light shined into the dingy cell. In the upper right hand corner of the room, a guard noticed a massive spider’s web. Taking a broom, he knocked the web down, and out of it fell the rock, hitting the floor with a loud thud. One guard said to the other, “I wonder how that rock got there.”
The point of the story is that sometimes things happen in life in which there are no explanations that you can understand. We live a lot of our lives in darkness where we cannot see the answers. Spending all our time looking for explanations that are not there will only drive you mad. Instead of looking for answers, look to Jesus who is “the way and the truth and the life” (John 14:6). “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding…” (Proverbs 3:5).
We are here today because of something that defies explanation. The life of a wonderful young man has been tragically taken from us. I am sure, like me, you have asked, Why? Why did this have to happen? Why Gaige? Why now? Why, one day before finishing EMT school? It makes no sense.
Gaige was the type of guy who chose to spend his last few hours on earth with his friends, helping them study for a test.
Gaige was the type of guy who would love you, even if you did not love him back.
Gaige never had a discouraging word for anyone.
He would do whatever you asked.
He would help you in any way possible.
He always put other people first.
Gaige learned the art of being himself. He was comfortable in his own skin. He was the same person, regardless if his hair was long or short; if he was in a muscle shirt or a shirt and pink tie. And let’s be honest: Very few people could grow and wear a mustache as crazy as his, and still look cool.
Gaige was uniquely himself. He influenced others instead of letting others influence him.
He was the type of guy who would never leave the room without giving you a bear hug, kissing you on the cheek, and saying, “I love you.”
When someone like Gaige is taken from us much too soon, with so much to live for, and so much more to give, it is quite normal to ask God, Why?
I don’t know the why. I don’t know the answer to that question, and trying to figure it out will only drive you crazy and make you bitter.
The reality is that sometimes things happen in life in which there are no explanation. During these times, it is vitally important that we press deeper into our relationship with Jesus, not run farther away. Life is hard enough with Jesus. It is virtually impossible without Him.
The good news is, as followers of Jesus Christ, we don’t live by explanations, we live by promises. And when there are no good answers, those promises remain true and steadfast.
What are some of those promises?
We have the sure and certain promise that Jesus loves us and gives us eternal life. The Bible says, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). The Apostle Paul wrote, “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us” (Romans 8:18). “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23).
We have the sure and certain promise that Jesus knows how we feel. From the cross Jesus asked God, Why? He cried out screaming, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me” (Matthew 27:46). I have no doubt that many of you have asked God the same thing recently, and cried out the same question, “Why, God, have you forsaken me?” Well, Jesus has not forsaken you. He knows exactly what you are going through. He knows exactly how you feel. The Bible promises, “The LORD is near the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit” (Psalm 34:18). In the middle of your pain, Jesus is invited you, saying, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls” (Matthew 11:28-29).
We have the sure and certain promise that Jesus will never leave us. The Bible tells us He will never leave us nor forsake us (Hebrews 13:5). In fact, the farther away God seems is, in reality, the closest He will ever be to you. And no matter how far away you are from God, He is only one step behind you.
We have the sure and certain promise of the resurrection. Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?” (John 11:25). This promise means that while this life is short, there is another life that will last for eternity. This promise means that we will one day be reunited with our loved ones, like Gaige, who have gone before. When Gaige was a child, he committed his life to Christ. Thus, death is not a final “good-bye,” but simply a temporary, “see you later.” The Apostle Paul said, “If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so your faith” (1 Corinthians 15:13-14). But Jesus has been resurrected! And one day, so shall we! The writer of Hebrews said, “We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure” (Hebrews 6:19).
While I do not know why, I do know Who, and His name is Jesus. He is here for you. Lean into Him, and He will give you the grace and strength you need to get through this tragic time. Turn away from Him, and you will end up in hopelessness, bitterness, and despair.
Your choice is God or despair; despair or God. There is no middle ground.
The other night I asked my son what he would say about Gaige if he were speaking today. He simply said, “Gaige was full of love. He was too good for this world.” There is no better epitaph then that!
Gaige loved his family.
He loved his dog.
He loved his friends.
He loved his jeep.
He loved learning new things and exploring new ideas.
He loved paintball.
He loved working out.
He loved disciplining his body and challenging himself to new heights.
He loved life.
Gaige never left a room without giving you a bear hug, kissing you on the cheek, and saying, “I love you.”
So, in his honor, and as a show of respect to his family, would you do something for me? Would you stand (everyone but the family), give your neighbor a bear hug, kiss them on the cheek, and say to them, “I love you?”
How much better would our world be if we practiced that every day?
One last thing: Gaige was fluent in German, he even lived and studied in Germany for several months. So, as a tribute to him, I have learned two German phrases that I want to close with.
Gott-seeg-ne-dish (God bless you) Gaige Bolden.
Ruhe-in-frieden (rest in peace).