(A summary of the message by Pastor Mike given at the funeral of 17-year-old Cole Larsen, Dec. 19, 2012)
The risk is real. We will do anything to keep them from harm and to bring the best out of them. When we bring a child into the world we are thrust into work and worry.
We carefully watch our young child so she doesn't fall out of the highchair. We warn him to not climb on top of the table; fishing hooks shouldn't go in your front pocket; don't touch the hot fireplace.
As a child grows older into the teen years, she spreads her wings and goes further from the scrutiny of her parents. We have less control over his safety as he now is trying out life on his own. She can fool us if she wants.
We know that it irritates our teenage kids when we offer our advice and warnings: don't stay out too late, don't drink and drive, remember to do your homework. We know these warnings don't always sink in, that they sometimes only make the teenager angry with us. But we so desperately want to guard our kids from danger. And on their way out the front door, we offer our parting words simply because we need to say to them: "Have fun, but be careful."
The same goes for friends. We may see our friend going down the wrong path or in trouble, and we are not sure what to do. Most of the time we feel powerless to do anything. We want the value of our friendship to be the very thing that helps him or her, but when we find out it wasn't enough, we feel helpless. There are limitations we all have when helping another person.
In rational moments, of course, we know full well that there are forces in this world, forces in our children, our friends, from which we're absolutely helpless to protect them from. Our urgent advice, our worry, our hope, will not ultimately shield them from harm.
Most of us are fortunate while growing up. We do crazy things, we take risks, and often the odds stay in our favour. We dodge the forces of consequence. We escape tragedy and live long enough to get our acts together, grow up, and then worry about our own children.
A couple of weeks ago, we were shocked into a reality none of us wanted to be in-a young man in our community, 17-year-old Cole Larsen, took his own life. His life was full of friendships, fun and hope-the manner in which he died didn't change who he was. Death is an enemy and life is a gift.
In times of questions and grief we are reminded that God is present and loving. We notice that there is a God with His hand extended, inviting us to hold onto His.
"For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor demons, neither the present nor the future, . . . will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord: " Romans 8: 38-39
This verse shows us where hope is. It tells us that nothing can come between us and God's love-not death, not our past, not our future, nothing can separate us from God's love.
During this time in which we lost Cole, let us not also lose our ability to believe-let's hang onto God and his love-through Jesus Christ our Lord. This will bring healing and comfort.
- Mike VanderKwaak is a pastor with Heartland Fellowship. He can be reached at email@example.com.