A Death in the Kingdom

Yesterday morning we received a call from a Georgia friend to tell us that Will, a little boy from our Georgia church community, had died. We were heartbroken by the news. Rarely has a death outside our family cut so deeply.

Will was just six years old and carried the nickname, Warrior Will. From birth he had been plagued by a constellation of physical problems that occurs only in one in a million births. Among other difficulties, he had great problems swallowing and his lungs struggled to provide enough oxygen to keep him alive. Yet, he lived, and gloriously so.

The accompanying photo captures Will's spirit. He frequently gave a thumbs up sign to show he was in the game. He was a fighter and a miracle of survival. Although his physical survival was a miracle, spiritually he was so much greater. You could not be in his presence for long before you came face-to-face with Christ's Kingdom. A recent post to the Facebook page that tracked his life shows him singing a praise song while on the way to the hospital. How many of us would do that?

Will was an inspiration to everyone who met him. He touched lives in ways beyond his age. Indeed, I think it safe to say that in his six short years Will presented the Holy Spirit to more people than many of us will in our three score and ten.

Although I knew Will's health was fragile, I had become complacent about his survival and looked forward to the even greater impact he would have as he grew.  So immediately after I learned that he had died suddenly from a lack of oxygen in his blood, I did something I rarely do anymore. I asked God, "Why?" I told him that I simply could not understand Will's death.

Soon thereafter I turned to my morning devotional. A verse quoted was Proverbs 3:5: "Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding." That was a wake up alarm! I certainly was leaning on my own understanding, or lack thereof, in my challenge to God. So I stepped back and tried to look at Will's death from what I understand about life in God's Kingdom now and eternal.

We live in a broken world where so much of it around us and inside our hearts is outside God's plan for us. Christ came to help us experience now what life in the Kingdom is, but that experience is imperfect because we still live in this imperfect world. Death is not part of God's plan for us. Jesus proved that by his resurrection to life in the eternal Kingdom. But even all who follow Jesus must still follow him through death and on to resurrection. None of us can escape death.

But what about Will? I know his death was the result of the fractured state we share as humans and not caused by God. But couldn't God have spared him from death now? The simple answer to that is, "Yes." Jesus healed and spared others from death even to the point of the resurrection of Lazarus. But those events are rare and serve to witness in some way to a greater purpose than just restoring life. Yet, Will was already such a great witness in his own way that if I was God I would have made sure he had even more time to do that. But this is where the trust in God and not my understanding comes in. He is God and I am not. I have seen Jesus work through the Holy Spirit so many times, and the reality of his Kingdom at work every day, that I still trust him even when at times such as this understanding is hard.

So I with so many others will grieve Will's death. Grief is natural and not outside God's plan and Kingdom. Jesus wept in grief for the death of Lazarus even though he knew he was about to restore him to life. It is a way for the Holy Spirit to comfort us. I imagine Will standing with Jesus as a vibrant, strong, and healthy young man now singing his praise with a forceful voice. That may be an image that I need to create for myself, but even though I write this through tears, I know one thing for certain. Christ stands at the other side of death, for Will and us all. That is all I need to understand.

© 2023, Thomas M. Trezise
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Katherine Hanson - May 6th, 2023 at 2:54pm

Will sounds like the perfect little boy. Through the Grace of God, he was called home. It was a blessing only Jesus could give him.

Doris Hoopes - May 6th, 2023 at 9:27pm

God loans us these little "angels, unaware" to teach us to trust in Jesus, no matter what. They have a love that inspires. We can honor Wolf's life by shining our light into this dark world just like he did, Brilliantly!

Dave Trezise - June 20th, 2023 at 12:28pm

From time to time, our church has been blessed with kids like this. They seem to add to the tie that binds and draw people closer together.