My wife and I have just returned from a visit to our home town in Idaho. It was tragedy that called us back. The 23 year old son of a couple that we love dearly lost his life late one night while driving home from the house of a friend. He was only a few blocks from home when he apparently dozed off and missed a curve in the road, plunging his car into a river embankment, literally at the edge of town. The smallest correction of the wheel would have brought him safely across that bridge and the lights of the city would have led him safely home. Some of the smallest things in life have the largest of consequences.
The news of his death traveled up and down the valley of S.E. Idaho bringing shock and dismay to all who knew him. This was a very wonderful young man - dearly loved by everyone. He was the 3rd son in a family of 4 boys - a true tribe of brothers. As their pastor for many years, I can testify that this is a family who genuinely loves more than average - they exhibit the love of Jesus not only to their family, but to all who know them. They are the kind of people you feel privileged to count as your friends - the kind of people that this kind of tragedy should never happen to. They are elders in the church there; actively involved in bringing the love of Jesus to their region in a practical way.
Nothing about this makes sense. The shock and sadness of this death continues to haunt my soul. A gift from God has been suddenly taken from us, and our hearts ache, not only for our dear friends, but for the shattered dreams that we had for this young warrior of the faith. Unanswered questions remain.
After receiving this terrible news, we earnestly prayed through many tears that God would grant our friends that supernatural peace that only He can provide when we walk through the valley of the shadow of death. And He answered our prayers in a most profound way. In the midst of their brokenness and sorrow, there was a genuine demonstration of the peace of God that was more than tangible - it was abundantly flowing out of them. Those who came to comfort them found themselves being comforted with a strength that can only come from the Holy Spirit Himself. His Spirit filled that home and overflowed into the hearts of all who entered.
The funeral was held at the largest funeral home in town. The owners estimated that over 700 people came to remember this young man's life. They said it was the largest funeral they had ever conducted. People flowed into every corner of the building and out into the halls. We celebrated his life - shared our favorite memories and laughed and cried together. His mother and father and eldest brother came up to the podium and stood triumphantly before this large crowd and shared the reason for the hope that they had. They displayed that supernatural peace for all to see. They showed the world what Jesus is able to do in our lives when we truly put our faith and trust in Him. I am convinced that the Gospel of Jesus Christ was powerfully preached that day - not only in word, but in demonstration of power.
I know there will be difficult days ahead. This peace we witnessed is not a substitute for the grieving process that must take place. Our friends will remain in our hearts and prayers as they continue their journey with this new hole in their hearts. But his memory lives on, and we know with a certainty that we shall see him again someday - not all that many days from now, for life is so very fleeting.
Let's make sure that we are truly living; truly loving as we should. Because in the end, that's all that really matters.
Rest in peace, Tobie Robinson. You live on in our hearts until we are reunited once again.