By: Pastor Chris Ridler, Former Houseparent, Joy House Boy’s Home

It was a Monday when we heard the news of Alex’s death. The feeling was like that of being punched in the gut, and upon hearing the news my wife and I both began to weep. The tears flowed for a bit, but those tears gave way to cherished memories. While the pain of losing someone as special as Alex is hard, the memories they brought to us were sweet, and all at once our sorrow turned into laughter and joy as we remembered the special times we shared with Alex. My wife Becky and I had the privilege of being houseparents at The Joy House while Alex was a resident of the program. During that time we watched Alex fall in love with Jesus. We had the privilege of introducing him to Catan (one of our favorite board games to play with Alex). We spent many nights playing Mario Kart with him and the boys late into the night while listening to heavy metal Christian bands. Alex was a music fanatic, the heavier the better! I distinctly remember Alex and I driving down Cove Road in the boys’ 12 passenger van, the windows rolled down, and the illustrious sounds of Skillet or Red blazing as loud as our ears could handle it. Seeing Alex interact with music was a joy for all of us, especially when he discovered he could honor Jesus Christ with the music he listened to. Alex was also a great friend, a role-model, and a servant to many of our residents during his time at The Joy House. He was a fantastic leader and often set the example with a great attitude and a big heart to serve. Those are character traits that are far too often unseen in our culture today.

So many questions can come to mind when someone as incredible as Alex is taken from us: Why? Why so young? How can a good God do this? These are valid questions, but so many times are asked with the wrong frame of mind. See, I believe that we see God’s goodness in death. First, we see God’s goodness in the great and wonderful memories of Alex that will live in our minds forever. In the Bible, Ecclesiastes 1:2 says, “Life is fleeting, like a passing mist. It is like trying to catch hold of a breath; All vanishes like a vapor.” Not a moment is promised to us, and each breath is a measure of God’s grace that we take in. Rather than being upset with God, I choose to thank God for our moments with Alex. Though I wish we had more, even if just one more conversation, we are blessed to have had amazing memories with Alex. Those memories will live on in our hearts and minds forever.

Secondly, we see God’s goodness in Christ’s resurrection. The resurrection of Christ means that Jesus holds the keys of eternal life; an eternal life that’s promised and reserved for those who call upon the name of Jesus for salvation. I remember talking to Alex recently about his walk with Christ. While there were certainly struggles in his life, he acknowledged his relationship with Jesus. This means that, upon his profession of faith in Christ, Alex is with the Lord. What greater joy could we have knowing that Alex is healed, restored, and full of joy in the presence of Christ? It is in this that God’s goodness is on display.

Alex will be sorely missed. We certainly wish we could have more time with the ones we love here on this earth. However, I don’t believe in goodbyes when death takes away a brother or sister in Christ. For these reasons, God encourages us in 1 Corinthians 15,

“When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.” “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Though our hearts are broken, they will not be broken forever, for if Alex called upon the name of the Lord to save Him, we will see him again. What a glorious day that will be.

Pastor Chris, Associate Pastor of Discipleship & Worship at First Baptist Church of Eaton Rapids, is married to his beautiful wife Becky and has a precious son named Noah. Chris received his Bachelor’s degree from Northwestern State University and is currently working on his Master’s of Divinity at Reformed Theological Seminary. Chris has served in full-time ministry for over 13 years – as either a Youth Pastor, Worship Pastor or Houseparent and is passionate about seeing people grow in their walk with Christ and disciple others for the glory of God’s kingdom.