Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die,
it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit. John 12:24
Look at the seed of any plant: birch, fireweed, dandelion, wheat. The seed in no way resembles the mature plant it will become: a towering redwood has its humble beginning as a sprout on the forest floor; an oak, starts out as an acorn; beans for Sunday dinner require that you sacrifice a bean and plant it in the soil.
But there is a loss involved: you do not get to keep the seed. Once you have your new plant growing, the seed’s job is finished. It is used up in the ground as it nourishes the new seedling. Above ground, sunshine and rain take it from there. First, it must die, and then comes the fruit. Much fruit.
Likewise, Han’s body, the one he lived in while he was with us, the one that, like a seed, was laid to rest in the grave, is different from the body he will inhabit at the resurrection (Philippians 3:21; 1 Corinthians 15). Hans’ new body will be like the Lord’s glorified body. It will not be earthbound; will not be subject to sickness, weakness or sin. It will be perfect, powerful, incorruptible, indestructible.
Our family has planted precious seed. We have sown in tears and have been promised we will reap in joy (Psalm 126:5). It would have been much less painful for us to see Hans bear fruit in some other way. To see him marry, raise children, minister, bless, laugh, bloom. But this is not what God chose to do. He has a different plan, a better Plan. Losing Hans still hurts, but it makes all the difference knowing God was in complete control the night of the crash and that His plan is being accomplished. It is just astonishing He would move like this in our family, that he would use our Hans in this unexpected way. I never would have imagined it. We are so un-extraordinary.
He that loveth his life shall lose it;
and he that hateth his life in this world shall keep it unto life eternal.
Hans’ love for life was exuberant, but he was also restless. At the verge of stepping into the responsibilities of manhood, he was at a point in his life where he was asking: What it is all about? Why do so many people spend so much energy on things that are not important? What is important? What is the point? He was just beginning to understand the vanity of so much that passes for living. He was beginning to see, with the eyes of a grown man, that the only hope for the world was for the King of Kings to come back and that the programs and efforts of men could never fix the world’s problems. Hans did not believe he would make a good preacher, but he did say once that he didn’t see how a man could justify being anything else.
A few days before the crash, Hans spoke about these things. I could see he was unsure of where he fit in the larger scheme of things. I encouraged him to pray the Lord would show him what he was called to do with his life. I know I prayed many times that the Lord would show Hans just the first step on the path He had ordained for him. A few days later, God’s plan became clear: Hans was called to die young.
If any man serve me, let him follow me; and where I am,
there shall also my servant be: if any man serve me,
him will my Father honour.
The very first step in God’s plan for Hans was already taken many years earlier when Hans received the Lord Jesus as his Savior. One snowy Christmas Eve, just nineteen days before his fourth birthday, Hans rode along while our church distributed the Jesus film house to house. He was saved and sealed for all eternity in the back seat of the pickup truck we were riding in.
Then, apparently, the next thing for him was to live a clean life, work hard, bless his family, become a man, to honor his father and mother, to work for two years rebuilding his car, and then, when the last spark plug was installed, to get into it, drive to the highway and pull out in front of a pickup truck on the eve of his twenty-first birthday. Saved in a pickup truck; sent to glory by a pickup truck.
In all this, Hans has served the Lord. He has left a good testimony. He has followed Jesus in death unto life eternal. He was and is the Lord’s servant and is with Him even now as I write this.
Now is my soul troubled; and what shall I say?
Father, save me from this hour:
but for this cause came I unto this hour.
Father, glorify thy name.
I do not believe in accidents. God is on His throne every minute directing in the affairs of men. God was not surprised that terrible night. He has allowed this tremendous loss because it fits precisely with his plan for the universe. God is love and everything He does is in line with His character. He always does what is right. His children are precious to Him. He is not capricious, negligent or inattentive.
If I thought the crash was “just an accident,” a freak chance event, I might just lose myself in despair, in the pointlessness of it. It would take an impossible amount of faith for me to believe the crash was an accident. The precision of the timing and logistics does not allow for mere chance. It was unexpected (by us) but it was not accidental. It was the appointed time. An act of love and sovereign purpose.
Our God would not allow this terrible pain unless he had a very, very good reason. I trust Him for that. There is nothing else. I trust Him because He is good and because He does what He says He will do. He is real, and He sees our pain. When we see Hans again, we will know what happened that night and we will also know God’s purpose. I am content to wait on God for this.
After he left this earth, Hans received honor from men and women who observed his life and took the time to convey their sorrow and admiration for the fine young man Hans had become. Some wept with us and we are blessed and honored by their tears. This is one way I believe the Father has honored Hans. (v. 26)
And, more importantly, God is honored. In this painful trial, we have been given the opportunity to affirm the goodness of God. Hans’ life and death have given occasion for the gospel to be presented in ways that would not have been possible if it had not been for that horrible car crash. It got the attention of more than a few people. We pray for them daily. We trust the Lord for the fruit.
It was not for nothing, this terrible loss. Yes, our souls are troubled-we miss our Hans. It is a profound and heartbreaking loss. And the pain-the pain is unrelenting. But should we have asked the Lord to save us, and Hans, from this? But for this cause was Hans brought into the world.
The question is not why did Hans die? The question is why did Hans live? In the eternal decrees of God, one of the chief purposes of Hans’ life was to live and die in a particular place, for a specific period of time, and in a way unique to him, so that a selected group of people would be exposed to the gospel of Christ at just the right moment for them. Every life Hans touched was part of God’s plan for him. Is this not so for all of God’s chosen servants?
But couldn’t the Lord have accomplished His purpose in some other way? Well, yes, I suppose so. But, why should He? Why should dreadful losses like this happen only to other people, other Christians? Why should we read poignant and uplifting stories about other people’s losses and how they were used for the glory of God? Why should we be encouraged at other people’s expense all the time? Why shouldn’t we suffer as others have, as God’s people always have?
Hans has already, in the short time since his home-going, gotten the good news of Jesus Christ into the hands of many, many people. And even if they listen just out of respect for the bereaved parents-the seed is planted. We have done what we could. Hans has fulfilled his calling.
And even if we never see fruit because of what happened to Hans, we want it to be abundantly clear to anyone who questions why God allowed this to happen to our family, that we serve a God who is worthy to be praised, even though He took something very, very precious to us. We follow Him, not because he spares us from heartache (because He hasn’t); not because of anything He gives us or does for us. We follow Him because He is Almighty God who loves us. He knows what He is doing. We trust Him.
If nothing else is ever accomplished because Hans died, we know the host of Heaven will rejoice and God will be glorified if we praise him in the midst of our devastating loss.
Father, glorify thy name.