No one anticipates celebrating a family holiday without a loved one who was alive and well just days before.  Today, I am writing to everyone who faces their Thanksgiving with a missing family member.  But I am specifically writing to the family of Christian Lafferty, who transitioned to the presence of God just eleven days ago.

Christian was a young man in our church who crossed the finish line of life far too early. He was 34-years-old, had been married to Beata for four years, and has a 2 1/2 year old son, Caleb.  His parents are leaders in our church.  Mike, his father, is one of my best friends.

Our love goes out to the Laffertys and all of the connected family members.

My prayer is that these thoughts may help all of us navigate through the deep waters of losing a loved one especially in an untimely manner. 

Giving thanks is thought of as the natural response of a heart celebrating a desire fulfilled or a successful feat or the surprise of a blessing.  But there is another side to thanksgiving that requires a resolve to engage the heavenlies in the place of hidden power and strength. 

The Bible says, in 1 Thessalonians 5:28, "In everything give thanks." 

Within the context of the above definition, this statement does not really make sense.  Really... in everything give thanks?  But take a closer look.  It does not say, for everything.  It says in everything. 

There is no twisted requirement from God to give thanks for everything that happens. Not everything that happens is good or necessarily from God.  But God rolls up His sleeves and gets involved in everything that happens.  And especially when He is loved and worshiped, He will produce good even in the most surprising places and in the most surprising ways.

My relationship with Christian was one of a pastor and friend.  He used to play the drums in our worship band.  So we were behind stage together every Sunday for a few years, and we would occasionally have coffee or engage in deep discussions.

Christian was one of the most pervasive personalities I have ever known.  It is as if God decided to give the world a gift.  It is as if He said, "I think I will give this one man all of the personalities in one package and double it!"  In everything that Christian did, he had a passion, a determination to excel and outdo even himself.  He was extreme in his approach to life.  If life was to be lived, then it should be lived to the fullest.  He would give you the shirt off of his back.  He would love with intensity.  He would have way too much fun.  And when healing needed to happen, he would get in your face and ask forgiveness with such humility and openness that you didn't have a choice but to hug him and kiss him. 

His family will, through the pain of this day, give thanks for Christian's life and the love that they have shared. They will now open their eyes to the purposes of God in Christian's life to live on in theirs.  I think especially about Caleb and the DNA of his daddy living on through the life of his son. 

May I add a perspective that includes the rest of us?

I don't know if the power of Christian's life could be more effective than it is right now in all of us who knew him.  That is evident at the many hundreds showing up for the visitation and memorial service. 

The gospel of Jesus Christ being preached, not only through the service, but through his life, will now be emphasized in a way that is very fitting to Christian's personality... to the extreme.  I saw a statement on his father's Facebook:  "A flame that shines twice as bright burns half as long.”  I like that.  This is also true:  "A life lived with intense passion, even if lived half as long, will shine twice as bright in its afterglow."  

It is in this that I am giving thanks. 

Before he left us, Christian was taking his life to the next level.  He had pushed through some tough times.  He was providing for his family, had bought a house, and was excelling at his work.  He had recently brought healing and restoration to many relationships in his life where things may have seemed unfinished in his heart.  My point is that Christian was living his life with a passion and with a love for Christ to the end.

I guess what I'm saying is that I am impacted now for the rest of my life.  I hope that I can live the rest of my days with half the passion that he did.

No, I am not thankful for the passing of this young man.  But I am thankful that, in this circumstance, His impact has increased in such a way that many lives, including mine, have been changed forever.

Thank you God for rolling up your sleeves, taking what seems to be so bad and somehow, in the end, producing more good than can be understood.  I know that more of that is to come.

You may be living through the conflict of a day when thanks is to be given and yet so difficult to give.  May the Lord give you the grace to find strength in the giving of thanks in everything, as you honor your loved one and give glory to the Lord.

Give thanks!