I lost a student five years ago this week to a suicide. It seems like it was yesterday that I was rushing to the high school to love on students. Some would say she was the "one who got away" but I can't help but think she was the one who God needed to take care of because none of us really could. There was so much pain and heartache in which she had to endure.
No student received more time, money and resource from me and yet it looked on the surface like it wasn't enough. Although, for that brief moment in the summer of 2006, it was: the joy on her face, the glimmer of hope in her eye, the complete room makeover, the music makeover. Then the anniversaries of her pain returned in the Fall and she slipped back into her struggle.
So much has changed since the Fall of 2008, but no student ever gave me a greater opportunity to share a message of hope with a group of students who might have never heard the gospel otherwise.
Every year, I miss her. Today just seemed harder than the others and not sure why.
Her story was told today to a group of future youth ministers as a reminder to never give up on a student no matter what they look like, how they treat you, or what sin they may be involved in. There will be a moment, even if brief, when it will all come together. All the difficulties, frustrations, and battles will be so worth it.
Below is the funeral message. May it serve as a reminder to us that the Lord has compassion on the harassed and helpless.
As I have listened to the family tell me stories and as I observed the students and friends who came in during the visitation last night, I have only begun to catch a glimpse of the true impact of Sarah’s life.
Her life reminds me of another guy I have read about before. It’s a true story just like Sarah’s. It’s the story of David found in the Bible.
God looks at the heart
When we are first introduced to David, he is the last one thought about in fact he is an after thought. Samuel has been asked by God to find a king. All of David’s brothers were big strong military types, but instead God chose David, and God tells Samuel in 1 Samuel 16:7, “Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”
God did the same thing for Sarah. Although she was a beautiful young lady, God looked passed what you and I see. He looked to the core of who she was and He saw something in her. He used that part of her to touch so many of you.
The family told stories of the students that came over and hung out with Sarah. You didn’t do that because of her outside appearance as much as you did because of who she was on the inside.
God works through the deepest hurts
God may have looked at the inward appearance and the core of David but that didn’t mean that David was perfect. David hurt people at times and made poor decisions. But even in the midst of that two things are mentioned.
1. He was a man after God’s own heart.
His mistakes did not permanently separate Him from God. Did it make the relationship difficult, yes, but ultimately God still considered him loyal.
At the age of 8, Sarah made a decision for Christ. She decided that the only way she was going to survive this life and the next was by asking Christ to be apart of her life. Sarah wasn’t perfect. There were times when she hurt her friends, family, and God but that did not cause her to lose the one thing that held her together for so long: the power of God.
Romans 8:38-39 says, “38 And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. 39 No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (NLT)
2. He knew where to go when it became too much.
David’s mistakes often were well beyond normal. He had a lot of enemies at times or at least people he thought were out to get him. But in the midst of the David always had someone He could go to. There is a book of the Bible called Psalms that are filled with David’s vents, frustrations, and pleas for help and they are directed to God. David also had a minister or prophet he went to named Nathan. Nathan didn’t always tell him what he wanted to hear but he knew that Nathan would tell him the truth.
Sarah had that in her life.
I always enjoyed pushing Sarah’s buttons especially the ones that required her to do the right thing. One occasion she wanted to work on saying and doing the right thing so we talked about how God taught us that what goes into your life will also come out of your life. So we went to her huge stack of CDs and started cleaning out about 40 or 50 CDs. We had so much fun breaking them together. She always knew if she needed the help with an honest answer she could come to me.
If you need similar help, there are adults around you who are ready and willing but they need to know from you that you are ready and willing to receive the help. Sarah and I would sit in her house, go to DQ or talk at the Refinery. You can have the same opportunities she had.
No matter what you are going through right now there is a God that wants to help you get through it. If it is more than just the loss of Sarah, there are people out there that can help you get through it. Teachers, counselors, trustworthy adults, and God wants to help you so that you do not have to hurt yourself or others because of the struggles in your own life.
From Sarah’s Family:
To all students and young people. We would like you to know that there definitely is a God and He loves everyone of you unconditionally and so do we.
Finally, David had a legacy. He wasn’t the biggest or the one probably chosen most likely to succeed but He is the one God said would be his pride and joy. David impacted so many people while on this earth, but his greatest impact didn’t happen until 1000 years later. You see Jesus was a great-great and so on grandson of David. His family line gave birth to the Savior of the world for those that choose to believe and through Him God will complete David’s story.
Let’s talk about another book, a book that has been written by the greatest selling author of all time. The book was given to you but each of you received only a chapter of it.
As we begin to talk about the chapters each of us received, we begin to notice that the chapters don’t fit together. Your chapter seems to portray the main character as dark and mysterious, while another chapter portrays the main character as playful and fun loving. Still another chapter portrays as caring and soft spoken. Then another chapter shows the main character to be driven, motivated and willing to take the challenges that are placed before her.
The author then arrives to inform us that all the chapters are indeed a part of the same book however He has only allowed us to see the part of the character He wanted us to see. In the final chapter, He is going to bring it together into a great climax and finish.
I have that chapter here with me, but you see it’s blank. It is blank because it has not been written yet because the story is not over. Sarah flesh and bone may lay to rest here but Sarah’s life continues. The Sarah whom you and I loved is in heaven listening to her music too loud, playing guitar and chatting with friends on the other side of heaven. Her life continues because you are still here. What have you learned from her and this experience? What choices will you make? These are all things that will finish the book known as the story of Sarah. How will you finish it and in the process write your own story?