Early this past Monday morning I made the most difficult pastoral visit of my life. Telling a dear family that their husband and father is no longer with us is heart-wrenching. Although we sorrow deeply, we thank God for the promised hope of Heaven:
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, To an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you, Who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.—1 Peter 1:3–5
Jeremy’s life verse assures us that our hope is rooted in the faithfulness of God:
In hope of eternal life, which God, that cannot lie, promised before the world began.—Titus 1:2
As Terrie and I and our oldest son, Larry, prayed and wept with the Whitman family, more difficult news came upon them throughout the day. The pain seemed unbearable, and the details were hard to process.
To me, Jeremy was a dear friend and co-laborer. We laughed together. We prayed together. We shared the gospel with others together. When I preached in conferences, we often traveled together.
Those of us who knew Jeremy remember his buoyant personality, infectious smile, and big-hearted care for everyone he knew. Jeremy was an immeasurable blessing to so many of us. Although we are deeply saddened by the events of Sunday night and the many wrong choices Jeremy made that led to that point, we mostly grieve the loss of a cherished friend. It is our desire to remember the man we knew for twenty-plus years of service to the Lord. He invested his life into thousands of other lives, and many in our church and around the world are grieving the loss of a dear friend.
In some ways, many of us who knew Jeremy most closely began to grieve several months ago when he left his family and the ministry. Jeremy had experienced physical pain through a shoulder injury, and since he left, we have learned of the powerful effects of prescription drugs. While I have endeavored to honor the Whitman family with sensitivity regarding their personal tragedy, I agree with the statement our mayor made regarding this incident and the impact of such drugs: “I frequently see catastrophic consequences. And, everyday I know that there but for the grace of God go I.”
I can’t say how thankful I am for our church family and their gracious spirit during this time. Although they hurt and are grieving, they’ve reached out in love and support to the Whitman family and have shared their memories of the man they knew and loved. Our church has also reached out to the victim’s family, the Ungermans, with financial assistance and spiritual encouragement.
Today we had a private funeral service for the Whitman family and a few friends in which God’s grace was so very evident. Sanndy Roberson sang, “Oh, What a Saviour,” and Andrew Jones, Jeremy’s brother-in-law, sang “I Choose,” which speaks of choosing to trust God during difficulty. Additionally, Dr. Don Sisk shared wonderful remembrances of Jeremy, and I had the privilege of preaching from 1 Peter 1:1–9 on the promise of Heaven. As I watched God’s grace upon Jeremy’s children, I sensed that God had given Jeremy’s wife, Alicia, wisdom in her request for a smaller service.
The Whitmans are aware that there are many who would like to remember Brother Jeremy with a special memorial service and time of fellowship. There will be at least one such service in the upcoming days. As soon as everyone is allowed to have a little rest and take care of the immediate needs of the children, we will plan a memorial service for others to attend. I do plan to take some time in our Sunday evening service tomorrow to remember Jeremy and hear the songs we heard sung in the funeral service today.
If you’d like to send a card or note of encouragement to the Whitman family or contribute to the Whitman Children Education Fund, you may do so through our church office.
I ask that you prayerfully support the Whitman family, including Alicia and the children, his parents, his brother and sister, and his extended family, during this time. They need God’s continued grace and our love, prayers, and friendship.
In times of loss, we are reminded more than ever of the powerful, all-sufficient grace of God. May we receive His grace, extend His grace to others, and grow in His grace as individuals.
And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness.—2 Corinthians 12:9
[Posted with permission of the Whitman family]