John “JP” Boyle

Today is March 2 which is always a tough day for our family. It is the day my wife lost her only brother “JP” a little over a decade ago. He was in his 20’s and full of life and fun and had everything to look forward to. Needless to say the grief in many ways is still very real even to this day. My in-laws are beautiful, salt-of-the-earth type of people who have grieved their son’s passing (as any parent should) very deeply because they have this enormous capacity to love very deeply. When you love so intensely the loss is all the more devastating. I’m glad they managed to pass along that capacity to love to their daughter, Christina, who has been my wife for the past 21 years. Lord knows without it she would have kicked me to the curb a long time ago! (smile)

But I can tell you that there has never been a darker time for us. Those months surrounding JP’s death brought everyone to their knees. I ended up in the hospital and couldn’t even officiate the funeral. All I could do was lay in that stupid hospital bed wishing I could be with Christina and serve our family. Or at least hold my girls close as they watched adults weep and grieve all around them.

Just prior to JP’s death I had gone public about my addiction to pornography. I actually got a phone call from Newsweek Magazine while we were preparing for the funeral. Christina, as you might imagine, provided tremendous support for her parents while at the same time having to grapple with whether to re-invest in a marriage that had been deeply fractured by my acting out. Then throw in the awkwardness of having friends and church members talk about our story and you can imagine the difficult time it was. So when we received the news that JP had been in a horrific accident and learned early the next morning that he had passed away it was surreal to say the least. We were numb, dismayed, and disoriented.

There’s no question in my mind that the heaviness, and darkness of those weeks surrounding JP’s death and the chaos that I had caused could have easily crushed us were it not for a profound and abiding sense of God’s presence. Please don’t take that as cliche`either or any attempt at being overly pious. That’s not the case at all. This comes from a deeply held belief that I’ve clung to my entire life as a believer. That belief is simply that

Even when it seems like God shouldn’t be there for us, like in times of rebellion and sin. You know how it is, right? When we consciously make choices that should make us unattractive to God. It’s even natural to believe that there’s no way God could stand to be anywhere near us!  Which when you really think about the gospel, can’t possibly be true.

Perhaps we get it twisted because we’ve experienced the sin-tainted “love” of the broken people around us.

Human love doesn’t hang around mediocrity. When we underperform or don’t meet certain expectations others have of us we can lose the affection and attention of those who decide that we’re no longer worthy.

Not so for with God, He’s the one who says in Jeremiah 31:3 “The Lord appeared to us in the past, saying: “I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness.” Doesn’t sound like a God ready to jet at the first sign of trouble or embarrassment.

Times of grief, pain, and brokenness come for sure. That’s just the reality of life in a messed up world. But as sure as darkness and even death are a reality for us. So to is the reality of a God who is always there. We all miss JP, we can’t help but smile at the memories of his love for hamburgers (In-N-Out) and cheesecake. Even when the lingering shards of grief remind us of how the world has missed out on his presence these last 12 years. We’ll never forget that back then, and even now God never left us and He never will.

“The Lord is close to the brokenhearted; he rescues those whose spirits are crushed.” Psalm 34:18