On Tuesday I received a text I feared would be coming soon: “Tyler Trent just passed into heaven.”
Based upon what I was hearing from his parents, Tony and Kelly, I knew Tyler was entering his final days. But the sober reality of that definitive text was gut-wrenching.
A torrent of emotions flooded my soul.
I was deeply sad. Twenty years is not long enough for a young man with so many gifts. I was relieved. Tyler’s battle was long, and I was grateful his suffering was finally over. I was troubled. I hate death, and cancer is evil – one of the clearest evidences of brokenness in the world. I was thankful. Tyler modeled how to suffer as a committed follower of Jesus. And I was proud. As Tyler’s pastor, I marveled how his life became a megaphone for winsome, Christ-centered perseverance.
When my heart is filled with this level of sorrow, I’m thankful that the Bible has a language that I can use.
Biblical lament is a prayer in pain that leads to trust. Over a third of the Psalms were written with this gutsy and honest voice. Lament turns to God in pain, tells God why we are sad, asks for his help, and leads us to trust. Lament is what Christians pray when life is hard.
This morning I woke up early and wrote a lament. I’m really sad, and yet I know that God is good.
When I’m stuck between my grief and what I believe, lament is the language I need.
Here’s my pastoral lament:
Oh Lord, we turn to you on this hard and painful day. We look to you, the author of life and the giver of grace, because our hearts are broken with grief. A young man, so full of life and joy, is gone.
We grieve the loss of Tyler.
How long, O Lord must cancer steal our loved ones away? This evil disease doesn’t fit with your goodness. It mars, destroys, and kills. We hate its presence in the world.
Lord, we prayed for healing. And your answer is hard to accept. We watched our friend and brother persevere. But twenty years doesn’t seem long enough for Tyler. We’d rather have different ending to this story. We long for the day when Osteosarcoma is no longer a part of our vocabulary or our prayers.
Yet we know that you have purposes beyond what we can see.
We witnessed glimpses of your plan in the meteoric rise of Tyler’s story. We marveled at the favor and the kindness showered upon him through his journey. We rejoiced at the platform you gave him to share his faith.
And now Lord, we ask you to bring comfort to Tyler’s family. They’ve walked beside him through every step in this journey. They need your grace both now and in the months and years to come.
We pray for wisdom and creativity for those researching treatment for cancer. We ask that Tyler’s donated tumor and the money raised might yield life-saving options for future cancer patients. Would you heal many from Tyler’s death?
But even more Jesus, we ask for your name to be lifted high through Tyler’s life.
You were the bedrock of his strength. You were the one who captivated his heart and gave him hope as his physical strength declined. We pray that thousands – even millions – of people will be led to the kind of relationship that Tyler shared with you.
Lord, on this hard day we choose to trust you. We believe you have ordained eternal purposes that we can’t see right now. We believe that you gave Tyler the grace he needed to persevere.
We believe that Jesus rose from the dead so that one day our tears will be wiped away – once and for all. Through our pain and questions, we rest our hope in the One who said, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me will live even though they die” (John 11:25).
We know this was the strength that made #tylerstrong. We saw it because Tyler lived it.
In Jesus’ name,
Tyler’s funeral and celebration of life service is planned for Tuesday, January 8 at 6:00 p.m. at College Park Church in Indianapolis. You can support Tyler’s message and cancer research by pre-ordering his book.
Mark Vroegop is the Lead Pastor of College Park Church in Indianapolis, and the author of a new book entitled Dark Clouds, Deep Mercy: Discovering the Grace of Lament.