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Life and Death

My soul has been stretched to the breaking point this week. I am not prone to tears, but this week is different. Wednesday morning I received a text from Gary Black that his son Michael had tragically died. Yesterday my grandson was born. We love the Black family, and in a family of stars, Mich…
By Seth Barnes
By Seth Barnes

My soul has been stretched to the breaking point this week. I am not prone to tears, but this week is different.

Wednesday morning I received a text from Gary Black that his son Michael had tragically died. Yesterday my grandson was born.

We love the Black family, and in a family of stars, Michael in many ways has shown the brightest.

Michael was an outstanding young man. An all-American rugby player and team captain, he was the kind of guy who made everyone have inferiority complexes. He was sharp and funny and dated the best-looking girls.

It seems that everyone knew Michael was amazing except Michael himself. Why he would take his life is still a mystery to most of us. Yes, there had been bouts of depression, but they had been minor and he had been doing so good.

It makes no sense. And you cry out to God with prayers that have no words, that are more like gasps.

And you wait for him to show up somehow. For some hint from heaven that he wasn’t napping and caught unawares. That there is some redemptive purpose on the way. That the cynics won’t carry the day.

And then I get a text that sends me over the edge, as Gary goes to say goodbye to him and heaven opens up and he hears Michael whisper the words we’ve all longed to hear, “Leave me here, I am just fine, you will love this place, daddy.”

Oh my God. I weep just typing those words. How we long to know it’s true. We’re not just making this stuff up.

Jesus IS the resurrection and the life. TODAY. He has the final word. Death is swallowed up in life.

And then there was last night. After waiting all day (and the nine months preceding), Talia gave birth to a beautiful 8 pound, 3 oz baby boy.

When we saw him, our souls ricocheted to a new place.

Here is the proof that God is in his heaven. He is the life-giver.

Yes, there are questions still without answers.

But we know that this thing doesn’t end in tears, but in laughter. The struggle between life and death does end and life wins. Hope wins. We who hope win!

Today, we have proof and in our hearts and we hear a hallelujah at the end of our wordless prayers. It is a mystery, but one that I can fall into and feel safe in.

Perhaps you can join me there. Perhaps you are in the throes of experiencing life and death in the same cramped space of a soul that feels suffocated by pain.

If so, we share the embrace of a God who made us and knows our frame. He knows that we are but dust and welcomes us wherever we are.

I pray that God is meeting you wherever you are and is giving you what you need to make it to a tomorrow where the sun still shines.

Comments (61)

  • May the Great Comforter wrap the Black family & their friends in His loving arms. Praise the Lord that our Hope & Future lie in HIM! Congratulations to your family for the gift of your precious Grandson. To Him be all Praise, Honor & Glory !

  • Seth, this is tough and beautiful at the same time. Thank you for being so open in your blogging. That is an example to me.

  • My heart goes out to the Black family. May they find comfort beyond human’s words and comprehension this season. Amen.

    Congrats on the safe arrival of our loooonnngggggg awaited baby. Sure you are a proud “Grandpa” (LOL) Loads of love from us all to you, Mama Karen, Joe, Talia and All from here.

  • Seth, your words touched my heart with an understanding of God’s deep love for us in all of both life & death. I’m sorry for your loss, but Glory in Gods love shown in New life. May both families find peace, comfort & love in His presence.

  • Molly ‘Garner’ Kacal

    Thank you for posting this blog. After the heart-breaking news of Michael, I needed this blog to bring it around. I needed to hear what Michael said and see your beautiful baby grandson in the same moment. Blessings.

  • Reading the book ‘1000 Gifts’…. Searching for the gift of gratitude in my life, in hard things, in raw emotions, in ALL things. Seriously hard journey, seriously worth it. His grace is everything and its found everywhere. The book is a good read. Gary u may not remember me, Ramsey was my last name back then, but as I look at my precious daughter playing on the floor… The loss of a child I can’t bring myself to even fathom the pain… I am sorry friend, deeply sorry.

    • Thank you, Kelly. Of course Gary remembers you. That prayer session we had at the WR launch in Mex was something I’ll never forget. You’ve come so very far.

  • I AM prone to tears, but this absolutely made me cry. Thank you for sharing your life with us Seth – allowing us into the celebration, and allowing us to weep when you weep. This is beautifully written.

  • Thanks for this encouraging note. Life is full of deep sadness and deep joy. My heart aches for the Black family and rejoices with the Barnes family. The AIM family has had a week of highs and lows. At times like this we can only pray and affirm “my Redeemer lives”.

  • Michael went to school in my town. I didn’t know him, but many at my church did, and wednesday our whole church joined in prayer for him and his family. He is greatly missed. Congratulations on the grandson!

  • Michael was “infinitely precious to God”…he was “never, not even for one second alone”…and neither are any of us who know Him in Spirit & in Truth. I will pray for Michael’s family as well as those of you who knew him best. I am sorry for his loss. Bryan’s mom

  • “The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face shine on you and be gracious to you; the Lord turn his face upon you and give you peace” Amen. Numbers 6:24-26

  • Well said Seth, thank you. My heart is broken for the Black family as they grieve the loss of Michael, and my heart rejoices with you and your family as you celebrate the birth of your grandson.

  • Dear Seth

    I will pray for this family. Oh how I feel that pain! You know that I know this! After my great loss.

    Thank you for your compassionate heart.

    Lord Jesus hold these people in Your arms. Jesus please help them. Protect them from the outside world right now. Shield them with your fortress of love. In Jesus name Amen.

    • Yes, Shannon, I think we all needed some measure of consolation, but your grieving season has been intense indeed. Praying that God shows up in your life.

  • Praying for you today Seth.

    As I was reading your blog God took me to the verse I have been repeating to myself all day.

    Romans 8:10 – Christ lives within you, so even though your body will die because of sin, the Spirit gives you Life (or your Spirit is alive), because you have been made right with God.

    Love wins. Hope wins.

    Congrats on being a grandfather, it’s probably time to bring the mustache back now.

  • God is beginning to show me that most, if not all people, have atleast one opening in them that satan can enter and try to denigrate them. He accuses, blames and compares all of us to one another, in an attempt to let this hatred be dumped on our own selves. So many times we believe it, and it grows until finally we don’t feel valued enough to even exist anymore. With that in mind, let’s not judge by appearances no matter how good looking, rich, most friendly or outgoing someone appears to be. Let’s assume that everyone needs to be edified, (which I am believing they are) and give them affirming words and encouragement anyway. Especially those who seem to have it all together. Our words of life to them, can make all the difference in the world, They can dispel the lies of the enemy in them, and give them a picture of what God thinks about them-the truth! Let’s not hold back anymore with love. Let’s give to others what we ourselves need and want. God bless this family as they grieve. I am glad that God has a back up plan of eternity with Him whenever we have believed the enemies’ lie even to our own physical destruction.
    God bless you on your little joy!

  • Seth, no words for Gary and his family just groans, I can’t fathom his pain but we will pray and know God never ever leaves us.
    Beautiful boy, congratulations to the Barnes tribe on the first grandson. I hope he is the first of a full quiver for you and Karen. See you in Kenya
    love and blessings,

  • Kari ‘Stembel’ Ownbey

    I am in agreeance with Molly…I needed to hear this. My heart is aching for the Black family and many questions go around and around in my head all day, but it is encouraging to hear of hope and be reminded of who God really is, even when we don’t understand the tough things in life. New life is encouraging 🙂

  • Thank you Seth. I coached Michael in youth football – been coaching 22 years and have always had a special place in my heart for him. I have been so distraught these past few days but your post helped me heal a little bit today. The Celebration of Michael’s wonderful life will be joyous and gutwrenching all at the same time, but I know God has this. Continuing to lift the Black Tribe up in prayer. Be Blessed!

  • Sometimes I think God intentionally juxtaposes life and death, as a reminder they are all in His hands. And while I wish the only stories we had to tell were the ones that ended with a happy, healthy, bouncing baby, we all know that would be a sham.
    There are too many Michaels in the world. Too many tragedies and questions. Too many broken hearts crying out in the middle of the night.
    But into this messy, bleeding reality, we still have our stories to share. I don’t know what the end of these stories will be, but I have a feeling the Black family will not be lost, but rather that they will be surrounded by prayer and will go on to save the lives of countless more Michaels.
    Because that’s the kind of God we serve: a God of redemption, of second chances, of death made into new life.
    Thank you for sharing this. And congratulations on being a granddad. 🙂

  • Sandy – yes, I do know how you feel the pain. How hard it is. I pray that God continues to minister to you. Thanks for allowing him to minister through you.

  • Well said, Natalie. I pray that you live a life and a story that makes a difference for those who have been forgotten.

  • so very sorry for this loss, but Praise God for the birth of your grandson.

    tomorrow (sat, april 20, 2013) will mark exactly 7 months since my baby brother, just 18 years old, also took his own life. Tomorrow will also be his birthday.

    Four days after my brother died, I gave birth to me and my husband’s third child. She is our sunshine after the rain.

    So I know exactly how you are feeling right now. I pray God will strengthen everyone affected by this terrible, tragic loss. I pray God will give comfort in a situation where it is very difficult to find peace.

  • Beautiful blog Seth! Trying to take this all while I’m on the field watching my ministry partners introduce a secular mission team to Jesus with skin on and, at the same time, listening to the events in Boston. That place between life and death… You aptly describe it as HOPE. I needed to hear that tonight. Thanks!

  • Oh my heart goes out to you!! Tomorrow (today, now) April 20 is my daughter’s birthday. She passed on February 7th, 2013 from a drug overdose. Heroin. This year. It is a hard time for our family too. God be near to you as you think of him. Warm hugs.

  • When you lose a child, the grief can be compared to the ocean. There’s the waves, the tides, the soft waters. It all comes in emotional labor pains. Sometimes I’m caught in the rip tides. Sometimes I’m knocked over by a huge waves unaware it’s coming. It’s patient, grief will take you by the hand and walk with you as you’re ready. Each and every step. People are the ones that have a hard time grasping this. Losing a child is different because you are losing a very ‘part’ of yourself. That hole can never be replaced or filled. God comforts but the ache is there. For me it is very very raw still. Today being her birthday I’m going to be. Yes, just be.

  • Seth, God Bless you and your family this morning. This is the day that the Lord has made, Rejoice and be Glad in it.

    My tears are with you and the Black’s. The Grace that is open for all may it lift us into the embrace of the Father on this day.

    This post was exactly what I needed to read today.

    My brother in Christ Van had his infant daughter go to the Lord on this day, exactly one year after the Murrah Bombing. We rejoice in our Faith that she is with Jesus waiting for all of us that loved her.

    May the Peace of God surround us today. We rejoice in the birth of your Grandson.

    God Bless.

  • Seth, this is one of the most amazing, gut-wrenching, beautiful blogs I’ve ever read. Thank you for articulating something so deep and profound; it resounded with my own heart and soul. Heart-felt congratulations on a strong, healthy grandson!

  • Seth,
    My heart is broken for his family! Gary means so much to me, as he was a part of my walk when I had cancer. Thank you for writing this blog and reminding us how precious a gift life is.

    So happy for the Barnes family as you rejoice in the birth of your newest member.

    Love you guys always! Praying for abundant peace for both your families!


  • Beautiful. I hear the pain…and the joy in your words, Seth. Thank you for sharing your heart, and the Truth. Yes, He loves us!

  • My dear friend Seth,

    I love and care for you and your family and after trying to reach out to Gary and Lisa for years in my own pain they never responded. When we sow the wind we reap the whirlwind.

    I am sad for their pain. Jeremiah 29:11

  • Praying for all touched by Michael’s life, and this tragic news. Sending comfort and asking for the peace of the Father to be with Gary and all of the Black family and loved ones.

    Rejoicing with you in the arrival of the newest family member as well…. 🙂 SO exciting and handsome!

    Thanks for sharing the rawness of life, Seth.. These juxtapositions can be intense, for sure. We appreciate you.

  • Magnificent words that express what my deep moans cannot…thank you!
    Congratulations on the joyous birth of your beautiful grandson!

  • I really needed this today, Seth. My heart ha been shredded this past month with the devastating loss of my brother. I don’t think I’ll ever be the same again. But in that, I find that what mars us on earth is often the entryway that channels heaven. No one needs to more understand the mysteries of God than those who are in intense seasons of loss, and I’ve always found that at the crux of life and death, of the temporal and the eternal, of the deepest surges of pain when the holiest place of your life seems violated, that God is ALWAYS there. You can’t understand His comfort until that kind of earth-shattering pain is the air that you breathe, because that level of comfort wouldn’t be able to be grasped in easy times.

    I pray for the Black family and have been ever since I heard. While I have never met them, I have been hearing about them for the past four years and feel as if I know and have learned from them. I won’t stop lifting them up, and I know that Michael is with God. I absolutely know it.

    And congratulations to you and Karen and Talia and Joe and the whole Barnes clan on the new addition. I know he’s going to be a world-changer already.

    And once again, thank you for this blog.

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Seth Barnes

I'm motivated to join God in his global reclamation project. He's on the move, setting his sons and daughters free from their places of captivity. And he's partnering with those of us who have been freed to go and free others.

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