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No one plans to be a widow at twenty-three.

Tomorrow I will preach at the funeral of Elliott Preston Orr, a young man from our congregation who died of cancer last Friday. Elliott grew up in North Branch, a small town in Michigan’s Thumb. He came to Michigan State University in the fall of 2010. At the end of his freshman year he was diagnosed with osteosarcoma, cancer in the bone. After months of chemotherapy and radiation, he was cancer free.

For a time.

In the summer of 2013 doctors discovered the cancer had come back, and was worse than before. Not knowing what the rest of his life would be like, except that it would almost immediately include another battery of grueling treatments, Elliott and his fiancee decided to move up their wedding so they could find out together what “for better, for worse” really meant. On July 18, 2013 Elliott married his childhood sweetheart Christina Skelton.

I got to know Elliott and Christina as college students in our campus ministry, Spartan Christian Fellowship. In a church our size, there are lots of students I don’t know very well and some I never meet. But I’m glad to have known Elliott. He and Christina were in our home many times. Along with the rest of our church, we prayed for them often. They were (and are) easy people to like and to love. Elliott was smart, friendly, funny, un-anxious, warm-hearted–a good friend and a godly Christian.

We’ve had people die in our church before. Every life has been precious. Few have been so young. Few have been the object of so many prayers. We prayed for Elliott for years–special services, congregational prayers, elder visits, and a near endless supply of petitions for friends and family. God did not give us what we prayed for, at least not everything we prayed for, at least not now.

Hundreds of people–maybe close to a thousand–will gather in The Thumb tomorrow for a funeral they prayed they would not see. And yet, mingled in the midst of much sorrow, will be brilliant sights and sounds of joy. Not only to remember a remarkable young man, but reflect on the faith he so powerfully displayed and to worship the one he so fully trusted. I wish you could have met Elliott. You would have been better for it. Despite the mouth sores, despite the excruciating pain, despite the paralysis, “No distrust made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised” (Rom. 4:20-21).

Tomorrow will be about Christ. Those were Elliott’s wishes. During his illness, he wrote a poem which is a powerful reflection of who he was and who Christ is.

People say with albeit good intentions
That if God heals me then His glory will be shown,
But people often hesitate to mention
The other side of His omniscient throne.

For God to show His power through healing
Would be glorious if it were His will,
But it would also be maybe too appealing
For perhaps my faith would stand too still.

For in truth I want all to realize in whole
That I care not what this ailment does
Because I truly believe in full
That God knew it all before it was.

And in trusting Him I would gladly endure
One thousand years of agony and strife
In order to witness the most glorious cure
Of Christ coming into just one more person’s life.

Elliott fought the good fight. He finished the race. The last time I spoke to him–a few days before he passed away–he talked about caring for his dear wife and longing for heaven. I asked him what song we could sing. He said, “In Christ Alone.” Very fitting. That’s how he lived, and that was the comfort in which he died.

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18 thoughts on “The Most Glorious Cure”

  1. Daniel says:

    Tears came to my eyes. Such a testimony, such a loss, such a Saviour.

  2. Ann Voskamp says:

    “People say with albeit good intentions
    That if God heals me then His glory will be shown,
    But people often hesitate to mention
    The other side of His omniscient throne.”

    Thank you. Profound and humbling and moving Truth. Thank you.

  3. Steve says:

    Wow. So very encouraging. Praying for wife and family.

  4. Greg says:

    What a blessing and an encouragement to hear this testimony. Thank you. “From lifes first cry to final breath, Jesus commands my destiny.”

  5. Joyce says:

    My sympathies to Christina. I do not know you, dear sister. But I pray for comfort. All of the above is true…but the loss of your husband is still a loss. You will not get over this but you will get through this and you will be changed.

  6. Ron says:

    “A good name is better than precious ointment,
    and the day of death than the day of birth.
    It is better to go to the house of mourning
    than to go to the house of feasting,
    for this is the end of all mankind,
    and the living will lay it to heart.”

    (Ecclesiastes 7:1-2 ESV)

    Thank you Pastor Kevin. So much of the rest of the world will toil today in such vanity. Thank you for interrupting that vanity to peel back the glories of heaven. My prayers go out to our gracious and merciful Savior on behalf of you, your church family, and Elliot’s grieving family, especially his dearest young bride, Christina.

  7. Kevin DeYoung says:

    Thank you for all the prayers and encouragement, for Christina and Elliott’s family especially.

  8. James M. says:

    Thank you for sharing this with us. Blessings to this family and to your church body.

  9. anaquaduck says:

    It is well, it is well…
    with my soul, with my soul…
    it is well, it is well with my soul.

    Beautiful poem Elliot.

  10. Kim says:

    Becoming a widow at 48 was not easy either. But Christina, the saving grace of our Lord, during those times when you will miss your dear husband most, will be knowing at Whose feet he will be worshipping! I prefer to think of my husband as dancing at the feet of Jesus! Even through the tears! I don’t cry as the world cries. And neither will you! May The Lord keep you…..

  11. Joyce Treadwell says:

    AMAZING GRACE!!!!!!!!

  12. Mike says:

    Thank you for sharing. God be praised.

  13. Blake Adkins says:

    Childhood memories stick with us forever. As I read this post all that came to mind was soccer field memories and birthday party laughter. This young man was someone so talented it made others including myself want to be like him. As we grew up our paths went in two directions and different chapters began. My prayers go out to his family, his wife, and friends. He was truly a blessing and will be missed dearly.

  14. Ansley says:

    I don’t know how I’ve gone 2 years without seeing this beautiful tribute to Elliott. This is amazing, Kevin. Absolutely amazing.

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Kevin DeYoung

Kevin DeYoung is the senior pastor at Christ Covenant Church in Matthews, North Carolina. He is chairman of the board of The Gospel Coalition, assistant professor of systematic theology at Reformed Theological Seminary (Charlotte), and a PhD candidate at the University of Leicester. Kevin and his wife, Trisha, have seven children. You can follow him on Twitter.

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