On Thursday, April 19, 2012 I was sitting in a large sanctuary of a church in Charlestown, Indiana with a few of my brothers who are waging a war against addiction. We were there to mourn the loss of one of our fallen comrades, who had tragically and suddenly lost his battle the previous Sunday morning.
In January, Brian Denney had come from Indiana to The Way in Huntsville with hopes of finally beating his demon of drugs. He brought a brand new Bible for the battle and kept a daily journal describing his internal struggles and the victories he was experiencing by God’s grace. Brian was a very likeable, talented, outgoing and energetic young man. He quickly became everyone’s friend in his newly adopted home. And while Brian made great progress, he also slipped along the way. Eventually those slips led to his early departure from The Way. But remaining in Huntsville and staying with a dear family friend, his battle continued.
Easter weekend, his father came to pick him up to take him back for a weekend visit at home. They had the best weekend of Brian’s adult life. His parents loved the rediscovery of their long lost son. Brian and his father enjoyed their long talks in the car as they covered over 630 miles on the interstate. It was truly a time of reconciliation from a very long season of conflict. Malachi envisions the impact of the coming Messiah as a time that, “He will turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers.” (4:6) Truly the Denney’s were experiencing this promise!
But tragically one week later, Brian would be found dead in their family friend’s bathroom in Huntsville.
As I watched the cycle of pictures pass by on the screen in the front of the sanctuary, I sat in my lonely pew personally absorbed with thoughts of Brian, his history and what might have been, what could have been, maybe even thinking what should have been. But as the service began and Brian’s cousin, his father, and his pastor began sharing from Brian’s Bible and journal, I began to be filled with joy. The hidden story of Brian Denney in his journals and private thoughts revealed a man coming to faith and learning to trust in Jesus. The message of the funeral was based on Brian’s highlighted Bible verse, “So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” (John 8:36) And a congregation of friends and relatives began not to grieve the tragedy of a 31 year old son, but the triumph of a faith in Jesus that took root and bore fruit. As his father said, “God took Brian home at just the right time.”
My sadness turned to overwhelming joy to see that the vision of The Way, to sow the seeds of recovery (the seed of the gospel) into everyman’s life, had born fruit. And that not only was Brian’s life eternally changed at The Way, but an entire community over 300 miles away was celebrating today because of God’s work through The Way.
As the life of Jesus is a story from tragedy to triumph, so are the lives of all who choose to follow Him.
A fund has begun at The Way in Brian Denney’s memory to help Brian’s victory become the victory for many more. We invite you to join in fighting the good fight and helping others discover triumph out of their tragedy.