Joshua Mark Robertson
February 5th, 1991 to April 30th, 2010
A Father’s Perspective: How and Why?
By Mark Robertson (Given at Memorial Service)
I am Josh’s father, Mark. Notice, please, that I said I am Josh’s father, not was. For God is not the God of the dead but of the living! (Matt. 22:32)
Now when a tragic event like Josh’s death happens, we all want to know the how, and I think more importantly the why. How and why? I am going to answer those questions. Let me start out with the how.
On a beautiful spring day, Friday, April 30, 2010, Josh, and three friends who worked with Josh at the University of Georgia climbing wall were climbing in Tallulah Gorge State Park in northern Georgia. They were doing a “multi-pitch trad climb” up a 200 foot route called “Mescaline Daydream.” Multi-pitch means that you climb the route in stages. Trad is short for traditional, meaning that you set your own anchors, using nuts, hexes and cams, in the cracks in the rocks as you climb. Mescaline Daydream is a 5.8 route on a scale that goes from 5.0 to 5.15. For Josh and his friends, who are skilled climbers, a 5.8 route is fairly easy. Josh could do 5.12’s with great skill.
They began their climb two by two, with Josh in the second pair. In that second pair, Josh belayed for the first pitch, which made him the second person to get up to the first ledge. On that ledge several hundred feet above the base of the gorge, they switched out positions and Josh was to lead the second pitch, while being belayed from the ledge.
Shortly after beginning the second pitch, Josh climbed past an overhang, in which part of the rock juts out of the face of the cliff. After the overhang, Josh continued his climb beyond the most difficult part of the second pitch. It was “trad” climbing which means you insert “a piece of gear” about every 10 feet so that the most you will fall is about 20 feet before the fall is broken.
Then it happened, Josh lost his grip and he called out, “falling.” As Josh fell, the last anchor nut he set pulled out and he continued his fall toward the overhang. His feet hit the overhang, which caused Josh’s body to swing upside down. As his body swung upside down, the back of his head hit the hard stone surface of the cliff, as the next anchor held his body suspended between heaven and earth. His body only was suspended, though, and not his soul, because the blow to the head killed Josh instantly. Joshua’s soul was brought immediately into the presence of his Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
So that is how Joshua Mark Robertson passed from this life into the next. Now, I will tackle the issue of why. Why did God take such a fine young man that had so much going for him? Couldn’t God have helped that nut to hold? Or just moved his feet a few inches away from the overhang so he could clear it? We could speak in platitudes and say that this was not God’s doing, because a loving God would never allow something so terrible. Or we could say it was just fate, or just an accident, or a result of living in a fallen world, or Satan. NO! I say that God, who is all powerful, took him. And that it was for the good of all who love God, including Josh, and for the glory of God.
When I heard of the death of my son, I immediately turned to God and His word, the Bible, which is able to provide comfort in times of need, and this was definitely a time of great need. John 11, John 14, Revelation 21, Philippians 1:21, Psalm 27, and Habakkuk 3 flooded my mind and gave my soul a peace that God was still working all things together for the good of those who trust Him. But the portion of scripture that God has caused me to meditate on the most, and find the most comfort in answering the question of why is found in Hebrews 11:5 - referring back to an obscure Old Testament Saint named Enoch who lived in the time between Adam and Noah.
Hebrews 11:5 says, “By faith Enoch was taken up so that he would not see death; AND HE WAS NOT FOUND BECAUSE GOD TOOK HIM UP; for he obtained the witness that before his being taken up he was pleasing to God.”
Listen again, “for he obtained the witness that before his being taken up he was pleasing to God.” Just as Enoch was pleasing to God, so was my son, Josh, pleasing to his Creator, Redeemer, and Sustainer. He had given his life fully to serving the Lord, and this gave him a boldness and confidence that very few 19 year olds possess. Josh knew Jesus in a deep and profound way that made you feel the power and love of God just by being in his presence.
And since Josh was pleasing to God, it was God’s design to take him home on April 30, 2010, so that he now joins that cloud of witnesses which includes all those who have lived out a life of faith. They surround us and tell us to fix our eyes on Jesus.
So, I will conclude the why of Josh’s death with taking just a little bit of liberty with Hebrews 12:1-3 by changing two words that do not affect the meaning of the verse. “Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us CLIMB with endurance the MOUNTAIN that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”
Why was Josh taken? Even though none of us can fully understand it now, I can say with great confidence that ultimately it will be for our good and God’s glory.