Pastor Jerry's Message

Celebration of Life for Everly Hopkins Sweet Pea

Friday, February 20, 2015.

Good evening everyone, I am Jerry White, an Associate Pastor here at Grace Family Church and it is an honor to be a part of this memorial for Sweet Pea. It is truly a sad time in all of our lives but today let’s join together as we reflect on the joy Everly brought to all of you. I’d like to have Casey Bonham open up this celebration with prayer.

Truly awesome stories that help us remember the life Everly lived, we may also remember that Everly…

Loved loud music at bath time

Loved hiking in Rogers Park

Like a true Florida girl loved basking in the sun

Her name was Everly, but it was also Sweet Pea, Everbaby, Sweetie, Sissy, Sister, & Pumpkin.

Adored the attention her brothers gave her.

Spent everyday of her life taking selfies.

Really enjoyed P90X, or rather watching her family do P90X

Was held in loving arms nearly 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.


Everly was almost 1 year old when she passed away but her heart was always in the hands of our God and Savior, Jesus Christ. So Mom, we put our hope in the belief that Everly is in heaven what she knows now is just like what she felt being held in your arms, only now I want you to picture her in Jesus’ arms.

We could say that Everly’s life was cut short, and there is hurt, and there is mourning. There are many questions about this void and absence that we are feeling. There is pain and confusion when life doesn’t go the way we planned.

When life starts to go a different direction than WE planned, we often blame God and start asking the question “Why?”

Maybe you’ve asked the question, “Where is God now that my life is empty without Everly?”

You want to know Why?

You’ve been lying in bed late at night, staring at the ceiling, unable to sleep, wondering, “Why? Why God? Why her?”

In loneliness you’ve screamed, “God, where are you? Why aren’t you listening? Why have you abandoned me?

When life isn’t turning out the way we had hoped, we almost always default to feeling as if God has abandoned us.

And yet the truth is that God is most powerfully present even when he seems most apparently absent. God’s always working. Even when all the circumstantial evidence of our lives says otherwise.

Even with questions like – Where is the answer? Where is the love? Where IS God? If that’s where you’re at, we have yet to surrender. I don’t mean surrender, like give up on God, I mean give up control.

The problem is, we are raised to have it all together, to know all the answers, to be strong, be a leader, take charge, to be In Control. But God’s Word challenges us, in our pain, to be ‘out of’ in control and allow God to be in control. We need to allow God to be with us, not just when we are in pain, but all the time. Everly didn’t bring us joy every once in a while, Everly gave everyone joy, all of the time.

We know that God desires the same thing because throughout the Bible it tells us that “The Lord was with Joseph.” “The Lord was with David.” “The Lord was with Elijah.” God hasn’t abandoned you. He even named His son, Jesus, Emmanuel which means “God is with us” and He still is.

Whether we let God have control or not, we all think we have this sort of agreement with God that if we live a somewhat moral life God will keep up His end of the bargain and he will bless our life and keep anything bad from happening to us.

But that’s not accurate. We experienced a great deal of pain this year. It doesn’t mean that God has abandoned us, God is right here. But how we respond, who or what we turn to when life hurts is what matters.


We will one day be rejected and abandoned by friends, family, and enemies, but that’s not something God does. His word says, I will never leave you nor forsake you, so be strong and courageous. And even though life is not turning out the way we want it to, we can make the choice to respond by giving God control because giving God control shows our strength and courage and that’s how God REMAINS with us.

When we respond to the pain of Everly’s death by asking Why God? Why did this happen? We have to resist the temptation to reengineer our circumstances by turning to temporary comforts and addictions.


Every day you have a choice. You can make choices like you are in control and take responsibility for the outcome or you can make choices based on God’s promise that He is with you and has plans to prosper you.

Jeremiah 29:11

11 For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

Some of you are haunted right now by the thought that God COULD have done something and you think He DIDN’T.

Here is why this is important. If it hasn’t already happened to you it will happen. You are going to feel like your prayers are bouncing right back and nothing is changing in your life. You have been praying about your out of control life and you think God is absent.

When we get to that point, we have a decision to make and this decision will have huge implications on how we process life. We must decide if we are going to put our faith in what God DOES or in who God IS. If you don’t know who God is, then you won’t be able to tell what God is doing.


Why are you going through what you’re going through? I don’t know.

Is what you’re dealing with God’s will for your life? I don’t know.

When will it stop hurting so bad? Should I even want the pain to stop? I don’t know.

Will how you respond make a difference? More than you will ever know.

Can we have a moment of complete honesty? How many of you would be willing to raise your hands right now and say I feel like I’m alone and God really doesn’t get it or God hasn’t shown up? I feel like my prayers for Everly and her family are falling on deaf ears.

What would happen in your life, in your heart, where the pain is greatest if you give control over to God? Imagine your pain with the God of the heavens and earth and unlimited power, resources and ability, comforting you. What if you just said, “I surrender my life to you God.”

That’s what our response to Pain should look like. We give God control and live like we know God is with us. If you would take a deep breath and do it…

You will discover God is most powerfully present when he seems most apparently absent.

Pray, Give God Control.

God is not doing something TO you, but something THROUGH you and that takes me back to the memories the Hopkins family has of Everly. Those videos, taken everyday of her life are amazing. None of us will ever know what that was like, filming your precious child everyday and editing hours of recordings for Crystal’s birthday gift. What we do know is how great watching how much you all loved her everyday. Anytime our lives are engulfed in pain and hurt and loss, the one thing that would settle our hearts is taking in all these precious memories of her love. Even though looking back usually produces more tears, one day, the tears will make way for smiles.

When we face a shattered life, a fresh hurt to our heart, when life is not going the way we planned, whenever we can’t explain why what’s happening IS what’s happening, we want to see something or feel something that takes the pain away and God’s promise of comfort is the cross.

Many of us wear a cross around our neck, have crosses in the house, have crosses in the car, the cross can be seen everywhere. The cross like a picture, is the promise of God’s presence. The cross in our life, that we see every day, the cross that identifies people with hope, the cross represents the loving arms of God when we need His presence and His comfort in our lives.

But that’s not the way it’s always been. 2000 years ago, the cross represented the pain of living apart from God, the sin and the brokenness of being alone.

But before the cross there was Jesus and He was the perfect Son of God. Jesus left His throne in heaven and came to earth so that sin would be conquered, that God’s creation would have a savior, so that everyone could have a relationship with God and experience the promise of His comfort and His presence. Ultimately, eternal life in heaven.

And I know that not everyone in here believes in Jesus, and whether you are a believer or not, my hope for tonight isn’t that you will get all your questions answered about God and Jesus and life, or that you would become emotional about the life of Everly. My hope is that all of you, would just think about your relationship with God and how He is with us to comfort you right now.

That may sound really nice, but the hard part here is you still have pain and maybe you are doubting God’s promises.

When you experience the pain of losing someone you love, when you lose your Sweet Pea and your sister and your granddaughter, you might doubt God. Listen closely, Doubt on its own is not all bad.

Doubt that causes us to draw deeper into God’s word, searching for God’s plan and desiring God’s comfort is OK. Doubt that makes us aware we are not in control and reminds us who God is, is ok. Doubt that grows our faith gives us life.

When the first believers of Jesus faced pain and confusion and despair, they were reminded by the Apostle Paul in:

2 Corinthians 5:7

7 For we live by believing and not by seeing.

When King David felt lost and alone and couldn’t SEE God, he wrote,

Psalm 121

1 I lift up my eyes to the mountains—

where does my help come from?

2 My help comes from the LORD,

the Maker of heaven and earth.


Psalm 5:3—In the morning hear my voice. King-God, I need your help.

Every morning you'll hear me at it again.

Every morning I lay out the pieces of my life

on your altar and watch for fire to descend.

2 Listen to my cry for help, my King and my God,

for I pray to no one but you.

3 Listen to my voice in the morning, LORD.

Each morning I bring my requests to you and wait expectantly.

Even the Disciples, the guys that spent three years being taught by Jesus had doubt. They were told several times that Jesus, their friend was going to heaven and they were confused, worried, afraid, and desperate, and yet Jesus challenged and comforted them. In this life, you will have pain, but if you would just trust God even when you can’t see Him… you’ll make it.

Jesus says, “You can have peace in me” – not church, not stuff, not family, not friends, not even your future---Peace comes from believing in God’s Salvation and giving control to Him when the pain comes so He can wrap His loving arms around us, everyday.

The cross is the promise of God’s comfort and presence.

But we don’t think about the cross when we think about OUR Pain. We just want God to FIX IT! And sometimes He does, but more often, instead of giving us what we think will take away our pain and frustration and confusion, He offers us the promise of His presence.

Your response to His presence matters. If you’ve got too much pain and you don’t know what to do next or you feel stuck or trapped or hurt and all you want is to feel the loving arms of your Heavenly Father, then tonight, your life is the one that needs to experience the comforting presence of God. I don’t have the words to say that will bring Everly back, and there is nothing I can say that will erase your pain, or give you all the answers to your questions, but I know that God is here and He wants you to know you are His child and He loves you. He wants you to feel the comfort in a hug like the one He’s giving Everly right now. He wants Crystal to know that her daily hikes with Everly aren’t gone. God wants us to remember that He too knows the pain in losing a son. God wants us to remember what He did on that cross for Everly, and anyone else that surrenders their life to Him, because every single one of us is a child of God that He can’t wait to give a hug to.


God you desire to be a part of our lives. God you desire a relationship with us that is more comforting than the hugs we are about to give and receive.

God in a time of such great pain, we will no longer see you as indifferent, vindictive, or even absent.

Lord we will be strong and courageous. We will not retreat to our past in the darkness of this moment, because we are surrendering control. We ask that your comforting presence replace the pain in our heart.

In your name we pray, Amen.

I believe that Everly knows the whole truth right now and what Everly would want for you is to be open to the love of Christ, invite Him into your heart and let Him comfort you.

There's a very special garden

Where the trees of memory grow

Nurtured by the kindness

And concern that good friends show.

The roots are cherished memories

Of good times in the past

The branches tender promises

That souls endure and last.

It's a place of peace and beauty

Where bright new hopes can start

It's memory's lovely garden

That soothes the hurting heart.

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