Episode 9 – Melissa Gibbs

Melissa is the 7th grade sweetheart of JD Gibbs. They were married in 1993 and enjoyed 25 years of marriage before his death in 2019.  The mother of 4 boys ranging in age from 22-16, she is currently pursuing her Masters in School Counseling at UNCC, adding to a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology from Clemson and a Masters in Marriage in Family Therapy from East Carolina.

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So many things in life make no sense, yet there is no Biblical mandate or cosmic law to indicate that they should. Bad things happen and still God is good and loves us and has a good plan for our lives. Somehow those things fit together. We are not entitled to an explanation nor do we always come to a place of peace with our trials and tribulations. But make no mistake, they are purposeful and do work together for our good. That is a promise we can cling to.

J.D. lived a life that by human standards, should have yielded long years of good health and great happiness. His life was characterized by integrity and virtue, physical discipline, spiritual commitment, healthy habits, a positive outlook, commendable priorities, vibrant relationships, community involvement and laughter. You might know him as the high school quarterback who made even his least popular classmates feel like A-listers. You may know him as the college fraternity brother you could call when you needed a sober driver at 2:00am. You may know him as the president of a successful race team, who built relationships with everyone from NASCAR officials to team owners, earning the respect of all. You may know him as a ministry partner who understood what really matters. You may know him as a youth football coach or Young Life leader or just a really fun Dad. Why should a good man suffer such hardship in the prime of life? Why would an unknown, uncaused, untreatable, undignified degenerative disease strike someone like him? He had four boys to raise, future grandchildren to love, years to grow old in marriage, a company to run, ministry to do, bucket-list items to check. And yet, this is the way his story ends. Except that it really doesn’t.

“Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it bears much fruit”, John 12:24.

There is more to the story than meets the eye. Not only does J.D. live on in eternity, he leaves a legacy on earth that ensures he lives on right here as well. If you knew him, odds are he nudged you a bit closer to Jesus and nothing would delight him more than having an eternal legacy of people who found faith because of his example or influence. He lives on in the ministries he chose to support and the way he used his resources. He lives on in the culture he created at Joe Gibbs Racing. Most importantly, he lives on in the lives of his sons; four young men forever shaped by the godly father who invested so much into them.

J.D.’s story is not a list of accomplishments nor a timeline of events ending in disease. Neither is it a tragic tale of a life interrupted. It’s a snapshot of a man who lived the exact number of days appointed to him, fulfilling every purpose God intended. Were it not so, he would still be with us. We’d have held onto him if given the choice, but his death is useful to God. He will not waste it nor allow our pain to be rendered pointless. That single seed, fallen to the ground, will indeed bear much fruit.