As I sit here writing this, I am in tears. I recently lost a friend I loved just as a sister. She was young, only 31. She had fought cancer three times over the last ten years. I try to remain strong and resilient, putting on a fake face of “normalcy” so that people don’t see how sad I truly am. But today, I am losing that battle. My pastor sent me a text asking me how I was doing, and that was all it took to bring me to tears. She has been gone just over a month now. We met at church, so he had officiated her funeral. He loved her as deeply too, just as so many others. So, I know he is sad as well. But he reminded me of her largest goal in life - to love people and reach souls.
Let me explain a bit about my dear friend, Leslie. She was closer to God than she was to me. She spent her life in prayer, worship, and reading all about who He was. Her entire life was built around ensuring she was living the life He wanted her to live. To know Leslie was to know the love of God. It oozed out of her like lava, melting the hearts of the hardest souls. We told her the day before she passed that we believed she broke Facebook because every single person we knew was posting prayer requests for her. Even people who had never met her were inundated with her Jesus’ aroma because of the number of prayer requests shared for her miracle healing. Her viewing was one of the largest I have ever seen. Even in her passing, God saved souls right in the middle of her funeral. When I grow up, I want to be like Leslie -a beautiful sweet spirit who loved God like He held her in his arms each night and kissed her forehead while whispering “well done, precious daughter, well done.”
We have thought on your steadfast love, O God,
in the midst of your temple.
Now I know we are to get our direction from God. I believe wholeheartedly in His love and wisdom for us. But we can also learn from the people God places in our path. This happened in Scripture too! For instance, in 2 Chronicles 29, King Hezekiah purifies the priests in order to hold Passover. He knew it was necessary to obey God’s commands to present a pure sacrifice. After having been away from God under the rule of King Ahaz, Hezekiah was trying to work toward bringing the people back to holy reunion with the God who loved them. And the result was that his obedience changed the course of history for generations to come!
Further in this week’s reading, we see the writers of Psalm 48 discuss God’s unfailing love. In verse 3, they remind us of God’s strength as he defends Mount Zion. This reminds me of how I, foolishly, allow my fears to guide my sails at times. This is unnecessary on my end, and it only causes me headache and heartache. But if I were I to trust God, allow for His defense of my life, and therefore not steer away from His plan for me, I know beyond a shadow of a doubt, I would be protected.
Later in the Psalm, in verses 9-13 specifically, the Sons of Korah remind us to praise God for the unfailing love that offers us shelter. In song, they command us to walk through life declaring God’s goodness during the trials that will come. In this, I am instantly reminded of Leslie and her ability to praise God during the worst moments of her cancer trial. She never allowed the cancer to beat her; instead she proclaimed that she was a winner either way. She knew that she would either dance in earthly streets singing the praises of a miraculous healing, or that she would dance in the streets of Heaven with her earthly father and her Heavenly Father.
And in His goodness, He is creating a community of people to lead all of us to hearts that look more like His.
Life is a precious balance of ups and downs. We are always experiencing moments of love, joy, grief, despair... and countless other emotions. However, we are fortunate that in Christ, God protects, defends, loves and holds us in His powerful hands. Because of this truth, we can rest easy knowing He fills our lives with people to help guide us; and sometimes we are the guide for others along the journey. And in His goodness, He is creating a community of people to lead all of us to hearts that look more like His. Our God loves us so deeply, and He has woven a fine web of silk attaching our hearts to others’ hearts within His glorious Kingdom.
So, for me, at this moment, that is a truly bittersweet thought. I am still grieving the loss of one of my dearest friends; yet I can see her smiling face, as she sings and dances with our Heavenly Father. And I know she is not sad for one second. She is exactly where she was created to be - in the arms of her Father.
Sonya Gentry wants to live in a world where being kind and loving means that when we encounter a need or brokenness, we say yes first and think about it second. This would be a world where walking with Jesus means trying to act like Jesus through loving, relevant acts of service; where Christians put their hands and feet in the dirty situations of the world in order to show people God’s love and grace; where we understand that comfort zones are meant to be broken because people need us to show up and be be the best portrayal of God’s love we can be. When she's not working, you can find her being silly with friends and family, playing games with her nephews, volunteering for various organizations and events with her church, or relaxing with a movie.
Her favorite Scripture is John 15:16-17: “You have not chosen Me, but I have chosen you and I have appointed and placed and purposefully planted you, so that you would go and bear fruit and keep on bearing, and that your fruit will remain and be lasting, so that whatever you ask of the Father in My name [as My representative] He may give to you. This [is what] I command you: that you love and unselfishly seek the best for one another” (AMP).