Many are the afflictions of the righteous,
but the Lord delivers him out of them all. —Psalm 34:19
To My Lisa,
We were young mommies together, you and I. introduced by a friend who thought we’d get along well—how little she knew the plans God had for us. During the years of mothering small children and feeding our own infant faith we supported one another as together we laughed, cried, questioned, searched, and longed for strong families and stronger faith. Together we shared meals, watched movies, worshipped, read all the books, dissected the word, pondered the Word, talked on the phone and in our homes and backyards. The park pool, the dance classes, the grocery store, the playgrounds: there’s not a place in Grove City that doesn’t hold memories of us together. I’ll never bake blueberry muffins without thinking of you.
And then, right when your health took a turn, the Lord took my family to live in Florida, too far away to share daily life with you. Through email, IM, and still, the phone, we held on. As your questions sharpened through growing desperation, the Lord graciously led our family to a church which taught us the truth of God’s word in a way we’d never heard it before. I eagerly shared with you everything I learned: that God is not shackled by our unbelief or the weakness of our faith, but he is sovereign over our hearts and lives, having chosen us to be his people from before the foundation of the earth, and he is the changer of hearts, giving faith as a gift—so that no one may boast nor slip through his hands. As your physical suffering deepened, our understanding of God’s providential care grew. I wanted you to know that God doesn’t send trials to punish his beloved children, but to shape and fashion them through sanctification, to teach them that he is all they need, and that he has provided for our deepest need through the death and resurrection of his Son. In him alone and not in the strength of our own faith is where we must anchor our hope. Did you see that hope? Even a glimmer?
As your suffering grew, your pain drowned out the voice of truth, your deepening depression overshadowed the light of God’s invincible love, and the lies of the enemy twisted the words of scripture. When we’d talk, or text, your questions sharpened my own focus and motivated me to be precise in my language. (How often did I fumble and miscommunicate? Too often) I learned from you how harmful a trite answer can be. When I considered doctrine, your suffering taught me a sensitivity when applying the truth which I wouldn’t have otherwise learned. I fear I may never finish learning, failing, and relearning how to think before I speak. Because of your suffering, I read the promises of scripture differently. Because of your suffering, I treasure the covenant of grace. Because of your suffering, I know that this world is not only not my home, but it can’t be where we will find all of the promises of God fulfilled. It can’t be. Not even Abraham gained the promised homeland until he reached glory. How then could we?
We shared books, you and I, so many good books. We shared the lives of our children; those babies we carried are adults now—grown, independent, beautiful, perplexing, frustrating, cherished, beloved adults. They are stepping into their own lives, and we learned to loosen our hold on them and let them walk their own path with the Lord (or did we?). We laughed, deeply, when we weren’t weeping, deeply. You had a wicked-sharp sense of humor. Your laugh, with the sparkle in your eyes, I will treasure always. When you sang, before the cruel illness took your voice, you sang like an angel. And now, you sing with the angels. You were so beautiful. So very beautiful. You are beautiful.
I grieve at the pain and darkness you endured for so, so very long. When you expressed your fears and your doubts, I wished that I could take away even some of your pain, that I could give you more faith, that you could only see God’s love for you as clearly as I saw it. How I longed for you to see! I prayed for you, I wept for you, I searched the scriptures for you. Lisa, you were always with me when I studied. I cannot fathom the ways of God, nor why he marked out your path to pass through such affliction and darkness. I cannot imagine enduring the suffering you have these last 20 years. That you chose to leave does not surprise me, really, even though it grieves me so deeply.
Lisa, I love you, and of course I forgive you. You will always be my Lisa. And I will miss you terribly. But now you know the truth, you have been set free, delivered from all of your many afflictions, and you behold with unveiled face the beauty of our Savior. Now you see! You stand in the presence of the thrice-holy God, cleansed by the washing of water with the word, presented to Christ in splendor, without spot or wrinkle, or any such thing, holy and without blemish. You now dwell with God, and you know beyond all shadow of doubt that you are his. You were thirsty, oh, so thirsty, and now you may drink from the spring of the water of life. Your darkness is banished forever, and you walk in the light of the glory of God and of the Lamb.
I wouldn’t call you back from heaven for any selfish reason—but I look forward to the day when I join you. On that day, I’m sure it won’t happen this way, but after our first hug I’d like to think you will say, “Barbaranne, you were right!,” and I’ll respond, “I told you so!”