On Saturday, Joanie’s ashes were tossed into the lake she loved. The lake where she lived for much of her life. The lake I live on now, in the house where her mom (my mother-in-law) grew up.
Her memorial service was beautiful. Because You planned it, Lord. And You showed up in very personal and undeniable ways…
I hadn’t expected to speak. But there I was, scheduled to give a testimony right after someone sang a solo of “On Eagles’ Wings.”
When I asked You for direction the night before, You prompted me to look up some emails Joanie and I had exchanged a couple of years ago. Words of worship and wonder about a dear friend of hers who was traveling through the Valley of cancer. I had already traveled that Valley, and Joanie had asked me to reach out to her friend with words of encouragement.
I didn’t know this friend, but she and I both knew You, Lord. Which made us Forever Sisters. So reach out, I did.
And You led me to read these emails at Joanie’s memorial service, mentioning her friend by name. Describing her rock-solid, inspiring Faith. Faith that drew so many people closer to You. Even when she realized she was losing her battle to remain this side of Heaven.
Joanie watched as her friend came to grips with this reality, this finality, and turned it all into praise for You, Lord. Her friend wasn’t afraid to die. She and Joanie both talked about wanting to see You, Lord. Her friend has been with You for just a few months now.
Joanie wrote me about all this in 2015… and I responded, with words that surely came from Your heart. Then, all-too-soon, our words became prophetic. Because now, here was Joanie, losing her own battle for life. A battle that hadn’t been on anyone’s radar screen in 2015. A battle that ended just 12 days ago, when she left this life and stepped right into Your arms.
And there I was, two days ago, reading those emails to the loved ones gathered to grieve Joanie’s passing and celebrate her life. Clueless that the husband of that dear friend, who also knew and loved Joanie, was THERE… receiving Your healing grace through the words Joanie and I had shared about his wife!
Even so, the question lingered yesterday. In the hearts of those who grieve without hope. The Question that seems to defy an answer: “Why would God let someone so young and vibrant suffer so much? Was that really God’s will? What kind of God would do such a thing?”
I have found some answers… at least for myself. No easy platitudes; just a few insights… hard-won, through my own journeys of suffering. It’s about leading our hearts… even in the absence of “reasons” we can accept. And trusting Your character and Your motives… even when we don’t get the “yes” we have prayed desperately for…
… because Your “YES” is bigger and better still.