Facebook had what was meant to be a cheerful announcement for me this morning: “It’s Deanna Stallings Leesman’s birthday today. Send her good thoughts!” I wish I could. But Deanna went to be with the Lord a little over two months ago.
I have many good thoughts and memories of Deanna. She was a friend and a special part of the congregation in Eugene where I used to serve as pastor. She battled cancer for about a year and this spring her battle came to an end.
Facebook is just a big company with a computer program that generates messages without understanding what all is going on. That’s the nature of the world. The world, apart from the Lord, doesn’t understand what is really going on.
We don’t understand why someone like Deanna, who meant a great deal to many people, is gone from this earth before her 58th birthday. But it is not the case that somehow God was unfair to Deanna in not letting her live a longer life. Facebook and the world do not understand that, while we are missing Deanna, Deanna is not missing out on life. Jesus gives the hope that, for those who have faith in Him, what is to come is more full of life and joy and love than anything this world can ever offer.
Facebook doesn’t understand that the best earthly thoughts we could send Deanna would not begin to come close to the beauty of the heavenly thoughts she is enjoying now.
Birthdays of those we mourn and other anniversary dates can bring a mixture of emotions. We pray for Deanna’s husband, Keith, and the rest of her family as they wrestle with those emotions. Facebook and the world do not understand the mixture because they only have part of what is in the mix. They know the sorrow, but you need to know Jesus to have hope included as part of the mixture. We grieve, but as the Bible says, not “like the rest of men, who have no hope” (I Thessalonians 4:13).
Some of the mixture of emotions for those who are in Christ is described in II Corinthians 4: “We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair. … Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”
The list of things I don’t understand keeps getting longer. But I do know Jesus loves me. He died on the cross for my sins and He rose again from the dead and now He invites you and me to be in His family. I don’t understand why He is so gracious and loving, but I know He is, and that gives a peace that transcends all understanding.