So they rolled the stone aside. Then Jesus looked up to heaven and said, “Father, thank you for hearing me. You always hear me, but I said it out loud for the sake of all these people standing here, so that they will believe you sent me.” Then Jesus shouted, “Lazarus, come out!” And the dead man came out, his hands and feet bound in graveclothes, his face wrapped in a headcloth. Jesus told them, “Unwrap him and let him go!”
~John 11:41:44 NLT
A few years ago, Leigh, my lifelong best friend, cousin and sister in Christ was diagnosed with lung cancer. Every night, as I was trying to fall asleep, I would pray for her. For several nights in a row, over and over again, the story of Lazarus’ kept popping into my head, specifically the verse when Jesus says “Father, thank you for hearing me. You always hear me…”
On about the third night of this (because I’m lightning fast at taking a hint!), I opened my Bible and began to read John 11, while asking the Holy Spirit to reveal to me what it was in that Scripture that God was trying to show me.
It didn’t take long for it to jump out at me. Right there in verse 42, “…but I said it out loud for the sake of all these people standing here so that they will believe you sent me.”
Leigh, was to be the “out loud” and someone “standing there” with her, was going to come to believe in Jesus through her illness….someone who would never otherwise come to know Christ.
In the months that followed, I witnessed Leigh’s physical condition deteriorate and her spiritual “condition” strengthen. She shared the Good News with anyone and everyone she could. I can’t say for sure just how many people she led to Christ during that time, but I’m positive it was more than we will ever know about this side of Heaven. She was, without hesitation, the “out loud” that God called her to be.
About six months after her diagnosis, Leigh was called home to be with her Savior. While her absence from my life these past few years has been felt very deeply, I rejoice for her, knowing that she has begun her eternity in the presence of our mighty God.
Before she got sick, she lived her life for Him. During her illness, she was humbled that He would use her as His vessel and she took some of her last breaths on this earth, praising Him.
While I will never be able to wrap my finite mind around the reasons that God allowed Leigh to suffer, I have no doubt that because of her faithfulness to Him, His divine purpose in all of it was fulfilled. He did not give Leigh cancer, but her willingness to be His servant, no matter what her circumstance, allowed Him to use it for good.
As Christians, we are not immune to suffering. In fact, the Bible says “when we suffer…” not “if we suffer.” Some people choose to endure their suffering in silence and there may be situations in life when that is an appropriate response. Other times, however, I believe that God wants us to be His “out loud.”
Leigh shouted His praises from the rooftops, even when she barely had the strength to breathe. She showed me how to live for Christ and she inspired me to be His “out loud.” It is my prayer that this blog becomes my “out loud” and it is dedicated to the most faith-filled woman I ever had the privilege of knowing in this earthly life.