The Anchor Holds

"I have fought the good fight, 
I have finished the race, 
I have kept the faith." 2 Timothy 4:7

Kristen most certainly did.  Last Wednesday morning, our friend and sister in Christ,  Kristen Sauder, went home to be with Jesus.

Kevin and I have been friends with the Sauder family for several years, we were in ministry with them in Louisville for a season, and have stayed with their children on several occasions. We have a deep, deep love for them.  They have both mentored us, loved us, encouraged us, prayed for us, and believed in us.  We hold dear our memories with this faithful family.  We are heartbroken.

There are no words adequate to describe the journey we have been on this past 13 months, battling for our sister in prayer, seeking the Lord to show himself faithful, to restore life to this precious woman of God.  We have wept and wept, clung to one another for comfort, covered her four amazing children and beloved husband in the strongest prayer we know how.  This really, really hurts.

It is a gut-wrenching kind of pain to lose a life so precious, so impactful, so significant to so many.  We really, really miss her presence with us here....and that reality will not go away.  Here's the truth I've concluded.  This life on earth...it will rip your heart out.  And honestly, I know I don't have to convince most of you of that, because you already know.  Yet God is GOOD, his Word is TRUE, and he sent his son that we may have abundant LIFE.  He did not intend for death.  That is the very reason it is awful.  Death is not from our Creator, our Father, our Healer and Redeemer.  Death is dark, it is intended by the evil one to steal, kill, and destroy.  We know the minute it happens that this is not how it was meant to be.  While we are here we are meant to be longing fully for heaven, to be in the presence of Jesus.  You might remember only 18 months ago when I wrote about the loss of our brother in Christ, Matt D, due to a heartbreaking tragedy. While we rejoice for him and know that the Lord is always healing, the heartache of that loss remains.  At the time he was on staff with Kristen's husband Kurt, as well as with my husband.  When we celebrated his life I sat right beside Kristen, worshipped and wept with her.  Honestly, this just feels shocking and surreal.  But just as it was true then, it is true now: we have been struck down but not destroyed.  This world is not our home...and the battle rages on.  Yet this enemy has been DEFEATED.  We are in the presence of the mighty God of angel armies and he ALWAYS has the final say.  Kristen is home, where God intended and longs for us all to be, and she is more ALIVE than she's ever been before.  It does not matter what pain-inducing attempts the enemy makes to strike us and shake us and convince us that we are abandoned....he is WEAK.

He knows who holds the future and the VICTORY.  We are not abandoned, we are not alone, we will not be shaken....God is FOR US.  Jesus reigns forever.  (worshipping to this today)  He is FAITHFUL.  He WILL sustain the Sauder family, and get them through the hardest of days.  We will be battling in prayer for Him to do so.  He will work mightily throughout the entire community she left.  His promises are good and true, and we can stand firmly on them.

One of my favorite verses in the Bible, right at the top of my list of life leading verses, is Isaiah 40:21-22:

"Do you not know?  Have you not heard?  Has it not been told you from the beginning?  Have you not understood since the earth was found.  
He sits ENTHRONED above the circle of the earth, and its people are like GRASSHOPPERS. 
           He stretches out the heavens like a canopy, and spreads them out like a tent to live in."

I actually could write out all of Isaiah 40.  There is so much rich, comforting, ground shaking truth....
our Lord sits enthroned above the earth and we are like grasshoppers.  It is crazy because it's impossible for us to comprehend, we are unable to even fully take in what this means.  I don't love this verse because it is the most comforting at first glance...but it is what assures me that the Rock I put my faith and trust in is worthy, faithful, and immovable.  He is SOVEREIGN.  Life here does not happen by chance, and there is a Ruler over all...and he is GOOD.  I am like a grasshopper in comparison...who am I to question my Creator, THE Creator?!  Here are some other verses that God is using to assure my heart through this...

Psalm 18 "I love you O Lord, my strength.  The Lord is my rock, my fortress, and my deliverer.  My God is my ROCK in whom I take refuge.  He is my SHIELD and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.  I call to the Lord, who is WORTHY OF PRAISE, and I am saved from my enemies....

As for God, his way is perfect; the word of the Lord is flawless, He is a shield for all who take refuge in him....it is God who arms me with strength and makes my way perfect....

The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul.  The statutes of the Lord are TRUSTWORTHY, making wise the simple.  The precepts of the Lord are RIGHT, giving JOY to the heart.  The commands of the Lord are RADIANT, giving light to the eyes.  The fear of the Lord is PURE, enduring forever.  The ordinances of the Lord are SURE and altogether righteous.  They are more precious than gold; they are sweeter than honey....

I am STILL confident of this:
I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.
WAIT for the Lord.  Be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord!

The Lord sits enthroned over the flood; the Lord is enthroned as King forever.  
The Lord gives strength to his people;
the Lord blesses his people with PEACE."

Psalm 31 - "I will be glad and rejoice in your love, for you saw my affliction and knew the anguish of my soul.  You have not handed me over to the enemy but have set my feet in a spacious place...

Be merciful to me, O Lord, for  I am in distress;
my eyes grow weary with sorrow.
My soul and my body with grief.
My life is consumed with anguish and my years by groaning;
my strength fails because of my affliction, and my bones grow weak....

But I TRUST IN YOU, O Lord; I say, "You are my God."  My times are in your hands; deliver me from my enemies, and from those who pursue me.  Let your face shine on your servant; save me in your unfailing love...How great is your goodness; which you have stored up for those who fear you, which you bestow in the sight of men, on those who take refuge in you.

So our church family in Louisville, alongside Kristen's family and other dear friends, are in a time of grieving for the loss of this lovely, passionate, and mighty woman/warrior of God who we all asked God so fervently to allow to remain with us for a longer time....while we are left here on earth to carry on.  Yet we are also joined together to PRAISE him through this pain, not only because we know he is worthy of praise, in every season, but because that is what our friend Kristen led us to do all throughout her courageous battle with cancer.  God is sovereign in a way that we cannot comprehend and often don't even like.  Our understanding is so limited....we often want answers but have to remember again and again that He IS the answer.  We ask why he would allow pain like this to people who are seeking hard after him, to a family who is as devoted to him as any person you will ever find.  And he responds by telling us to TRUST.  To seek after him and to WAIT.  That was part of the message given at her funeral, truly a celebration of her life.  God asks us to trust who he says he is, and to look to him for strength for the days we have to endure until we can be with him as well.  He has the final say, he knows what he's doing, and his plan is to bring all to him.  His plan is for good, and he knows this time on earth is a vapor, a mist, a breath.  We feel like the joy should be found here, but He knows the JOY is found in him and with him.  His ways are not our ways, but we do know that we are all on our way to the plans he has for us. Good plans for those who love him.   And we do know that the harvest is plentiful but the workers are few.   He intends for us to do the work!  It won't be long until the ultimate redemption is realized, until all is made new, until all is made whole, until we can be with our friend Kristen and many other loved ones again.  Yet his work on earth is not finished and he asks those of us devoted to him to sow, sow, sow.  Do not hesitate, do not waste another minute waiting to share the salvation intended for all.  If God is waiting to make his return until the work is done, then we certainly need to increase the effort.

The spiritual temperature is rising, do not doubt that for a minute.

God is on the move, there is a battle at hand.  The enemy prowls around and won't stop at anything to try and manipulate our focus off of the very fact that we are in the middle of the battle.  He wants us to want it all here on earth, to believe that this is all there is.  To think there's no such thing as eternal significance.  A place where it is all about us, and now and 'live for today.'

 Do not think it is a coincidence when you are tempted on all sides, when you can't seem to find time to read the Word, when prayer seems too difficult or boring, when you feel hate or judgment for those around you or spend your time invested in things that don't matter...or things that frankly bring zero glory to God.  There is an enemy intentionally at work here.  But the good news is still the GOOD NEWS.  We have broken all of our promises and fall flat on our faces in failure to live honorably before the Lord we belong to.  Yet He, in his gracious mercy and love, out of the kindness that He is, sacrificed his only son to pay the price so His promise of redemption and eternal, abundant, amazing LIFE would belong to ALL who believe and surrender their lives back to him.  He has armed us for this battle.  Run to Him.  Ask him to change you with life shattering truths when you open your Bible.  Then open it.  Make an appointment with him and be changed by your encounter with your Creator.  You will find no rejection.  The invitation is always open.

As much as our world is desperately trying to become a very "gray" place to live, do not be deceived.  You do have to choose a side.  To either be following the Spirit's lead, or living by the flesh.  The scariest place to be is one where you think all of your choices are not either born of the flesh OR born of the Spirit.  The power of the Holy Spirit is a great one, and leads only to life.  This is not a battle against flesh and blood, but a spiritual battle, and the forces of evil futilely working to steal, kill, and destroy lives do not rest.  BUT they are weak, they will not have the final say, and we have the power of the Holy Spirit, the very same power Jesus had when he stood up to the enemy here on earth. God is love, and he draws us to himself, so that very love can flow through us onto a hurting and lost world.

You might think this is the grief talking...and it definitely is.  But that's because if God gets the glory and he works ALL things together for the good of those who love him, then let that goodness start now.  It has never felt more real or clear to me that this world has nothing for me, and this earth is not our home.  What a privilege that He even allows us to know so much joy here.

Honestly, we all wanted so desperately for Kristen to live....here, with us, right now.  She was doing a mighty work here on earth for the glory of the Lord with her family.  She was FAITHFUL.  I still want her to be here, I wanted many more days of knowing her, learning from her, following her lead in life and ministry, enjoying her friendship.  I love her children with an intense love, and I want them to be able to be held by their mother for longer here.  That's because I am still so human, so earthly unable to grasp that her present reality is the REWARD she lived for.  She is alive.  For now I only know in part.  The truth is, over time God will be faithful to heal our hearts in some way.  But with each new season of life, a soul like Kristen's will only be missed more.  God has created us with a longing for Heaven.  So if you've ever wondered if this is all there is, a life that inevitably keeps offering pain, the answer is joyfully no.  More awaits than I can comprehend.

I have so, so much more to share about this sweet soul we lost, the impact she had on me, the legacy she has left, and all that she has taught me, especially in this last year as we were forever changed by learning to fervently seek after the Lord.  But for now I felt the desperate need to share what I know without a doubt is truly needed for us to do...

"Turn your eyes upon Jesus; look full in his wonderful face.  And the things of earth will grow strangely dim, in the light of his glory and grace."

Fix your eyes fully on Jesus my friends, and this earth and the sorrow it tries to weigh us down with will be dimmed.  Kristen most certainly knew this and lived this....she drew ALL of us to this...and now she worships right there in his presence, she is rewarded in full.  She would want you to know this....God loves you so much, more than you can imagine.  He is inviting you to come and see the abundant life he has for you too.  He is waiting for YOU.  "You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart." (Jeremiah 29:13)  Kristen absolutely did, and we are so thankful for how it has radically changed us all.  We will miss her every day until the Lord takes us home too.

Please, please pray for Kristen's husband Kurt, and their children.  They are experiencing the most intense kind of grief.  Their sadness is so deep....yet their faith remains unshaken.  They know the Lord is faithful and that He will carry them.  Also read her story and hear Kristen's very own heart on their blog, Further Still.  There you can also find resources, authored by her and her husband, that will change your life.

Kristen did this interview a little over a month ago, after she was told she had 5 days to live.  Take this amazing woman's words to heart.  "I have sought the Lord and I have found him....when your worst nightmare comes true, the anchor holds.  I am with the One who loves me."

When we all get to Heaven, what a day of rejoicing that will be!!

(If the video doesn't show up, click on the word 'post' to go to it.)

1 comment:

danielle said...

Thank you Paige….beautiful. And so very true.