Sometimes things happen in life that absolutely blindside you. Today I attended the funeral of a 27-year-old, beautiful girl in the prime of her life, big dreams in her heart, a contagious smile of joy always on her face. I’d recently met Jessica, prayed with her, and gave her words of encouragement at a local church where I was visiting one Sunday morning. I didn’t know her before then, but that day when I met her, she made a big impact on me.
This week she was driving one night down the highway, lost control of her car, crossed the median, and a semi-truck hit her car. Critically injured, she died at the hospital after being life-flighted there. Two friends texted me the news just after the accident to pray. When I was praying for her from the text, I didn’t realize it was the young woman who I’d prayed with and talked to only a couple of months ago. Later when a friend told me who it definitely was, I was devastated.
I have really debated writing a blog about this. Will it dishonor, hurt, or anger the family by writing about the funeral? Some of her family live here in town. I don’t want to do anything that causes them more pain, because God only knows the severity of their pain today. I can’t imagine the horror of what they’re going through right now, and don’t want to even think about it. Since I first heard about this, I have been praying for all of them continually.
But this girl made such an incredible difference in many lives, and through just meeting her one time, in mine! It was evident today. People say the date of your death says more about you than any other day of your life. What would people say about you or me at our funeral? Something to think about…
Today when I came to the funeral home for the visitation an hour before her funeral, I saw that she was dressed in a gorgeous, white, lace, wedding dress. Why a wedding gown? All her life, Jessica had wanted to be a wife and a mother, and she never had been. After being homeschooled, she became a phlebotomist and was currently employed by a family medicine clinic.
But more than anything else, Jessica had one passion: winning souls to Christ. A student at The Masters’ Commission, she became a missionary and went on missions trips funded by family, community, and church, privileged to go to Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Panama, Nicaragua, and into the mountains of Old Mexico. She was a preaching woman and a soul winner. She was a licensed minister, soon to be ordained, and had an Associate Degree in Biblical Theology and a Bachelor of Arts in Missions from Central Bible College in Springfield, MO.
And Jessica was waiting for the right man to come along to add to her joy. That was one of the things I had talked about with her when I met her, that I sensed she felt alone and lonely. Tears filled her eyes, and she said, “Yes, I am. I really want to find a good husband and get married.” I encouraged her to hang on, to focus on Christ, and that God would give her the desires of her heart.
I told her that I sensed it wouldn’t be too much longer, that soon she would no longer feel alone and lonely. Little did I know when I gave her this word, that what God meant was being by HIS side as the Bride of Christ. (I thought it meant she’d be married soon – here!) Yet the wedding dress she was buried in was very appropriate. She’s no longer alone, lonely, empty. She is complete and whole in Christ, in His glorious presence, His radiant Bride without spot, blemish, or wrinkle. (Ephesians 5: 27)
From her obituary, Jessica lived a full and happy life in her very short time here. She loved spending time with her family and friends, fishing, swimming, horseback riding, eating corn on the cob, reading romance novels, watching Hallmark movies, and spending time with her faithful white poodle, “Taffy.” She had a great sense of humor and loved pulling pranks on people.
Jessica was described as “the favorite” in her family. Her sister Stephanie at the funeral said that Jessica was her very best friend. She and their other sister, Tiffany, did a creative drama-song with hand signing glorifying Jesus and as a final, touching tribute to their sister, with tears in their eyes. It was anointed and beautiful.
I was amazed at all the people there who had come to see Jessica. The funeral home chapel was filled to overflowing with people who had been touched somehow by her life. She was well-loved. Jessica made an eternal impact on those around her.
Her pastor at The Master’s Commission, Lloyd Zeigler, wept at times as he gave the sermon, and said the way this happened so suddenly, the way she died while just in her 20’s in the prime of life, was all wrong, it was backwards. “She should be preaching at MY funeral!” he said.
But he didn’t want to disappoint Jessica when he got to heaven. He joked that he didn’t want her rebuking him when he got there. Her passion was to tell others about Jesus, so he boldly gave the invitation for salvation by her casket. At her funeral, people quietly came to the pastor or family members after the service to give their lives to Christ. This would have made her really smile. Even in death, Jessica was winning souls for Jesus!
This is the second death of someone I know in the last several months. (The first was Ray’s and my friend Mike Fools, who lost his battle to stage 4 cancer.) When you encounter death through those you love, it shakes you up. Grief is such a painful emotion. It just aches in your heart. It also makes you face your own mortality, which is a very uncomfortable thought.
None of us like the thought of dying, of our lives suddenly ending. The Bible says to dust we shall return. (Genesis 3:19) It’s discomfiting, thinking that one day we’ll be nothing but dust again. Driving through the gates at the cemetery today for the graveside service, I thought about how we all end up there…and how brief our years really are.
But it’s necessary to think about these uncomfortable things. What are we living for today? Are we making any difference while we are here? Does our life really matter? Have we impacted anyone’s life with ours, and more importantly with Christ’s life in us?
Not to indulge in a pity party, but I really wondered looking across the room at Jessica in the white wedding gown in the casket, would ANYONE come to my funeral? Or would they have to hire mourners for my funeral? :O Of course, I am kidding…sorta’!
I don’t think that I would have as many people there. Maybe very few people would actually come to my funeral – just my immediate family. Maybe fewer would even feel a sorrowful loss over my death. :O I am just being real with my thoughts here – all of us want to know the answer to this question: “Does my life really matter and have any significance? What is my purpose? Why am I here?”
I looked deeper inside because sometimes I can be so selfish, so uncaring. What am I doing TODAY to help others? To make a difference in this world for God and to further His kingdom? Am I living in such a way that my death would cause many others great grief because I loved others so well with the love of Christ – like beautiful Jessica did?
Am I leading others to Jesus, the Living Waters, the Messiah? Am I sharing the good news with others? Is His light boldly blazing from my heart – or am I just along for the ride in a dark, sin-filled world, not making much impact here? Am I so busy living my life, ignoring the most important things – like people’s relationship with God?
“Preach the gospel. And if necessary, use words.” ~ St. Assissi
When I talked with Jessica at the church in town recently, I told her that I sensed from the Lord that she had a strong preaching and teaching gift and that she needed to use her spiritual gifts for God. She confirmed that she did have a preaching gift, and that she wanted to preach – she loved preaching. Ahhh, this is one reason we hit it off so well immediately! (besides her being such a great person!)
She said she had thought about preaching at pastor Charles Mathis’ church (Full Gospel Church, the church I was visiting). I urged her to go to him and share this with him, to not wait. God wanted to use her gifts now.
Jessica did go to pastor Mathis to talk to him about this, and he let her preach one Sunday. (She was supposed to preach there again, 3 weeks from now.) Unfortunately, I wasn’t there that morning when she spoke, but my friend Diane who attends there said she did great. A clip of her preaching was played at the service today. It was amazing. Who knew that when she preached this sermon, it would be the one to be played at her own funeral?
Its message was on always being ready for Christ! And Jessica sure was!
From her Facebook wall entry in September this year, she wrote about her sermon:
“I preached from Mathew 12:30- love. Getting back to the basics of Christianity and practicing what we preach. Because I truly believe when we are faithful with the basics, God will then entrust us with more of His promises. Then, and only then, will we see God move in our midst, see people give their lives to the Lord, and witness great and mighty miracles. That’s it in a nut shell. :)”
What about you? Are you ready to meet Christ? Don’t wait any longer. The time is now. Time is so short. Today choose to receive Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior. All of us have sinned and are separated from God. Only Jesus can save you. Repent of your sins and ask His forgiveness so that you can be restored in your relationship with God and spend eternity in heaven with Him.
Live for an audience of one!
Here is a poem that Jessica’s sister Stephanie wrote in tribute to her:
Jessica lived for an audience of one
A life of worship, a princess to become
In the arms of her Prince Charming
she is now embraced
The heartbeat of God and worthy
of seeing His face
So now precious Father above
Grant us peace and make us worthy of Your love.
Give us strength to live each day
Til our name You choose to say.
Thank you God
for the time we had…
we will always have.
Copyright 2010 Stephanie Evans
Jessica, I’m so glad that I got a chance to meet you here on earth. You made such a big impact on me in just that one day. I’ll see you when I get to heaven and we can chat some more – so glad you have now met THE one! 🙂
March 25th, 2012
We are so very honored by your tribute to Jessica.
Most importantly for sharing the simple truth of accepting Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.
It is written in the 10th Chapter of the book of Romans, verse 9: “That if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.” Then drop down to verse 13, For “whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.”
Let us as believers return to the basics, daily becoming a reflection of Jesus Christ Himself, to love one another as Christ has loved us. “Unconditionally! Just as we ARE…”
Thanks Beth for sharing your blog with us and the many lives it continues to change for all ETERNITY!
God Bless!!! 🙂
(Jessica’s Parents) Lisa and Bobby
Bobby and Lisa, thank you so much for that encouragement. Your daughter made such an incredible impact on me in the very short time I knew her. I wish I’d known her so much longer! She inspired me.
I love what you said about returning to the basics and daily becoming a reflection of Christ. I fall so short of that so often, but am trusting God to finish what He started in me. 🙂 Thank you for your encouragement about my blog. 🙂
I pray that God will continue to comfort you and your family, and bless you with His abundant love each day. May you sense Him all around you.