On Tuesday morning, a beloved friend and man of God breathed his last and went to be with the Lord. David Landrith, pastor of Long Hollow Baptist Church, husband to Jennifer, and father to Rachel, Sam, and Josh, battled a fight with a terminal cancer for the past two years. My husband and I had the privilege to serve under his leadership when we worked at Long Hollow and we now serve at Long Hollow's church plant, Shoreline. David's love for Jesus is far-reaching, and his death has set ablaze a passion for Christ in the hearts of believers all over the world. When he first told the church about his diagnosis in March of 2013, he charged the body of believers with these words:
I want y'all to promise me this, if this is the last time I stand before you...that we will keep going for it for the glory of God and His kingdom until Jesus comes again or we die- that we'll continue to reach as many people as we can with the message of the Gospel. That we'll not stop. Can you promise me that?
His hope in Christ was overflowing and his joy spread like wildfire among the congregation. I'll never forget him walking through the church offices with a huge smile on his face, calling each person by name saying "C'MON!" Even throughout his fight with cancer, his joy didn't waver and his hope didn't suffer. I can only imagine what a holy moment it was when he breathed his last and entered into the presence of Christ, his Savior.
These past few days, thousands of people have felt the weight of grief. Tears have been shed, stories have been told and retold, and a beautiful community has come together in the body of Christ. This grief seems unbearable at moments, but then at the right time the joy of Christ collides with this heavy weight. We think of David's laugh, confidence, and love and can't help but reminded of his charge: "That we'll continue to reach as many people as we can with the message of the Gospel. That we'll not stop." Just like he modeled for us and lived out his own words.
When the grief of death and the joy of eternal life collide, it creates a holy moment where heaven meets earth and the Gospel is made alive once more in our hearts. It ignites a fire to live with eternity in mind, not fearing death, but sharing life in Christ. As we trudge through the grief of pain and suffering in this life, I believe God will bring to light the truth of Romans 8:28 - that He can be glorified in death, even when we had hoped life would be the answer. David faced death confident of this verse. Not just hopeful or wishful of this truth, but fully confident that God would work ALL things for good and for His glory.
As we move forward in the collision of grief and joy, whether at this moment or in the future, may we stay true to David's urging and the message of Christ. That we would share the hope of the Gospel with all who have ears to hear and eyes to see and that we would not fear death, but embrace eternal life in Christ. And in this, may the truth of Romans 8:28 truly come to life in our hearts - in cancer, in suffering, in waiting, in trial, in need, in poverty, in danger, in sickness, in life, and in death:
"And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose."