Rachel Held Evans died last Saturday.
It seemed impossible. Yes, I knew she was in a medically induced coma, but she couldn’t die. I was certain God was going to heal her. There were thousands of people praying for her, particularly her tribe on Twitter, documenting thoughts and prayers with their own trending hashtag, #PrayforRHE.
I read hundreds of the posts, captured by the heart cries of people who said things like, “I’m not even sure if I believe in prayer anymore, but for RHE I will try.” I was positive God would bring Rachel back to vibrant life as proof to those with wavering faith, baby faith, that prayer works, that God does miracles, that we can boldly pray. I was anticipating how their trust in God would grow and blossom.
And then she died.
I was wrecked.
I spent the better part of the weekend obsessively reading the @rachelheldevans references and those in the #BecauseofRHE hashtag that sprang up.
I don’t pretend to understand God or his ways. He’s okay with that. Tells us we can’t comprehend, in fact.
“‘For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways,’
declares the Lord.
‘As the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.'” (Isa. 55:8–9)
But he’s also okay with me telling him how angry, how sad, I am that he took her, that we needed her.
Rachel was (that seems such a weird way to refer to a 37-year-old) an author who loved Jesus, loved people, and loved God’s kingdom. She was funny and passionate and studied the Scriptures. She also held positions on Scriptural interpretation and social issues that differed from mine. But I can’t think of anyone that I agree with on absolutely everything, not even myself from one day to the other.
I believe all truth is God’s truth. And so I read a wide range of authors, trusting the Spirit of God within me to show me what is truth and what is not, to gather the wheat and release the chaff.
I loved Rachel’s books. I learned from them, was encouraged by them, was challenged by them. She pushed me to think differently or at least reexamine why I believed the way I did. As God has called me more and more to Kingdom living, to embodying the Great Commandment as I seek to fulfill the Great Commission, Rachel’s books have helped.
In her honor, and to challenge you, I share a few quotes from her books Searching for Sunday, A Year of Biblical Womanhood, and Inspired.
“We all long for someone to tell us who we are. The great struggle of the Christian life is to take God’s name for us, to believe we are beloved and to believe that is enough.” (Searching for Sunday)
“He remembered that what makes the gospel offensive isn’t who it keeps out, but who it lets in.” (Searching for Sunday)
“Imagine if every church became a place where everyone is safe, but no one is comfortable. Imagine if every church became a place where we told one another the truth. We might just create sanctuary.” (Searching for Sunday)
“At its best, the church functions much like a recovery group, a safe place where a bunch of struggling, imperfect people come together to speak difficult truths to one another.” (Searching for Sunday)
“Scripture doesn’t speak of people who have found God. Scripture speaks of people who walked with God. This is a keep-moving, one-foot-in-front-of-the-other, who-knows-what’s-next deal, and you never exactly arrive. … No step taken in faith is wasted, not by a God who makes all things new.” (Searching for Sunday)
“What I love about the ministry of Jesus is that he identified the poor as blessed and the rich as needy … and then he went and ministered to them both. This, I think, is the difference between charity and justice. Justice means moving beyond the dichotomy between those who need and those who supply and confronting the frightening and beautiful reality that we desperately need one another.” (A Year of Biblical Womanhood)
“Jesus is what the living, breathing will of God looks like.” (Inspired)
“The church is not a group of people who believe all the same things, the church is a group of people caught up in the same story, with Jesus at the center.” (Inspired)
“So church is, essentially, a gathering of kingdom citizens, called out—from their individuality, from their sins, from their old ways of doing things, from the world’s way of doing things—into participation in this new kingdom and community with one another.” (Searching for Sunday)
“The purpose of the church, and of the sacraments, is to give the world a glimpse of the kingdom, to point in its direction.” (Searching for Sunday)
“The kingdom isn’t some far-off place you go when you die; the kingdom is at hand—among us and beyond us, now and not-yet.” (Searching for Sunday)
“If the biggest story we can imagine is about God’s loving and redemptive work in the world, then our lives will be shaped by that epic.” (Inspired)
“My calling, as a Christian, is the same as that of any other follower of Jesus. My calling is to love the Lord with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength, and to love my neighbor as myself. Jesus himself said that the rest of Scripture can be rendered down into these two commands. If love was Jesus’ definition of ‘biblical,’ then perhaps it should be mine.” (A Year of Biblical Womanhood)
You are living in the presence of the Savior you loved and lived for, Rachel. Thank you loving him, and all of us, so well.