Unfading Joy and Immeasurable Strength: Eulogy for Lindsey Sinclair Oliver (1982-2012)

On February 1, 2012, my sister unexpectedly passed away in a car accident. A few days later, I had the privilege of delivering the eulogy at her funeral. I recently found a copy of this stored away deep in the recesses of an old Dropbox account. I hadn’t been a Christian very long and this was my first funeral. I’ve left everything exactly as I found it, save for some typo corrections.

Praise God! Praise God in his sanctuary; praise Him in His mighty heavens. Praise Him for His acts of power; praise Him for His surpassing greatness! Let everything that has breath praise the Lord! (Psalm 150) Thank you, God for this. Thank you for this life, this time, this moment! And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance produces character, and character produces hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because the love of God has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. (Romans 5:2b-5) We are like unthinking animals towards You! Yet we are continually with You. You hold us with your right hand and you lead us with your counsel and afterwards you will receive us to glory. Whom do I have in heaven, but you? And on earth I desire nothing besides You. My heart and my flesh may fail but God is the strength of my heart, my portion forever. (Psalm 73:23-26) Amen.

I’m going to only touch on two things today. In order of importance: the Glory of God, and the legacy of my sister, Lindsey. To my family: I know that this moment seems like forever. It’s hard to see past it. It s hard to look past this moment in time and wonder how we could possibly go back to our normal way of life. I have to go back to work this week. As do some of you. Brent has to go back home to pictures and memories of his late beloved. My grandmother has to see Lindsey’s wedding dress every time she opens her closet door. A mental picture that probably will never fade, even after the dress is removed. My sweet mother goes home to the house where Lindsey was raised. My dear father has to work in the same place where she worked for years, with people who knew Lindsey for all of those same years. It’s hard. It’s hard to envision. It’s hard to imagine what life will be like without her. But I tell you this because I know how to fix this. I know how to cure this immobilizing cancer that is ailing your hearts.

Death is a fog-clearer. It is a mist-eraser. Death has a mysterious, powerful way of cutting straight through the frivolous, petty things that we are concerned about in our lives and striking dead center in the bullseye of our wills, exposing our truest and deepest desires. Here is what I mean: (and I m using myself as an analogy for all of us here) The death of my sister has made me realize that I really want something. I desire something with an intensity that is so overbearing it’s heartbreaking. I’m sure that you feel the same way. I want peace, but I know that peace is not the core of what I desire because peace is just the result of relief. So there’s something deeper. Yet it’s not actually relief that I desire because there is something that I am desiring to bring about that relief. The answer is deeper still. I believe that it is joy. I long to experience joy. To be filled with it. Soaked by it. Drenched with joy!! And an incentive that I have for longing for this is realizing that this emotion is exactly what Lindsey herself would want for me, for us. And I believe that this is true because she herself was constantly experiencing it. Lindsey knew what it meant to be full of joy.

Amanda, my cousin, posted on Lindsey’s wall on Facebook:

What a beautiful life. I can t remember a time when anything mean or negative ever came from you. You were always a joyful spirit. It s no wonder God called you to be by His side. I know Nana is so happy, which in turn makes us happy as well. I can only wish to be as genuinely good hearted as you were. I love you so much, my sweet cousin.

Joy and kindness emanated from her. Joy was so much a part of who she was that we all identified her with that quality. This is why the vast majority of comments people have made to us about their memory of her always include a reminiscing of the smile that she always had , the willingness she had to help , or the joyful, contagious spirit that followed her around everywhere she went. The key characteristic of her identity that she portrayed to the world and in return the world connected with Lindsey was joy.

So Lindsey left behind a legacy of joy. But that’s not all.

I have a quick story to tell and then I’ll move on. There is a running joke in our family. Lindsey had a nickname with us. One day, and I was kinda young so this is to the best of my memory, Lindsey, Luke, Sean, Brandon, Kyle and I were all out at my grandfather’s lake house. We went out there to pick up an old hospital bed to carry back home to my father because he just had open heart surgery. I remember that Luke was on one side of the bed and Sean and Brandon were on the other. Now remember that hospital beds are not regular beds, those suckers are heavy. Anyway, on three they tried to lift the bed into the back of the truck and that thing was just too heavy. They couldn’t do it. Lindsey got frustrated, marched over to the end that Sean and Brandon were on, pushed them aside and practically threw the bed into the back of the truck herself. Brandon looks at her in dismay and says, “Well thanks, Helga.”

So from then on out that was kind of her nickname with us. Lindsey was a very strong person. And by relating to you the physical aspect of her strength, I m really trying to magnify the strength of her spirit. One half of her legacy was joy, the other half of her legacy was her strength. She carried about her and within her a strength that would put most everybody in this building in a state of awestruck wonder. There was a strength that indwelled her that compelled her to always be there for her family and others no matter what. Whether it inconvenienced her or not, she didn’t care. She was always there. You could count on Lindsey. And now looking back, I don’t think I ever got the impression that I was ever an inconvenience to her. And that is an amazing testimony given the vast amount of times that she had to come to my rescue.

So recapping: Lindsey was a woman of joy and strength. We, at this moment are a people of weakness and sadness. Therefore, I believe it s safe to say that Lindsey’s wish for everybody in this room would be for us to be filled with that same joy and to be able to overcome this by that same strength. I am convinced that there is only one way for us to experience the same joy and strength that she felt, and that is through a deep, personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

Jesus said in John 15:11 “I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be made full.” Later in chapter 16 verse 24 he repeats this same idea: “Until now you have asked for nothing in my name. Ask and you shall receive so that your joy may be made full.” Do you see how our joy is the end in all of this? It is not a means to an end. It is not a happy thing we get to experience along the way. It is the sole emotion that all of Christendom is destined for. The very thing that God Himself through the Holy Spirit is working towards in us. Christ wishes for us to be joyful. Lindsey wishes for us to be joyful.

But even more spectacular than that Christ says “I have told you this so that MY JOY may be IN YOU and that YOUR JOY may be MDE FULL.” His joy? In us? Think about this. This joy is the joy that the perfect lamb of God experiences. Our spotless King who was praised and honored and revered by all of creation in eternity past, came and lived a perfect life for 33 years, died, resurrected, and is now seated at the right hand of God with all of creation subject to Him. His name above all other names. King of Kings and Lord of Lords. He is in perfect, harmonious communion with God the Father, the prime source of all that is good and holy, and God the Holy Spirit, the arbiter and deliverer of all joy. Christ Himself desires for this joy to be in us. He is working and praying constantly on our behalf for this joy to be in us. But now I come to You; and these things I speak in the world so that they may have My joy made full in themselves. (John 17:13) Christ, our King, our savior, Lord, and master, is praying to the Father that His joy may be made full in us. There is nothing less in this world that Lindsey would have desired for any of you.

Lindsey was joyful and she was strong. Christ wishes that we be made full of joy, and He also wishes that we be men and women of strength. If He didn’t then He would not have provided us with such a rich source. “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13). “To this end I labor, struggling with all His energy that He powerfully works within me” (Colossians 1:29). “Have you not known? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable. He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength. Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted; but they who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint” (Isaiah 40:28-31).

This strength that we are offered is more than enough to sustain us. This kind of strength is what Lindsey would have wanted for everyone here. And the best part is that these two things, this joy that is uncontainable and this strength that is inexhaustible are two streams in the same river. They flow from the same source. This kind of joy gives us strength, and this strength gives us joy. This is made no more evident than in the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross. Hebrews 12:1-3 says & And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of our faith. For the joy set before Him he endured the cross, scorning it s shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider Him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. Do you see what all is offered here? It was His joy that allowed Him to endure the cross, the beating, the humiliation, the mocking, and the pain. All compounded by the fact that the very people who did this to Him are the ones He was enduring it for! We did this to Christ, and He endured it for us. Such joy and such strength!! Such majesty and such glory!! That is the very glory that I told you at the beginning of this that I was contending for. And the author of Hebrews uses this very fact to encourage us! Consider Him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart! Relative to the cross, this pain that we feel is nothing. If our refuge is their, there also our strength and our joy will be. We will overcome.

So the purpose of this message is threefold. One, I want nothing more than for my precious Lord and savior to be glorified. I pray that He has been. Two, I so desperately want the legacy of my beautiful sister to be one of lasting effect. One that is inspiring and encouraging to all of you, just as it is for me. And 3, this message is an invitation: an invitation to join my sister in her celebration of joy and strength. To fully understand and experience the full extent of joy that life has to offer and to be sustained by a brazened strength that will never let you down. It is what she would have wanted for you, and it can only be found at the foot of the cross. These things are not possible without Jesus. Without His grace, strength and joy, we are left to our own, and time and time again we are let down and disappointed.

Put your faith in something greater than yourself!! Put your faith in something that allows you to see past this moment! Put your faith into a man who came, lived, died, and was resurrected so that in every situation that comes, you will not despair because you are filled with a hope that allows you to look forward to a time when He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for all of the former things have passed away. (Revelation 21:4)

None of these things will be yours, if you forsake Jesus. He is the way and the truth and the life. He is Lord over life and Lord over death. He is offering you infinite joy and incalculable strength. But only if you trust in Him. A final word to my family, the thesis of this entire message is summed up in one verse. Carry this with you in your hearts, it is my final exhortation to you: Nehemiah 8:10 Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord will be your strength. That is where Christ, Lindsey, and I are inviting you all and that is where I hope to meet you.

My family and I would like to extend a heartfelt and gracious thank you to everyone here, with special emphasis to First Baptist Church. I sat with my mother last night and watched her cry, not because of the death of her daughter, but because she could not find any words that she felt were adequate enough to convey to gratitude and appreciation that she has for all that you have done. Whenever such a love is shown, thank you just doesn’t cut it. But I would have you know the appreciation that her, my father, and Brent all feel is so deep, that it originates from an area of their hearts where no words exist, only pure, raw emotion. Thank you for extending the love of Christ to myself and my family. You have opened your doors, your arms, and your hearts to us all and we are beyond anything gratitude could express. Thank you.

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