I can’t say that I’ve audibly heard the Lord, but true to His promise in John 10:27, I’ve learned to hear His voice through scripture and that of the Spirit over the years.
On the evening of May 20th, 2016, I curled up with my Bible and journal in a friend’s house overlooking Lake Clark and the beautiful Alaskan mountain range I’d been living in for the last ten months. My term as a “missionary” within that remote village was coming to an end and my heart was pre-grieving my inevitable move. I read John 11 that night: “Jesus said to [Martha], ‘I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet he shall live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?” (11:25-26).
Did I believe this?
I contemplated my past year. I’d experienced death to self in new ways as I’d given up the job I’d loved in Denver, the opportunity to live with my best friends, and a relationship with a guy I adored to follow Jesus to work at a discipleship school in the scenic-middle-of-nowhere. In that season of personal death, I’d experienced a depth of joy in Christ that I couldn’t explain, but it was more than enough to prove to my own heart that His resurrection wasn’t limited to that of physical bodies.
I scrawled out “Jesus, make my heart believe” in the margin of my Bible. As I did so, I felt His voice deep in my heart— You’re entering a season of death, Kacy. You’re gonna be okay, but you’re going to experience death as you never have before.
I assumed this was a reference to the fresh wave of personal death I was anticipating as my departure date neared. I had no idea that as I was curled up in that chair, my best friend’s little brother, my “adopted brother”, Kevin, had been involved in a fatal motorcycle accident. I had no idea that my time in Alaska would screech to a close with a text message from my friend’s fiancé and the 2 AM purchase of a flight to Iowa.
As I read Martha’s words to Jesus in John 11:27, oblivious to our presently unfolding reality, the words “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died” were simply a part of her and Lazarus’ story. I had no idea that I would mull over those words again and again as I burned all of the belongings that wouldn’t fit into my suitcases and flew across the country the next day. In the days that followed, I sat next to Kevin’s casket at his viewing and prayed that Jesus would somehow resurrect our sweet brother as He had done for Lazarus later in John 11. Those prayers went seemingly unanswered and within the space of a few days the Lord instead began teaching me to pray, “To God be the Glory”. And so a few days later I threw flowers into a six-foot hole in the ground and picked up a shovel next to my best friend as we began to cover her brother’s casket with dirt.
Just as I was beginning to bring my heart to a place of believing Martha’s response to Jesus’ question in John 11 (“Yes, Lord; I believe You are the Christ, the Son of God, who is coming into the world”) and all of the implications of that statement, I got a phone call late one July evening that my childhood friend had unexpectedly died of cancer at the age of 23.
Five months later, I found myself on my knees next to my kitchen stove in Denver. From the other end of my phone a girlfriend in Alaska told me that our plane, containing four of our dear friends had gone missing and was presumed to have crashed into Lake Clark. That night, I took the book I’d been reading about grief since Kevin’s death out of my purse and I threw it against the wall of my bedroom while I screamed, “LORD, WHERE ARE YOU!?!? Why do you keep allowing this to happen? Is this what You meant when You said I was walking into a season of death?! Because I want out. I don’t want to do this anymore. I CAN’T DO THIS ANYMORE!”
I stayed on the phone with friends and search and rescue team members all through the night that night. We prayed Psalm 139 on repeat, asking for the darkness to be illuminated and for the Lord Who sees all to show someone, anyone where our plane was. As the days passed, the Lord changed my prayers to address the doubt and bitterness and anger in my own heart instead. As time went on I found myself praying the prayer from the margin of John 11— Jesus, make my heart believe that You are Good, that somehow this will be Good.
Eight months later, I sat in an ICU waiting room with my high schoolers as a former student died of a gunshot wound. Two weeks after that, I kissed my cousin’s forehead in a different ICU the day before she went home to Jesus.
That season that ended with my cousin’s death was unlike anything I’d ever experienced. The road to what the world calls “healing” and what I’ve begun to deem the ability to see Christ’s redemption and new life through repeated loss and tragedy has been long and winding.
Some days I am still the version of Martha internally screaming “What are you doing, Lord? Where are you!?” But in His mercy, Jesus has also allowed me to see my adopted mother with her hands held high in worship at her son’s funeral, praising the God who gives and takes away— a woman truly rejoicing in her sorrow, thanking the Lord for the ability to raise a young man who loved the Lord and all of us so stinkin’ well.
He has allowed the gospel to go out in Geno’s memory as the story of this young youth pastor who was faithful to the very end has been shared thousands of times online and in print.
I’ve watched as the gospel has been published in newspapers and proclaimed on television, reaching some of the most remote and spiritually dark parts of Alaska after the plane crash in December 2016. And I’ve had the honor to stand beside the son and brother of my friends who flew into Jesus’ arms that day as he has shared his testimony to crowds as close as Alaska and as far away as rural Cambodia. With tears streaming down his face, he always speaks of the grace of God and continuously ushers everyone who hears his story into the presence of Jesus.
While my prayers for Kevin to be resurrected Lazarus-style may not have been answered in May 2016, even today I can hear Jesus speaking to Martha and my own soul in John 11:40 when He says: “Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?”
Jesus, would You make our hearts believe.
Kacy Lou Leyba: [Kay-see Lou Lay-buh] (noun). Follower of Christ; wearer of many hats. While Kacy wears many hats, her favorites include a straw hat with a cute little bow and her proverbial “mom” hat. Kacy doesn't have any biological kiddos of her own, but the Lord is currently building her mamacita muscles as she principals a small Christian alternative school in the inner city of Denver. Kacy is passionate about finding the intersection of sorrow and joy within the gospel, education, aviation, missional living, and calling others into adventure with the Lord. Short biographies fail to incapsulate the weird hodgepodge that is her life, but you can find her stories at www.louiseinthelight.com or on Instagram @KassandraLouise.