In describing what a “successful” life looks like, many people think of showy achievements such as wealth or prestige. But in God’s kingdom, “success” often looks very different. Biblically, our scale of impact is not measured by our length of years or outward prosperity but by fruitfulness. God delights not in human strength or glory but in those who trust Him (Psalm 147).
For Zailey Zastrow, though her impact may have gone unnoticed by the broader world, she shone with God’s grace in a way that profoundly touched the lives of her parents, Brendon and Sarah Zastrow, and everyone else who knew her. She lived by this truth: we may face extremely difficult circumstances, but it’s what we do with those circumstances that counts.
From a young age, Zailey was a competitor who lived life to the fullest. When she bent her mind towards something, she fought for it. Yet she also promoted the success of those around her, giving encouraging notes, gestures of kindness, and uplifting words.
At the age of twelve, on attending a fine arts summer camp, Zailey felt a deep tug towards working in ministry. But not long after this, she also received the news that would change everything.
Zailey attended Dream City Christian School, where her father, Brendon, was on the board. Three weeks into her fall school year, Zailey began experiencing health problems and was sent to the Children’s Hospital for testing. After a full day of testing, Zailey and her parents received the news…
Zailey was diagnosed with a rare form of Leukemia.
A Light in the Darkness
From that day forward, Zailey knew her battle was not only physical but spiritual. The first thing she did was not give up. She didn’t indulge in self-pity. Zailey showed immense courage and her fierce, competitive spirit didn’t abandon her now.
Though her body suffered, you would never have known it. Determined still to pursue her calling towards ministry, Zailey spent her spare time writing sermons and even had the opportunity to join Pastor Tommy on stage to speak one Sunday.
Even when facing the most difficult circumstance life can bring, Zailey had a different perspective. She longed to share her message of joy and courage in the midst of trials with others who might be suffering. When other children might have understandably lost courage, Zailey never abandoned her positive, joyful spirit and deep concern for others.
Brendon and Sarah walked through this grief, and even after finally losing their daughter, they knew they would never survive apart from Christ and apart from their church community. They decided not to “grieve as others who have no hope” (1 Thessalonians 4:13) but instead to keep their perspective rooted firmly in Christ.
They understood that this was a battle for their family, their marriage, and their faith. In facing what might be the greatest grief, instead of shutting people out, the Zastrows allowed the church community into their lives to help uphold them through this time. Their church community proved to be the hands and feet of Christ, lifting them up, and encouraging them.
The Zastrows knew there was no way to make it through such a dark time without hope and faith, without finding a deeper perspective, and without their church community. When Zailey lost her battle against cancer, she didn’t lose the greatest battle. She finished her race, and her short life deeply impacted the church and the people around her.
Having endured an unspeakably difficult circumstance, the Zastrows remember their daughter with courage and with hope, knowing that this is not goodbye; this is only a temporary parting.
The Zastrow’s Story is from our Hope Heroes video series, where we share real-life stories of healing and hope through Jesus Christ. To view and subscribe to our Hope Heroes YouTube Channel, click here.