He knew something was wrong, something was ravishing his body; but they couldn’t find it. Frustration hounded him as symptoms made themselves known week by week. His friend, his doctor scheduled test after test with no abnormality manifesting itself. Life had become a series of strange occurrences and mad dashes to the emergency room in the middle of the night to shock a heart that was determined to run away with itself, to hopefully find the cause for excruciating pain with no apparent reason. Finally, lapses of memory and inability to communicate adequately became the challenges to be faced. When the culprit was finally found, a rampaging glioblastoma of the brain, there was no longer an option to surgically remove it. Our two oldest sons immediately came to Illinois to be with us as we met with the surgeon for the prognosis. As our sons, Pastor John and my husband and I stood in that room with the x-ray projected on the wall, the force that was taking my husband’s life was all too evident before us. We were told that radiation therapy would be offered to reduce some symptoms and perhaps slow the growth of the tumor, but there was no hope. He was given approximately 2-3 months to remain on earth.
How should one feel, or react when reality sets in and life’s end is definitely in sight with a time limit set? I have only been with one person in a situation like that, so I don’t know how typical his reaction was. He simply said “If this is what God has planned for me, let’s go home.” He then turned to his sons and said “LET’S GO WASH A WORM”! Everyone in that room shook their head at the very basic profession of faith by a dying man. With the time he had left, he wanted to be home, more immediately to spend time with the sons who would be boarding a plane to return to California in a couple of days, doing something he had always enjoyed doing with his children – fishing. I don’t have a clue what conversation transpired that afternoon between a dying man and his sons, but knowing the man he was, he would want to be sure his sons knew how much they were loved by their dad before they left him.
In the next few weeks after the diagnosis and the surgery, our friends, church family, close relatives, employees, coworkers, neighbors and pastors formed a constant vigil at our home. Some entered with only a need to help in any way they could, others came manifesting love for a generous and giving man. Some came with defiant faith, bold prayers and declarations such as “you shall live and not die and see the salvation of the Lord”. Others brought food to relieve the need for cooking. Some came like Bildad did to Job, “if you would earnestly seek God and make your supplication known to the Almighty, surely He would awaken….” (Job 8:5-6)
Knowing without a shadow of a doubt that God can heal if it was His plan, my husband lifted his eyes and faced his death with unwavering faith and dignity. The sovereignty of God had always been a bulwark of our faith and that He knows from the formation in the womb, the length of our days here on earth and the unique journey He has designed for each of us. Our faith also rests in the fact that we dwell in “temporary tents” as Paul calls our earthly dwellings in 2 Cor.5. Because of these foundational truths, we found that as the darkness closed in and death loomed on the horizon, the presence of God was sweeter, more tangible. We found that during these times, the light that God has placed within us had the ability to shine brighter than ever before because of that very darkness.
Just as Job declared in 10:11-12 that God had granted him life and favor and had preserved him. The Hebrew word for preserved is Shamar and means guardian, watchman, shepherd. Psalm 121:4 says He never slumbers or sleeps on His watch. We most often don’t understand God’s ways, but He is always just and has our best interest in mind. A man sits in our church today because of a day he spent in a hospital room with my husband, being the recipient of his desire to share God’s love. I’ve learned to pray for healing, but if suffering seems to be God’s plan, pray for joy to come from it.
Build your foundation in God secure, put your roots deep in the Word so that when storms come and the strong winds blow, you can stand in the knowledge that your Shamar, your on guard Shepherd will never lapse in His care!