Since we celebrated Easter not long ago, I thought I’d share the most heartfelt blog I’ve ever written. I wrote this in November 2009 after my father-in-law lost his battle with cancer. This was written out of the rawness of my grief, the deepest grief I’ve ever known up to that point of my life. But still because of Jesus – because of what we celebrate each year at Easter – there is hope!
It was a beautiful Friday afternoon in July. I sat in the nursery rocking Drew, 11 months old at the time, to sleep. I had taken the afternoon off when my husband Matt had called me telling me that his dad Mike had been sick, and bloodwork revealed there was illness. With Mike’s previous two bouts with cancer two decades prior, we knew it had returned.
As Drew lay peacefully in my lap, I found myself praying through tears, “Father, I know all things are for your glory, but for the life of me I cannot imagine Mike’s death being for your glory. Even so, it’s in your hands.”
Interrupting my prayer came words out of nowhere. This sickness will not end in death. My mind hadn’t even gone to any Bible verses, so I knew these words were not of my own thought process. I recognized the phrase coming from the New Testament, but I couldn’t even recall which story it was from. I knew from the bottom of my heart, and I had no doubt, that these words were from God.
As tests started to reveal more and more bad news, I started to believe that these words were given to me so that despite the reality, my role would be faith. Faith that this sickness would not end in death, no matter how dire the situation became.
I embraced my new role and kept the faith, praying for healing, knowing it would come in God’s time. As those difficult months became years, I found myself still keeping the faith, praying for healing, yet also questioning that perhaps I had misunderstood. After all, those words were from Jesus when Lazarus was sick, and Lazarus died before Jesus raised him from the dead. But throughout it all, I never doubted that the words were from God, even if I didn’t understand them completely. I finally accepted what Priscilla Shirer stated in her book Discerning the Voice of God, that you may never know if you truly heard from God until it comes to pass.
Then after two long years, again on a Friday afternoon, I found myself watching Mike taking his last breaths. As he did, I oddly did not feel the presence of God. I didn’t know why.
Two days later on Sunday morning, Drew, now 3, woke me up at 4 a.m. I couldn’t go back to sleep, so as the sun rose, I found myself alone and reading my Bible. I decided to go back to John chapter 11, where those words that I thought I had heard were located. As I intently read every word of that chapter, little nuggets of truth popped out at me, but when I read two verses, I found myself sobbing.
“Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?'” (John 11:25-26, emphasis mine).
“Never die!” “Never die!” Those words were so loud in my heart that I could feel them with every fiber of my being. The Mike I knew never died!
Through my tears it all became plain to me. The reason I felt so odd in the hospital as Mike drew his last breath is because death isn’t natural. It’s not the way God intended. Only after sin entered the world did death follow. The wages of sin is death… the words of the verse I had memorized as a child held new meaning now. Though the wages of sin is also spiritual death, I saw firsthand the wages of sin in the carnal sense. …but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. Mike’s soul never died because he accepted Jesus’s gift of salvation. I found myself having my own little worship service, praising God, thanking him for salvation. At this moment, it took on a whole new dimension in my life.
Then my heart reflected to those words I thought I had heard two years ago. This sickness will not end in death. They were, in fact, the words of God, straight to my heart. Two years ago, God had this very moment in mind for me, that I may see the big picture in a new way. That I may look upon my own salvation with a new thankfulness, and that I may find peace that though Mike’s body isn’t here, his soul never died. And it’s only because of Jesus’ gift that any of us who accepts it has assurance that we will never die.
What about the “why” question that seems to rear its ugly head? I won’t know all the answers until I meet Jesus, but I go back to that verse in John: “Jesus said, ‘This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it.'” (John 11:4)
One thing is for sure. God has been and will continue to be glorified through Mike’s illness and his physical death. And now Mike knows all the answers to the whys and is glorifying God that his sickness did not end in death.