Posted in Blog posts

A Faith to Live By Is a Faith to Die By

Last night I dreamed about my dad. It’s strange, because although he passed away eleven years ago next month, this is probably only the third time I’ve dreamed about him. It’s odd when it happens; I wake up and realize it was a dream, but it feels so fresh and real that it rips open the hole that I had finally gotten all boarded up. My dad and I had a pretty complicated relationship, but I still miss him. If he were here now, we’d have a great time catching up and talking for several hours, but then we would need a break. That’s just reality. But I’d be willing to give it a go anyway.

 One thing that was of utmost importance to my dad when he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer was to finish well. He knew he was in for some hard times and he needed to know that his faith would remain strong, that what he had lived his life by would be sufficient when it was time to suffer and then to die. I remembered that recently as I was thinking about the reality that many face with coronavirus.

If you know that you’re one of the vulnerable ones, that if you get the virus you will likely die, it’s easy to become fearful. That is true of me. I have an underlying medical condition and I am immune suppressed. My husband has acted as the royal guard, not allowing me to come in contact with anyone who has the remotest possibility of exposing me to the virus. I’ve gone from denial: it’s ridiculous – that’s not going to happen; to fear: what if it did happen – I could really die; to acceptance: I’m doing what I can and being sensible and trusting God. 

I don’t mean to sound overly dramatic, but I had a moment where I did actually consider my own death. Even though I’ve lost both my parents and have been sick enough before that I too could have died, I don’t think I have ever pondered my death. I don’t like to think about it. I don’t want to die and, to be honest, it scares me. 

You have to be careful saying that around some Christians because you might get a scolding. Christians aren’t supposed to be afraid to die, right? Maybe. But I think it’s pretty human to carry that fear. For one thing, there’s a lot in this life you don’t want to miss out on. Plus, you don’t REALLY know what’s on the other side. You believe; you have faith; you trust; you “know.” But there’s always that tug of doubt.

As I wrestled with these thoughts about death, I had the realization that faith doesn’t mean you never doubt. All the major heroes of the Bible had periods of doubt, even some in listed in Hebrews 11, the “faith chapter.” I also fully believe that the Lord gives grace for the moment. He will not leave his children when it’s time for them to die, especially if they have to suffer. If we have a faith worth living by, we will also have a faith worth dying by.

By God’s grace, my dad succeeded in holding onto his faith right up to the end. He was a witness for the Lord in the months and weeks leading up to his final days. As he got closer to death, and delirium set in, he “talked to” loved ones who had already passed and “saw” beautiful sights. He had moments of presence during which he got to say goodbye to his family members. His final words were, “I love you, baby doll” to his wife. He asked that at his funeral 2 Timothy 4:6-8 be read to the family after all the guests had exited. Verse 7 says, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” It was a wonderful testimony. His faith was enough to live by and also enough to die by.

As I worked through all this in my mind, I felt at peace. I’m done pondering my own death for now, thank goodness. For anyone who doesn’t have that luxury at the present moment, I pray that you will find peace, comfort and trust through the Lord Jesus Christ and that your faith in him will sustain you. If you haven’t come to faith in him call on his name. He said, “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” (John 11:25-26).

Posted in Blog posts

Giving God Control

The day my oldest daughter had a baby is a day forever imprinted in my memory. Since he was the first grandchild on both sides of his family, his arrival caused quite a stir. Family members began to gather in the labor and delivery waiting room at the hospital, all grinning broadly and twittering with joy and excitement. None of us, however, could have anticipated at that moment the sine wave of emotions that was ahead. The events of that day left me feeling powerless and out of control, yet as a person of faith, I learned once again that in life’s scary moments, God will provide peace if we trust Him with our burdens.

Around two a.m., my youngest daughter woke my husband and me with a giddy whisper, “Mom, Dad, Emily’s water broke! They’re heading to the hospital!” 

We were instantly awake and discussing plans. Though we wanted to immediately hop into the car and make the two-hour drive, we knew it was impractical. My husband, an eye surgeon, was obligated to see his post-surgical patients in clinic that morning, but would need to make arrangements for the remainder of clinic to be canceled. Besides, my daughter, a very private person, did not want anyone in the labor room with her, so while we wanted to be close by, we would, in essence only be hurrying up to wait.  

“We might as well try to get some sleep,” we reasoned. Yeah, right.

Several hours later when we all finally arrived at the hospital, we found my son-in-law’s family already there. Most of us held our phones in our laps, snatching them up with each buzz, hungry for the slightest morsel of news. Though we calmly made small talk, it was quite evident that our insides were all butterflies and grasshoppers. 

“It looks like delivery is a few hours away,” observed Emily’s father-in-law after reading a message from his son. “Would you all want to go grab some lunch?”

Forks clinked against plates, conversation flowed freely, and laughter filled the room as we shared not only the meal, but also a spirit of kinship and family. Just as lunch concluded, word came that my daughter was almost ready to start pushing. We quickly gathered up and hurried back to the hospital.

The news, as it turned out, belied what was to come, and as the minutes ticked into hour upon hour, anticipation turned to apprehension, joy to concern. We hung on each new bit of information. 

“Her labor has stalled.”

“They are trying different labor positions and administering a drug.” 

Finally, “Progress is being made!”

Then, “Actually, no, the baby’s head is too large to fit into the birth canal.”

I had so hoped and prayed that she would not have to have a C-section, but after twenty-four hours of labor, that was the only option remaining. Unable to sit, I took the elevator down to the cafeteria and absently scanned the menu. Choosing French fries for their munchable quality, I chewed each fry like a rabbit would a carrot and tried to control my nerves. Eventually, I made the trek back to the waiting room to sit on the edge of my very uncomfortable seat.

By this point, we had all been at the hospital for fourteen hours or more, and the siblings had to leave. We four parents were the only family members – in fact, the only people at all – still in the waiting room. We began to speak of our worry, of the percentages and likelihoods (the father-in-law is a doctor too), of our kids’ exhaustion and courage. There were unspoken things as well. I felt powerless. I could do nothing to help. I could not, according to my daughter’s own wishes, even see her, hold her hand, caress her face, smooth her hair. Her husband was to be her comfort in that moment of intimacy; it was their time. Although I know her well, and I understood her need for privacy, it increased my anxiety and left me in a sort of limbo. I could not leave the hospital. I could not distract myself. I could not sleep. 

Ultimately, we parents joined hands and hearts in prayer for our precious treasures. We prayed for the doctor and the nurses too. We did aloud what we had all been doing silently in our hearts all day, giving the matter to God yet again. In that moment of unity and agreement together in prayer, we felt peace. In that deserted, stiff, non-conducive waiting room in the hospital, our hope was renewed. Soon after, I lay down across the bench and dozed. When I woke, news came that, after nearly twenty-six hours, the baby was finally born, and both mom and baby were fine.

While life provides us with many joyful moments, there are also many times when we may feel out of control or powerless. During the birth of my grandchild, a very joyous occasion, I felt powerless to ease my daughter’s suffering or to assist in any way. I felt out of control when worry and anxiety were beginning to gain the upper hand. When we prayed, I trusted God with my fears. Afterward, I felt God’s peace wash over me. At that moment, I was reminded that God is available to hear prayers and will provide strength and comfort as we place our burdens on His all-powerful shoulders.