Archive for the ‘death’ Tag

What do you say to a friend who just watched his father suffer and die from cancer?

I believe the Bible…that it is God’s word.  I study it and teach it and seek to know it by heart.  I have found great words of comfort in it.  Knowing that you are dealing with the suffering and death of your father I wanted to share with you some things that I hope will bring you comfort.  However, I cannot begin to understand what you have been through these past few days and weeks and months – so I will not belittle your suffering by saying I know what you’re going through.

How many times did we sing the words of Isaiah 43:1-3 when we were in InterVarsity together at JMU.  I know that like me, this passage is ingrained in your memory.  It is a passage that has been very much on my heart and in my thoughts for you these past weeks.  Here is what it says:

Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine.
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you;
When you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you.
For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.

Of course you know these words convey a spiritual reality.  The water and fire in this passage are a picture of suffering and trial and tribulation.  Isaiah speaks the words of the LORD to his people and says that when they go through suffering He will be with them.  Great suffering does not mean that God stops being the God of His people.  He redeemed them.  He called them by name.  They belong to Him!  They will still be His people.  He will still be their God.  Don’t let the suffering scare you.  If, at any point, you are overwhelmed in suffering the loss of your father, remember the promise in these verses – He redeemed you and you belong to Him.  The loss you are suffering at this moment and in your most quiet moments on the road ahead may be unspeakable, but God has not deserted you.  He is the LORD.  He is the Savior.  I pray that you will cry out to Him and find comfort in His presence and in His word.

Horatio Spafford lost four of his daughters when their boat sank in the middle of the Atlantic.  He was supposed to be with them on that boat to go on vacation.  He stayed in the U.S. to work, hoping to join them later.  When he got the news of their death he got on the first boat he could and made his way to the place where the ship, holding his daughters, went down.  At that place he wrote the words to the great hymn, “It Is Well”.  Looking out on the water of the Atlantic Ocean, where his four precious daughters suffered and died, and as he was suffering from this unspeakable loss, he sought comfort in the great truths expressed in this poem:

When peace like a river attendeth my way
When sorrows like sea billows roll
Whatever my lot, thou hast taught me to say
It is well, it is well with my soul

My sin, oh the depth of this glorious thought,
My sin, not in part but the whole,
Was nailed to the cross and I bear it no more
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, oh my soul

And Lord hast the day when my faith shall be sight
The clouds be rolled back as a scroll
The trump shall resound and the Lord shall descend
Even so, it is well with my soul

Spafford found, through this ordeal, that the LORD was teaching him the faith and ability to say, even in the midst of the rolling billows of sorrow, it is well.  Like Spafford, I pray that the God of all comfort would also be teaching you to say, it is well.  Where does that kind of faith and ability come from?  It comes from learning to trust in the timeless truth that Christ has borne all our sin in our place and that a day will come when that trust or that faith will become sight and you will see your Savior face to face.  I hope these glorious truths bring you comfort during these days.

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Death…Hell…Death…Hell…

I just recently got on Facebook. As I looked through the pictures of old friends and did some reminiscing, I thought of Adonirum Judson (this is random, I know, but stay with me). Adonirm Judson was one of the very first foreign missionaries to have departed American soil to go and share the Gospel with an unreached people group in Burma.

As I looked at Facebook and the pictures of old friends I thought of Adonirum Judson’s story. It is a striking story. When Judson was younger people were terrified of his brilliance. At the age of 12 he was teaching an adult Sunday School class the book of Revelation from the original Greek text. When he got to college, he began to think himself smarter than the God who made him (don’t we all) and he became a convinced deist (someone who believes in God but that God has no real impact on the affairs of mankind after his work in creation was complete – it is a denial of God as He is revealed in the Bible). He was a powerful debater and could knock the socks off of any of his Christian schoolmates. His roommate, Jacob Eames, came into school a convinced Christian and left a convinced deist and he credited Adonirum Judson with his conversion to deism. Judson’s parents prayed for him but dared not take him on in debate for fear they may lose their faith as well. The faculty at his college kept a close eye on him to see what their resident genius would finally do with his life. Later in his life he went to New York to join the theater.

After leaving the theater he went on a particular journey where he became very tired and stopped at an Inn to spend the night. The Innkeeper informed Judson that the Inn had no available rooms. However, after some insistence from Judson, the Innkeeper gave in and said that there was one available room. He wasn’t going to give out the room because there was a man in agonizing death pains and he feared it would bother anyone who tried to sleep in the adjacent room. Judson said he was so tired that he didn’t care about the noise of the dying man and so took the room. Judson lay in the bed most of the night listening to the screams of agony and the cursing misery of the man in the next room as he suffered the pangs of a lonely death. The sounds subsided and Judson eventually dosed off to sleep. He awoke the next morning and checked out. As he checked out he asked the innkeeper what became of the man in the room next to him. The innkeeper told Judson that the man had finally died in the early morning hours. Judson commented that this was a bad spot for the innkeeper: this strange man shows up at your inn and dies and now what do you do? So the innkeeper returned that he had been very perplexed as he went through the man’s possessions to find that this man was a very successful man having graduated from the college in Providence with honors, but now had died such a lonely and ignominious death. Judson said that he had graduated from the same school and the innkeeper said, “Well, perhaps you know this man’s family – his name was Jacob Eames.” Judson paused and said, “What did you say his name was?” The innkeeper replied, “Jacob Eames.” Judson got onto his horse and started to ride back, but he says he could not see in front of himself for the tears that had begun to pour down his face. As the tears fell he says, “two words were pounding into my heart as the hooves of the horse were pounding into the ground. And the two words were, ‘Death – Hell – Death – Hell – Death – Hell.’” He got off the horse and knelt down right there on the road and “repented bitterly” of his sin. He said, “Jacob Eames now lay delivering up an account of his own soul because I had knocked out any faith that he had in God.”

That’s where I was as I looked on Facebook at the lives of people who I had been in contact with when I was a younger man. How had my hypocrisy crippled any faith they had in God? How had my lack of compassion for them stripped them of hope in eternal life? How had my words caused suffering in their souls? How had my failures started them down a road from which they would not recover? Death – Hell – Death – Hell…

Oh God I pray, that by your mighty grace my shallow hypocrisy and my lack of compassion and my thoughtless words and my pitiful failures would be overcome in the lives of these people. For it is only by grace I have come this far and only by your grace that I can move from here and have any hope of being used by you to plead with people to cling to the cross and forsake sin. May I never again return to a life of shallow hypocrisy and unloving attitudes and thoughtless words and failures that are removed from your grace. May I live another 33 years to somehow, by your grace, make up for the damage my younger years may have done to the souls of men and women whose faces I now see in these pictures…