Impending Death … and Hope (Prayer Devotional for the week of March 15, 2015)

I received some devastating news this week about an old mentor and kind friend. As things stand now, it looks like she has advanced pancreatic cancer that has spread to her liver. I am terribly sad, and yet I feel a strong sense of peace for her. She loves the Lord, she adores her family, and she cares about her fellow man. She is passionate about justice, and not just the kind that penalizes criminals for wrongdoings, but the kind that rights the wrongs in the world. She is an advocate, a brilliant thinker, and a confidante.

 

I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but unless Jesus returns to take us home before then, there is a 100% chance that you will die. How does that make you feel? Does the notion of dying fill you with dread or joy? Like it or not, as James 4:14 and Psalm 103:15-16 point out, our lives are like a mist puffed into the air or a dandelion blowing in the wind – only temporary.

 

While imprisoned for the gospel, Paul wrote in Philippians 1:21, “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.” He had a very matter-of-fact view about death: if he lived, then he had more opportunity to serve the Lord. If he died, then he got to be with Jesus. Win-win!

 

For a long while after my brother died, I had peculiar feelings that could only be described as jealousy. I hesitated to share it, because I didn’t want anyone mistakenly thinking that I was suicidal. It’s just that the more I thought about him being in the very presence of God in heaven, it felt like I got the short end of the stick. I/we were left behind to grieve and cope, to continue living in this broken world of sin and despair and problems, while he was free from such entanglements. How I long to be with Christ!

 

Easter is just around the corner, and it is my absolute favorite holiday. Sure, I love the festivities of Christmas, and I enjoy the spirit of Thanksgiving, but wow – Easter! Easter is a reminder that this world is not our home (Philippians 3:20). Easter is about the resurrection, newness, eternal life, victory, and HOPE.

 

It is with this everlasting hope in my heart that I can say to my sweet friend: Go in peace. Go to Jesus, relish in his presence, and enjoy the reward for your labors. I will always cherish having the opportunity to know you and call you my friend.

Discussing Dark Things (Prayer Devotional for the week of August 17, 2014)

Our Lord is an awesome, miracle-working God who loves, heals, saves, and provides for us, yet I also believe that he entrusts us with imagination and knowledge to develop and invent things to make our lives better. Thanks to modern medicine, for example, I feel pretty confident that I can take ibuprofen when I have a headache, and it will go away. Most Christians would not criticize my faith for taking a couple of over-the-counter pills to alleviate minor aches and pains.

 

Of course, we still pray for healing – and we’ve witnessed God do remarkable things! – yet, cancer patients still go through chemotherapy treatment. We ask God for provision, yet we still take insulin, blood pressure medication, multivitamins, etc. to keep our bodies regulated properly. Why then, when we have access to pastoral and professional counseling, not to mention a wide array of medications, do we often brush off diseases of the heart … or, to call a spade a spade: mental illnesses? Why do we only really talk about dark things when a celebrity dies, yet people all around us are suffering every day from the same problems?

 

If you want to read about a guy who had a lot to cope with in his adult life, check out 2 Corinthians. In chapter 11:23-27, we learn that Paul was flogged with 39 lashes (the max was 40) on FIVE separate occasions. Can you imagine the rumpled scars on his poor back? And that’s only part of the story: in the first chapter of his letter, Paul explained that things had gotten so bad on one of his journeys that he felt like he’d been sentenced to death row and didn’t even know if he’d make it home alive.

 

Paul didn’t have the advantage of modern medicine to help manage any anxiety or depression that he may have suffered from, but one thing he tried to do was to surround himself with supportive, godly people. Repeatedly in his letters that we read in the New Testament, Paul recognized various individuals and expressed his appreciation for them or asked others to pass messages of encouragement along to them.

 

Depression is a monstrous liar, and I can’t pretend to understand it any more so than a naturally skinny person can understand what it’s like to live in my body. We think we know how to “fix” each other, but we don’t truly know what it is like to live in another’s skin. All we can do is support each other. I would submit that it is much more difficult to drown out the lies when you are alone than when you are immersed within a caring community. If you are dealing with issues of the heart, talk to a pastor or life group leader, and let them know what you are suffering. Don’t go it alone; people do want to help.