Suffering has been a popular topic with my friends and family for the last few weeks. So today I’m posting one of the most popular posts on suffering from God Running. From the archives . . .
So in a previous post we saw my friend Mike’s miracle: how he had a heart attack but was healed. It really was remarkable the way things turned out. But when you read that post, you may have said in your head, “Yes, that’s great that your friend Mike was healed. But what about Christians who aren’t healed? What about Christians who have a thousand people praying for them, but then they die anyway?”
That’s a fair question.
Of course that happens often. By definition a miracle is something out of the ordinary, and ordinarily when someone has a terminal illness, they die, whether they’re a Christian or not. Here are a few things to consider concerning prayer, terminal injury or illness, and dying.
Jesus Christ Cares About You And Your Terminal Illness
When Jesus arrived on the scene after Lazarus died and he saw Lazarus’s sister grieving, “He was deeply moved in spirit and was troubled…” And he wept. And when Jairus’s only daughter, who was just twelve, died, Jesus responded. So God cares about your illness.
And we also know God cares about you personally because He gave His only Son to die, on your behalf, so you could be reconciled to Him, so you could spend eternity with Him. He paid the heaviest price, His own son’s life, so you could dwell with Him forever. (John chapter 11, Luke 8:40-56)
The Best Day Of Your Life
Because God gave His only Son to die to reconcile you to Him, the best day in the life of a Christian is the last day in the life of a Christian. Because that’s the day you enter into eternity with your Father and your Savior His Son. That’s the day you enter into heaven. We all want to enter in. And the process of dying is not the end, but it’s the way we enter in. For the Christian, death is without sting. For the Christian, death is birth, into heaven. I don’t know about you but for me, I don’t want to hang around on this earth forever. I want to die when God wants me to die. I want to experience heaven, with Him and His Son. (1 Corinthians 15:55-57)
In Hebrews the Bible says Jesus endured suffering and death on the cross for the joy set before Him. You can draw strength and endurance from the same source. Your joy awaits you, in heaven.
Your Illness Doesn’t Mean God Is Punishing
If you have a serious injury or illness that could end in death, one thing you need to know is that it doesn’t mean it’s a result of your sin. Each of our deaths is a part of God’s plan for us. God has decided we will all die of something. We’re all terminal, every one of us. Sometimes people experiencing the process of dying forget this and think their illness is because of past or present sin. But remember the blind man from John chapter 9. As Jesus passed by him Jesus’ disciples asked if he was blind because of his sin (or his parent’s sin–a popular idea at that time). Jesus said it was neither. Jesus said he was blind so God could be glorified. (John chapter 9)
Death is a part of God’s plan. And injury or a slow passing from illness is often the way it happens. We won’t know all the reasons why this side of heaven, but one reason is to glorify God. There are people who wouldn’t be influenced in the least by a healthy Christian leading a normal life, but some of those same people can see Christ in a Christian who is suffering and/or dying well.
I just read about a lady with terminal lung cancer who initially focused almost exclusively on her disease. Her prayers revolved around petition for healing. But over time she learned to take inventory on the good God sent her way. And she realized she was blessed way beyond what she previously thought. Her prayers changed and so did her attitude. Through thanksgiving she learned to lean on her Father one day at a time. The result was friends and family were blessed and inspired by her faith and her courage. She was transformed into the likeness of God’s Son as a result of her illness. (Romans 8:29) (Wylie)
Ed Dobson’s story is the same. His amazing film series is about dying over a period of years from ALS. If you’re interested, you can check it out here: Ed’s Story
And of course Jesus provides the ultimate inspiration for leaving a legacy of love through suffering and death. His suffering and death had the ultimate meaning. His suffering and death reconciled us to our Father. But your suffering and death has meaning too. Your suffering and death can draw the people in your circles closer to Christ.
So you have to ask yourself, “How do I want these years to be remembered after I die? And what do I want my last years to be like before I’m face to face with my Father in heaven?” If you really think it through, glorifying God in your illness is the answer to those questions.
The Bottom Line
One of the bottom line foundations of faith in Christ is the belief that God has your best interests at heart, even if you don’t understand what He is allowing to happen to you. “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” God tells us in Romans 8:28. Job displayed this kind of faith throughout the book of Job, but especially so when he said, “Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him…”
When life is through, at the end of the day, your greatest triumph in life will spring from your greatest trial in life: your death. When you’re really hurt, when it’s really ugly, when it’s really painful, when it totally seems unfair, choose to do what Job did. Ignore those who say, “Curse God and die.” Ignore those who say, “Stay home and watch Netflix–and die.” Trust God as Job did. Run toward Him as Job did. (Courson)
Job is one of the greatest men in history. We talk about Job today in these terms because Job did not curse God and die. (Job did not commit suicide. And if anyone had a good enough reason, Job did.)
So when that person, or that thought comes into your mind, the one that says, “Curse God and die.” The one that says, “Give up.” The one that says, “Quit.” Maybe it even says, “You’ve become a burden to the very people you love the most, they are better off without you.”
Don’t give up. Don’t quit. Don’t curse God and die. Stay, like Job stayed. And in the end, you’ll be great even as Job was great. You’ll enter into heaven with joy.
You’ll live to hear those words, “Well done good and faithful servant.” (Matthew 25:23)
What does the Bible say about coping/dealing with a terminal illness?, gotQuestions.org
Ed Dobson, Ed’s Story
Lorraine Wylie, Living With Terminal Illness, Rejoice Always
Jon Courson, 8/13/14 Bible study
Jim Davis, Why Me? (And Why That’s the Wrong Question), Leafwood, 2014
Image via Hartwig HKD – Creative Commons