There’s nothing like a diagnosis of a potentially serious disease to bring you face to face with your mortality. In my case… it was breast cancer. All the wondering ahead of time about how I would take the news if it happened someday did nothing to prepare me for the reality.
It’s both way more complicated and yet, strangely simpler than I had imagined.
I remember wondering as a child why the people I knew who called themselves Christians seemed to get so worked up about actually dying. I mean, if Heaven is as great as we say it is and if we love Jesus more than we love anyone else than why wouldn’t we be happy about it when it finally happens? Simplistic, I know, but do you ever wonder about that too?
I mean, why the desperate hanging on to life, no matter how wonderful a one we have been blessed with, if we really believe that God has a better, eternal place for us? Might the answer be because we actually don’t, in our heart of hearts, believe exactly that?
In some ways I’ve felt double-minded about the whole thing… kind of hypocritical, actually. On one hand I’ve sung my share of praises and love songs to Jesus that proclaim my longing for Him and seeing Him face-to-face while trying to ignore a heart-thudding fear of actually going there anytime soon.
In fact, the words in 2 Corinthians 5:6-8 (ESV) that say, “So we are always of good courage. We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, for we walk by faith, not by sight. Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord,” weren’t an accurate description of the way I felt about dying at all.
Because, no, I actually couldn’t say with any degree of truthfulness that I had felt courageous about dying. I knew that as a believer in Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior that I was supposed to, but the fact was that I wasn’t.
And I felt guilty about it all the time. Why? Because deep down in my heart I knew that I wasn’t willing or ready to “be away from the body and at home with the Lord.” I knew that I was quite happy to be in my body for as long as possible because I have plans for the here and now:
- I so very much long to enjoy the retirement years with the love of my life, my husband of thirty-eight years. We’ve talked and dreamed about what those years might look like with a hopeful assumption that we would get to enjoy them… together. (We have an agreement between us that is only half-joking; I’m supposed to die first because we both agree that he would do better as the surviving partner. It’s selfish on my part, but what can I say… I’ve loved this man since I was fourteen!)
- I have seven children. Our four oldest have presented us with 17 grandchildren and we are over the moon excited about the newest baby arriving in September! That’s a lot of sweet blessings to love and hug and buy birthday and Christmas presents for and I would like to continue doing so for as long as possible. Plus, my three youngest children are unmarried and who knows how much more grand baby potential God may bless our family with over the years!
- And I want to enjoy the new freedom in Christ that I have been experiencing through the work of redemption and healing of heart wounds that Jesus has been doing in my life over the last decade… on this side of glory. I’ve had moments of deep joy sweep over me in the realization that my Heavenly Father has allowed me to live long enough to experience this measure of His grace poured out towards me and I’m honestly curious to see how much more of becoming Christ-like He has in store for me.
So when my recent diagnosis of cancer a few weeks ago first became a strong possibility, and not quite a week later, a definite fact, I was pleasantly surprised to find that some major changes had occurred in my heart. The lifelong fear of dying had been replaced by an incredible peace about the future… even the going-to-Heaven-maybe-sooner-than-I-had-anticipated part!
I am experiencing a joy-filled place of resting in the plan of Jesus for my life that feels authentic and deep and strong, and that I know without a doubt can only come from God.
“for I know that through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ this will turn out for my deliverance, as it is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” (Philippians 1:19-21 ESV)
It is my prayer that God will give me the courage I need to honor Jesus in my body… in health, in sickness, or in death. Because I truly want the beautiful proclamation found in Philippians 1:21, “For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain,” to be true of me.
Because He loves us, oh, so much… Wendy