What would you do if you were told you only had two more years to live? How would that impact your view on life, your priorities and your actions? In this week’s ProMinistry article, author Sau-Wing shares the inspirational stories of two individuals who struggled with these questions and found their answer in their faith in Christ.
Last time I wrote about how my parents, who are devout Christians, handle their death preparations. Because of their trust in Jesus Christ who has overcome death and promised us eternal life, Christians have a very different view regarding death. Such an assurance of eternal life has given them hope and joy to face the horror of death. Below I want to share with you two real cases of how ordinary Christians faced their deaths.
The Story of Maria
Maria was a gregarious young student when I met her at a small community college in the Central Valley of California nearly 30 years ago. She had come from Hong Kong to join her brother, who was my college roommate at the time. I remember her as a cheerful and energetic person who always had a warm smile. I transferred away a year later and lost contact with her.
Two years ago, a friend of mine told me about Maria. She had become a nurse, got married and started a family. My friend also told me that Maria had terminal cancer. It turned out that sometime around mid-1998, she was suddenly diagnosed with late stage ovarian cancer. There was never any warning, and for a nurse it was a hard fact to swallow. This news devastated her and her family. When I contacted her, she was undergoing intensive and debilitating chemotherapy treatment. Her condition was up and down for about two years, but slowly it deteriorated. Maria passed away in June 2000 at age 48.
During the two years when she struggled with cancer, Maria had re-discovered her faith in Jesus Christ. It began when she questioned how a loving God could inflict such suffering on her. She went through dark periods of depression, bitterness and doubts. But she finally found meaning and hope amidst her despair. Eight months before she died she sent me the following e-mail titled “I got it":
“I have found God, He lives inside me and He is working within me. Before I asked why I cannot feel God. Now I can feel His presence. He is working quietly, patiently with love. Today I feel joy, peace and love. I am not afraid of anything. I know He is guiding me. I am communicating with Him. Praise the Lord!!! My feelings may fade away, but I know they will be back."
When I visited Maria a few months before she died, she was in great pain. All the therapies had been unsuccessful, so there was no hope of recovery. Yet her spirit was very upbeat. She said she was prepared to leave, and she had joy and hope because she knew where she was going. That was the last time I saw her on this earth, although I am certain that one day I am going to see Maria’s smiles again in heaven.
The Story of Glenn
Glenn Britt was a successful contractor who was a “marginal Christian". He lived a materialistic life style, and had no heart (or time) for any spiritual matters until he discovered that he had terminal colon cancer in 1997. In the next two years, he re-evaluated his life and re-dedicated himself to Christ. He was a changed person, and his testimony had a tremendous influence on those around him. He wrote the following message to all his friends and relatives:
If cancer is the catalyst that causes one to turn to God in final desperation and say, “God, I have nowhere else to go, nowhere else to turn, here I am, take me," then, my friend, cancer is the greatest gift you will ever receive from God.
Whatever your circumstances are – illness, an abusive relationship, or any circumstance which drives you to despair – that very despair which leaves you with only one door left to open becomes the key to the only door with anything of value behind it.
Our God is wonderful, He is marvelous, and He is beyond our imagination. And yet, He loves us and draws us, through the most wonderful gifts, unto Himself.
Jeremiah 33:2-3: Thus saith the LORD the maker thereof, the LORD that formed it, to establish it; the LORD is His Name; Call unto Me, and I will answer thee, and show thee great and mighty things, which thou knowest not.
So whatever your personal trial, know that it is in reality your opportunity to come to know Him better. To give the whole mess of your life over to the only one who can make it new. To discover, in the eye of the storm, a peace that passeth all understanding, a joy that is so unspeakable.
To know that you have come close to God, and realize, that without those circumstances bringing you to despair and causing you to cry out to God, you would never in your own self-sufficiency have called out to Him.
Only then can you see cancer as the greatest gift that you will ever receive.
Only then can you have a dim glimpse of your loving Father’s infinite wisdom in His methods of drawing His errant child to Himself.
Less than three years after Glenn Britt wrote the above, he went to be with the Lord on 9/24/1999 at age 54.
Maria and Glenn were blessed in that even though they walked through the shadow of the valley of death, they had rediscovered their faith in Christ. Such faith sustained them to life’s very end, and had made the last part of their lives shine even brighter than before. We all have to face our own death some day. What a greater blessing it would be if we can commit our lives to Christ right NOW, rather than waiting until our time on earth is running out? “For he says, ‘In the time of my favor I heard you, and in the day of salvation I helped you.’ I tell you, now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation." (2 Cor. 6:2)