There is nothing like gazing into the face of intense pain to make one feel inadequate. I’m not saying my faith is shaken; God is still God, and Jesus has still forgiven my sins. He still promises that all things work for the best, and these promises are good and true and God keeps them. Truth doesn’t change just because someone you love is in pain — but it can make it so hard to articulate that truth in a way that seems meaningful.
Several of my members were ambulanced to hospitals this past week. This is nothing new; sin means people get hurt and sick. I’ve been to the hospitals here in town many times and know my way around fairly well. I’ve delivered any number of devotions at hospital bedsides and simply held hands as people groaned in pain.
This weekend I faced something new to me (though I know pretty much every pastor faces it sooner or later): A Christian woman who longed, ached to simply go home. Her husband has preceded her to heaven. She knows her children are in good standing through the miracle of faith. She is in pain. Her body is shutting down. She has lived a full, full life and now longs to be with Jesus. Through tears she asked me, “Why won’t he let me go Home?”
I don’t have an answer for her. I don’t know why God has made the decision for her to remain here longer. I know that it brings glory to God. I know that his choice is best for this woman, her family, the doctors, and her congregation. I know that God in his mercy has prepared a place for her in heaven and it awaits her arrival. I know all these things… but no human can say why God has elected to allow her to remain in pain on this earth this much longer.
I left the hospital in tears. That’s not normal for me. I know the goodness of my God. I deliver that love whenever and wherever I can. That’s not to say that I leave people in pain smiling and laughing for joy, but usually I’m pretty even-keel.
Not that day.
Our prayer that day was simple: “Father, we commit her soul to you. Do with it what is best and give peace to her in your decision.”
God knows what he’s doing. My bumbling doesn’t change that. I really wish I was better at communicating his love at such a time, though.