Every one of us has walked up to the valley of the shadow of death with a loved one, hoping, praying, trusting God to deliver our cherished friend or family member from death’s domain, believing assuredly that God can do whatever He chooses; that God answers prayer; that all matters including life and death are in His hands which do His sovereign bidding, and that death can only claim anyone when and if it is in His plan and purpose for that soul. This we believe if we believe His Holy Word.
We have, through prayer, seen people snatched from the very jaws of death, people whom the doctors had given little if any hope for and had discontinued any medical intervention except to keep the suffering soul as comfortable as possible. And, contrary to any and every scientific or medical explanation the subject not only revived but lived many years following that dread diagnosis.
We have, on the other hand, been aware of persons who were sick, but responding to prescribed treatments, making progress with every promise of recovery, take a sudden and serious turn for the worse that proved to be tragic and terminal bringing almost unbearable sadness and shock to a hopeful waiting cadre of praying loved ones, friends and family.
God has His purposes. Not all sickness is unto death, but every human being will ultimately die, save those living at the time Christ’s Church is raptured because death entered into the world as a consequence of sin, and the last enemy of human-kind to be destroyed will be death, and death is often accompanied by sometimes painful and prolonged sickness.
We lost an eleven-year-old grandson to death from a ruptured appendix, a pretty uncommon cause of death in children. It was in 2007 during the month of February when the flu was rampant, and his siblings were suffering with it. Doctors and nurses opined that what David was suffering from was the flu also; but discovered too late that it was not the flu and that what he was suffering from was lethal by the time medical personnel were able to determine what the real cause was. We begged God to spare David’s life. I asked God to take mine and let David live. A memory that I will go to the grave with is our daughter, David’s mother, crawling up into what would be David’s death bed to lie beside her suffering boy as he was departing from this world. We knew God could have saved him from dying; but He had a master plan for David’s life and His ways are perfect so we, with sorrow that was not without hope, trusted our great God in His perfect wisdom, knowing He makes no mistakes.
In the summer of 2019, my wife underwent a surgery that revealed she had a rare cancer, requiring another surgery to see if it had spread and ultimately a third surgery within the span of a year. Before the second surgery Ellen requested that our deacons meet privately with us for the specific purpose of praying over her sick body. It was a brief meeting following a regular evening service, with a few deacons, myself and the then Assistant Pastor Joel Stevens present. We were claiming, with Ellen, James 5 :16 which says the “effectual, fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much,” and James 5 :15 which also says the “prayer of faith shall save the sick.” We either prefaced or closed our prayer time with Jesus’s words, “Nevertheless, not my will, but thine be done,” ready to accept whatever God would choose to grant us. The surgery revealed that her original cancer had not spread for which we were deeply grateful to God. The skilled surgeon said, “This type of cancer usually comes back within a 24-month time frame if it does come back; and if it does reappear in that time period it is almost always terminal.” Ellen just passed her 15-month check-up and remains cancer free. She attributes it to God’s answers to many prayers; and she also acknowledges that we have prayed the same prayers for many of our dearest family members who were not healed. We can only conclude that “He is the Rock, His work is perfect: for all His ways are judgment: a God of truth and without iniquity, just and right is He.” (Deut. 32:4)
In the midst of a world-wide flu pandemic with more than a quarter of a million U.S. deaths attributed to Covid-19 we have all interceded for loved ones who either have or have had the virus; most survive the deadly disease, but a good many do not. We know that God’s purposes are pure; that our times are in His hands, (Ps. 31:15) and that none of us has the promise of another day. We live in the light of His soon coming when “there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.” (Rev. 21:4). Even so, come, Lord Jesus.
“Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits: Who forgiveth all thine iniquities; who health all thy diseases: Who redeemeth thy life from destruction; who crowneth thee with lovingkindness and tender mercies.” (Ps. 103:3,4)