A friend died of a stroke last weekend. And it has caused a strange unsettled feeling in me.
I first got to know Dena when she was a teacher at a Christian school run by the church where I worked. One day she asked Melanie and I to pray for her upcoming surgery. It would entail a long recovery. In fact, there would be no real recovery for her. She ended her days – more than a decade – in a nursing home, half crippled, disabled.
The day she asked our prayers I remember I suggested to her that the Lord was calling her to spend the time simply worshiping him. I suppose she did this, as she was a strong Christian. I just didn’t expect it would be for the rest of her days on a hospital bed. This was years before I had heard anything about Contemplative Prayer. I now think this was what the Holy Spirit was prompting me to express to her at the time. But at the time, it surprised me even as I heard myself speaking to her about the idea.
For a brief while, Melanie and I visited her. Then we stopped. It was too hard. I felt too helpless.
I am glad to say Dena had better friends who stayed in touch and kept visiting her year after year. I had not thought about her even as a stroke removed me from my former life seven months ago.
Then I learned an additional stroke had released her to Jesus.
I had mixed feelings. I have no doubt, and I rejoice, that Dena finally can stand before her Savior and Lord, free of suffering. Hallelujah!
But my thoughts also kept turning back to her years of suffering, unrelieved on earth. And I didn’t know what to make of that. I found myself still complaining about that, even though for Dena it was now all over, forgotten, forever.
I think it may be what Paul spoke about in Romans 7.
22. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law;
23. but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members.
That war I faced was, I think, the stand off between the natural man and the spiritual man. The Stomach God only understands immediate gratification. The delayed rewards, promised to the Spirit Man, of hope and faith, do not compute or satisfy at the natural level of our lives.
Another friend who has suffered many years with a variety of health problems likes to post pithy one-liners on Facebook. This day I found his most recent one:
You can’t trust if you don’t know you are loved and you can’t know you’re loved if you don’t spend time with the one you want to trust.
Another reason to long for an eternity in the presence of Jesus. Thank you, Lord Jesus, that Dena’s waiting is over. It was more than I could stand. Lord Jesus Christ, Son of David, have mercy on me while I still wait for you.