There’s nothing like sitting in a hospital waiting room to remind you of the fragility of life. Before the Fall, life wasn’t fragile. Imagine that. But now, it is so very easily broken, maimed, and extinguished. The hope of the resurrection is that God has conquered death. Yet, we have not yet seen everything submit to Him (Hebrews 2:8). I’ve faced this truth again and again the last few years, as many readers have.
My family has sat vigil for me in hospital waiting rooms multiple times over the last 2 years. But today, I sit waiting on my son, in the OR having his ear drum replaced. It’s same day surgery. We should go home this evening. But his ear has a problem that we realize now will be chronic. He will need more surgeries over the next few years, and we have the chance of all of this recurring in his 20s, and again in his 30s, and so forth. His ears have a problem men can not yet permanently solve.
Loved ones pray. Friends tell me God will heal him. But I know that he’s actually quite likely to have lifelong problems with his ears and hearing. I sit here wearing an insulin pump, on daily medicine to keep cancer at bay. I understand chronic illness, limping along, not in hope of earthly healing but heavenly one. Maybe I’ll get a new pancreas. Maybe my cancer will never reoccur. But, most likely, I’ll die with, or from, these diseases.
It’s sobering to watch my son face chronic illness too.
I have hope beyond my own life. I pray now the same for my son. He’s a great kid with a sincere personal faith. And now he begins that great life-long lesson – this world is not your home. The end goal of life isn’t healing on earth. This life is work. Heaven is our retreat. Heaven is our reward. God’s story for my son (or myself) doesn’t stop making sense when we have issues from which we are not healed. The one whose life ends early isn’t taken too soon. The one who lives longer doesn’t necessarily have a more important impact in the Kingdom. Both Betsie’s and Corrie Ten Boom’s lives played a role in God’s longer story. As did Jim Elliot’s and Billy Graham’s. The final sum of the impact of short or long lives is not necessarily the one we recognize on earth. It’s the one that resonates in heaven.
I heard that someone asked Edith Schaeffer (wife of Francis Schaeffer) who, in her opinion, was the godliest woman alive. Her reply was that she didn’t know, as that woman was quietly worshiping God as she dies of cancer in a third world country. Her point was that great godliness and purpose in God’s kingdom is lived out in daily, quiet faithfulness–in perseverance in the faith in the long, hard slog of life, not with the accolades for or resolutions to suffering for which we often long.
Where do you see yourself in God’s long story? Is it your story or God’s? Do you feel forgotten when situations remain unresolved on earth? When you pray for yes and God says no? When you pray against but God moves for? Rahab and Ruth didn’t know they were in the line of the Messiah. They didn’t know their great and great great grandson would be King of Israel. Anna’s parents and late husband didn’t know she’d see the Messiah face to face. We too don’t know where we sit in the ending pages of the story of Scripture that culminates with Christ’s return. But wherever our lives do play out in that very long, multi-generational story, the ins and outs of our daily lives matter. They matter because of a larger context, one that transcends your family, your house, your job, your friends, and your years. It gives perspective to all of that too. Read your own story in the context of the larger story.
If there is one hope I have for my sons and the women to whom I minister, it’s that they will lean into their place in the story that is bigger than their lives. That they won’t be constrained by the small mindedness that makes verses like Jeremiah 29:11 about that car they need to buy, house they want to live, or medical diagnosis they are facing.
Jeremiah 29:11 CSB For I know the plans I have for you”—this is the Lord’s declaration—“plans for your well-being, not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.
Jeremiah 29 was written to God’s children, enslaved for 70 years in Babylon because of their idolatry and disobedience. It was not written to us. Don’t read such verses egotistically, making them about you, not God’s larger story. But once you get the context, you can rightly insert yourself back into it. The God who disciplines His children also watches over them in captivity, never stops loving them, and right on time, brings them back home. That God is your God. Through the entire captivity, God kept the line of Christ, the line of King David, intact so that the Messiah would come just as the Prophets had said. And, now, that God has called us to Himself, as we wait on Jesus’s return. He guides our walk in His longer story just as He guarded His children in Babylon. With or without unresolved suffering, this eternal perspective is the lens through which to view our earthly lives.
Open the eyes of our heart, Lord, that we may live our place in Your larger story to the fullest, putting off the anxieties and vain pursuits a small perspective brings .