It happened one Sunday that our only housekeeper would leave for a day and a night off and Felix and the kids would attend church the whole day and we didn’t have any other choice but to let Angie, the “little” sister-in-law of our laundry lady, to assist me. I felt a bit apprehensive since Angie, a wisp of a young woman (her size the half of Hannah), had not been trained to assist me. And we would be left on our own for the whole day! Although she had proven herself trustworthy and industrious when it came to housecleaning, I was wary when it came to her assisting me.
My apprehensions were not unfounded as the first mishap happened in the morning when I sent her to the store and she locked herself out! I couldn’t open the gate for her so I instructed her to hitch up her long skirt, climb the fence, and jump inside. She did it but she came back to me panting hard like a dog. Still, she apologized profusely.
Around early afternoon on my next meal, I rang the bell for her. I did it many times but she didn’t come. I listened to my surroundings trying to track her where she could be in the whole house. I heard the faucet outside near the kitchen in full stream. She was washing something and singing at the same time. She couldn’t hear the doorbell which was in the dining area. After sometime, she turned off the faucet and heard the persistent ringing. When she came to me at last, tears were already streaming down my face.
Again, she apologized profusely. I couldn’t get myself to be angry at her, both because of her humility and youth. I was already eating but tears continued to flow. I felt that all the grief, heaviness, frustration, misery, and all other pent-up emotions were converging, melding and mixing into a steaming brew that couldn’t be stopped.
“Don’t cry anymore, Ate,” Angie offered helplessly.
“I’m crying because my life is hard,” I answered in the bitterness of my soul.
“At least, Ate, you’re still here, with your family. You’re alive. Just thank the Lord that He continues to give you life,” she insisted gently. I know those words so well. Angie was speaking from a heart that loved and adored the Lord Jesus. She is a sister-in-Christ.
“Yes, I know that. But I’ve been sick and suffering for almost 12 years now. It’s hard and I know this is not supposed to be the life of a child of God. It is His will to heal,” I replied as more tears flowed.
Angle’s simple words of encouragement, though I had known them all along, brought a renewed strength and inspiration to me. Even long before that day, I had been thanking God everyday that I was still here with my family. But when I heard the words from her, innocently but sincerely spoken, I could believe again that God has a purpose for my life.
Other sufferers, both Christ followers and otherwise, would desire to be emancipated through death. Those who do not have Christ in their lives would rather leave this world and all its pain and suffering and embrace the numbness, the darkness and finality of death and the grave. While those in Christ would rather greatly desire to enter into glory, to be with their Lord where sickness and suffering and weeping would be no more.
But I’m like Apostle Paul who uttered, “But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account.”
When I think about my children, now 14 and 7, I cannot get myself to desire to end my suffering through death. That is selfish. By God’s grace, I can and will endure sickness and suffering as long as I can still be with my family, especially my children who need a mother to nurture them in the love and admonition of the Lord. This is my number one desire and ardent prayer: to be delivered of all this sickness and suffering and walk in divine health, even though the waiting is excruciatingly hard.
What’s more, I have this innate desire and need to always choose life, hold onto it. I live in the Vine, my Savior’s life flows to me. That is the truth that holds me together.
There was a time in my physical suffering that even a hardly-noticed verse had encouraged me when all others seemed to fail. “For to him that is joined to all the living there is hope: for a living dog is better than a dead lion” (Ecc. 9:4, emphasis mine). I could see there was a precious wisdom in it. Though ailing and suffering, figuratively a dog, I still have something to be thankful for: the breath of life in me and the hope that comes with it.
I don’t have to go too far, I only need to scroll down my FB newsfeed and see that people die even before reaching a ripe old age, including those in the family of God. What makes me think that I can lay claim to life like I’m entitled to reach a good old age, full of days just like David had? But truth is, by God’s promises, I can. And you can, too! The Lord Himself promised:
So you shall serve the Lord your God, and He will bless your bread and your water. And I will take sickness away from the midst of you. No one shall suffer miscarriage or be barren in your land; I will fulfill the number of your days. (Exo. 23:25-26, emphasis mine)
There is a promise, a blessing from God, that He will fulfil the number of our days. As long as He has pronounced it, we can lay claim on it. It is ours. Close your fist tightly around it and never let it go. He honors our faith.
But what is the number of days that He has purposed for us? Psalm 90:10 gives us an answer:
The days of our lives are seventy years;
And if by reason of strength they are eighty years…
He will fulfil the number of our days which in His Book is 70-80 years (or even more as long as He’s not returning yet!). That’s a ripe old age considering the times. It’s what we’ve got and we have a choice to lay claim on it by faith. Our times are in His hand (Ps. 31:15) and oh, how I find a whole universe of freedom in that! Sometimes, news of somebody we know or a member of our Church family passing away may perturb us, but we only have to remember that our times, each one of us, are in God’s hand and there’s no reason to fret. He says that “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion” (Rom. 9:15). We will live then looking to His enduring mercy and compassion! We will rest in the truth that whatever things we ask when we pray, believe that we receive them, and we will have them (Mark 11:24), especially when He has promised it.
And indeed He has and even repeated it:
With long life I will satisfy him,
And show him My salvation. (Ps. 91:16, emphasis mine)
Amen and Amen!
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Journey with Jesus,