Today I have the privilege of participating in a memorial service for a young man who was a member of our fellowship. While I am 20 years his senior he was one of those guys I regret I didn't make an effort to get to know better. It would have been an honor to call him my friend.
Just over a year ago he was diagnosed with a disease that would eventually take his life. I kept up with his situation through members of his small group and prayer requests that gave a regular update as to his condition. On a couple of occasions I was able to pray with him and his wife personally. Every time I was so impressed with his courage and positive spirit. Last week my wife and I visited him and his wife in the hospital. Once again I left his room with my spirits lifted. I rejoiced when I heard was doing better over the next couple of days. I even commented to someone Sunday at church how much better he was doing. Then just after getting home from church I received word that this courageous young man had died.
I was taken back by my immediate gut reaction: anger. I felt angry toward God. This guy was a good husband and father. He loved God and was faithful to His church. Why? Why did God not spare this guy and allow him many more years with his family? Especially since there are so many men out there who don't care about God or doing what is right; they don't cherish their wives or their kids; yet they seem almost indestructible. If God can heal and deliver, and I've seen Him do both, why wasn't this guy a candidate?Then I met with his wife.
She sat in my office and described the positive attitude her husband kept during the whole ordeal. He did not believe in giving up or giving in. She described how his prayers were for God's will to be done and how even in his dying moments there was a smile on his face. While she spoke the Spirit brought a scripture back to my mind. I had heard Zig Ziglar quote this verse many times and tell how it brought peace to his heart at the death of his daughter. Here it is:
"The righteous perish, and no one ponders in his heart, devout men are taken away and no one understands that the righteous are taken away to be spared from evil. Those who walk uprightly enter into peace; they find rest as they lie in death." Isaiah 57: 1 - 2 (NIV)
God, who as Creator is not confined by space or time, sees what lies ahead. We cannot. He knows what waits for His children tomorrow, and the next day, and the next. God, who loves His children so much that He died for them, mercifully calls them home from evil that we cannot see. Death becomes the ultimate rescue from pain. It is impossible for us to see that with finite eyes. We have to accept it by faith.
I have a new task to add to my long to-do list when I get to heaven. I want to thank this young man for teaching his pastor about faith and courage. I want to let him know what a blessing he was to me in his suffering and even more the way he faced life's final battle. It's the least I can do.