Two years ago, I sat in a sterile, dark bedroom for months, isolated, gasping for air. My doctors’ orders? Ninety doses of the strongest antibiotic known to man, central lines to my heart, IV infusions to protect my immune system, breathing treatments, quarantine and bed rest. My prognosis? Not great. An 80% chance I would lose my lung and possibly my life if I developed complications.
God gave me a reprieve. He worked a miracle! I got my life back! God answered prayers of so many who interceded for me.
I learned some profound lessons during those harrowing months. And I never want to forget them.
1. Don’t fear death. Anticipate it with joy.
Paul said it best,
“And I trust that my life will bring honor to Christ, whether I live or die. For to me, living means living for Christ, and dying is even better. “ Philippians 1:20-21 NLT
Most Christians don’t fear going to be with Jesus. It’s the pain, the debilitating suffering that often precedes death that terrifies us. My husband often preached, “Most of us think that we are in the land of the living en route to the land of the dying. Nothing could be farther from the truth. If we know Jesus Christ, we are in the land of the dying traveling to the land of the living.” I experienced glorious peace during my hard days. Complete release, contentment and surrender washed over me.
2. Be brave. When I opened my eyes each morning, I heard God sing these words in my heart.
“The Lord is my light and my salvation. Whom shall I fear? The Lord is the strength of my life! Of whom shall I be afraid?” Psalm 27:1. KJV
My daughter Brianna fights intense pain, nausea, aching and migraines every day. Her medicine box is a tool kit and a wall of her garage is stocked with hospital paraphernalia. But like other courageous soldiers fighting chronic illness, Brianna is fearless. She wakes up every day and puts one foot in front of the other. She doesn’t complain. She serves God powerfully, her family tirelessly, and bubbles with a remarkable sense of joy. I thought of Brie constantly as I suffered. If she could face the pain with faith, so could I.
3. Let God’s Word empower you. Speak it. Pray it. Sing it. Envision it. The more you allow it to feed your soul, the stronger your spirit becomes. When I was too weak to speak, I listened to my Daily Audio Bible and pictured every scene. His words fortified me.
The psalmist wrote in Psalm 119:92-93:
"If your law had not been my delight, I would have perished in my affliction. I will never forget your precepts, for by them you have preserved my life." GNT
4. Remember. Be grateful. Be glad. My husband bought two rotating picture frames and uploaded 20,000 photos of family, friends, ministry experiences and travel adventures we have shared. He placed them on our kitchen island. Every day we stop, smile and thank God as we re-live those moments. I feel so blessed connecting with thousands of Facebook friends: family, classmates, fellow pastors, missionaries and church members from 40 years of ministry. I see my sweet FB buddies and smile every day.
Paul cherished his ministry partners as he penned these words from a dank cell in the Mamartine prison:
“How we thank God for you! Because of you we have great joy as we enter God’s presence.” 1 Thessalonians 3:9. NLT
5. Revel in each precious moment. Don’t leave any words unsaid. Don’t leave any sin unconfessed. Hug the people you love. Share Christ boldly. Give freely. Leverage your time and energy for His priorities.
My husband Roger taught me that. He faced life-threating open heart surgery at 13 and preached his first sermon that same year. My brave boy has faced death many, many times and came back swinging. His motto: “Four things really matter: the person of Christ, the purpose of God, the people He gave you, and the prizes you earn to lay at His feet.”
“For this reason we never become discouraged. Even though our physical being is gradually decaying, yet our spiritual being is renewed day after day. And this small and temporary trouble we suffer will bring us a tremendous and eternal glory, much greater than the trouble. For we fix our attention, not on things that are seen, but on things that are unseen. What can be seen lasts only for a time, but what cannot be seen lasts forever.” 2 Corinthians 4:16-18 GNT
I knew all of these lessons intellectually. I have taught them for years. But now they are in my heart. When life gets dark, the glory of God shines brighter. I am not afraid of the valley of the shadow of death, because He is with me….closer than I imagined!