Monday, April 21, 2008

On Death and Joy

Dear Karin,

We got your note yesterday, with the news you’d already given us by phone of the return of your cancer. I’ve been praying for you since you called. I’m encouraged, as I always have been, by your strength (even when you feel weak), and courage (even when you feel afraid), and optimism (even when there are things in your life that might make others with less character see only gloom and despair). I know you will probably have your times of feeling all of those negative things, but I also know you will face them and overcome them.

I love the questions you ask! I know the hunger for God that drove you to ask those questions has made it possible for Him to stretch you and grow your faith. I’ve seen that growth happening in the questions, and the decisions you have made, especially lately, about how you will live your life.

I love that your main question in all this is how you can serve God and fulfil whatever purposes He has for you. Your heart is so much in the right place. God delights in you—in your desire to know Him and your constant questioning and reaching out to Him, even when it feels like you’ve been groping in the dark. This world is a dark place sometimes, but you are a bright shining star in that darkness and my prayer is that you will keep shining here for many years to come, for the world’s sake.

But I also know that sometimes God’s best for the ones we love is higher and more glorious than the things we ask for them. We long for present happiness and health, but God sees above our shallow desires. He has plans for eternal joy and delight—freedom from pain and grief—the wiping away of all tears, past, present and future. It may be that God has these higher blessings in mind for you at this stage of your life. He may be preparing to take you home more quickly than we would like to let you go.

You asked if we could give you any words of hope. Words are so inadequate, but I do know that there is great hope for you. Your future, no matter what, is going to be full of exciting wonders and great joy. It may be the exciting wonder of experiencing God’s miraculous touch in physical healing. If so, we will rejoice with you and thank God. But it may be the wonder and joy He plans for you is in heaven. If it is, that future is unbelievably and unimaginably wonderful.

This kind of hope is not wishful thinking. It’s joyful anticipation. I often think of heaven as being like that good book I have on my bedside table. Every day I look forward to nighttime when I can read some more. I have the same feeling (on a larger scale!) about heaven. Our unimaginably wonderful future is a firm and settled fact because of Jesus, and we can count on it. It’s waiting on the bedside table for us.

I am especially comforted to know that I will be sharing that future with you. It’s very possible that I will get to heaven before you do. We never know when God plans to take any of us home. But it doesn’t really matter, because once we’re all there it will be one great eternal party and the fears and pains we experienced down here will be absorbed in the joy. There are some days when the anticipation of heaven’s joy is the greatest hope-producer in my life! I so look forward to it—maybe because the older I get the more friends and family gather there. I have a whole stack of good books on that heavenly bedside table by now!

I know the doctor has not given you much hope, but doctors are in the business of looking for disease, not miracles. I’m praying, first of all, for a miracle of physical healing for you—for God’s special touch on your body that will free you from this awful disease. That’s my heart wish. But if He takes you home sooner than I would like, I KNOW, with all my heart, that it will be better for YOU than if He leaves you with us longer.

I am so convinced that we have nothing to fear and everything to hope for when God takes us home. I know I will have feelings of fear when the time comes for me (if I have any warning at all!), but it will be the kind of fear I feel at the top of a very large roller coaster just before my car starts down the highest hill! It’s going to be the most amazing ride ever. I would be really afraid if I didn’t believe the Lord was going to be sitting beside me in that car, but I’m sure He will be.

He's with us both, in this life, and the next, and it's so comforting. I pray that comfort will be with you every day as you continue to walk with Him.

I love you.