A/N: As a way to encourage each other spiritually, a dear friend and I have agreed to share a favourite and meaningful Bible verse with each other at the end of each week. I’m a little late. This is the result of my musings on a favourite verse… a bit longer than usual. I don’t think she’ll mind if I share with you all.
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart
And lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways submit to him,
And he will make your paths straight.
Do not be wise in your own eyes;
Fear the Lord and shun evil.
This will bring health to your body
And nourishment to your bones.”
(A story… names and events have been altered a bit to ensure privacy)
“After I have poured out my rains again, I will pour out my Spirit upon all of you! Your sons and daughters will prophesy; your old men will dream dreams, and your young men see visions.” Joel 2:28
Like Ruth of the Old Testament, she was a stranger in a strange land and now her husband was missing.
Earlier that morning, she’d awoken from a disturbing revelation. “Darling,” she’d turned over in bed, sleepily looking over at her pastor-husband who was dressing to go to work, “I had a dream.”
“Oh,” he replied, adjusting his tie in the dim light of the early morning.
“In my dream, I heard that someone was going to die.”
“All of us are going to die one day, honey,” he replied.
“I know. But in my dream, the woman claimed that God said someone close to me, someone in our family, was going to go back to God in heaven.”
“Did this same woman say when?”
“Well, then, we’ll just have to trust God like always, my dear.” Pastor Henry popped his laptop into his business case and began walking out the door.
Cherie was not completely satisfied. She still had a vague sense of impending doom. Her subconscious was not quite comfortable.
“Daddy, daddy,” Doris came rushing out her room to intercept her father before work. Normally she was still asleep at this hour. It was uncharacteristic of her to bother her daddy as he was trying to get to work on time.
“Daddy,” she tugged on her father’s trousers, begging to be lifted up, “can you bring back pizza tonight? I want pizza.” She smiled. “Pizza with lots of extra cheese,” frowning ever so slightly she added, “and no onions or peppers. I don’t like onions or peppers.”
Daddy gave his daughter a hug. “OK, daughter, I’ll bring back pizza for supper tonight if you are a good girl and help mummy around the house today. Remember,” he pointed to the bedroom door where his wife leaned sleepily against the doorframe, “mummy’s going to have a baby soon. She needs extra help from a strong girl like yourself.”
Doris nodded. “OK, daddy.”
Pastor Henry hugged his daughter and then gave his wife a farewell kiss and headed out the door. He took the family car down the long, bumpy dirt road to his office in the city.
Evening came. No Pastor Henry. No husband. No daddy.
“Where’s daddy, mummy?” Doris asked for the hundredth time.
“I don’t know, daughter.” She tried to call him on his mobile phone without success. The phone rang and rang. When she tried his colleagues and friends, no one had seen him since that afternoon. Doris stayed up late in hopes of pizza but in vain. Finally around midnight, Cherie tucked her sad little girl into bed. “Daddy will be home tomorrow. Time to sleep.” She soothed her with soft words and hoped silently that she was right.
Where was her husband? All sorts of horrible thoughts flashed through her mind. Stranded without a car in the country, there was nothing to do but pray. “Please, God, please….” Eventually she drifted off into a troubled sleep.
The next day, she arranged transport. They found her husband slumped unconscious at his work site. At the hospital, he was found to have suffered a massive haemorrhagic stroke – a bleed in the brain. He was transferred to a specialty hospital in critical condition.
“I don’t want to give you false hope,” the doctor cautioned gravely when he spoke to Cherie. “Your husband may not survive the operation.”
“Please, God,” she begged, “save my husband and my children’s father.” Tears streamed down her face as she prostrated herself in the hospital chapel.
“He will be all right. Trust me.” Cherie felt the words pierce her sorrow-laden heart. She stopped crying. “I am with your husband. He will be ok. You will see him well again.” The inaudible assurance saturated her mind and suddenly, from that moment forward, she was no longer afraid.
“Thank you, God,” she bowed her head. She went home and slept.
“…Dost thou still retain thine integrity? curse God, and die. But he said unto her, Thou speakest as one of the foolish women speaketh. What? shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil?”
“There’s been a complication,” the neurosurgeon stood at the bedside of Pastor Henry who recovering from his recent operation for a stroke that had ruptured the blood vessels in his brain necessitating emergency surgery to relieve the pressure that built up under his skull.
The pastor’s wife, Cherie, sitting next to him gasped. “No!” How can this happen after all we’ve been through? She thought inwardly.
“You husband has developed a blood clot in his leg, something we call a DVT – a deep venous thrombosis. Normally we would give some medications to dissolve the clot but because of your husband’s recent stroke, we cannot give that medication or he would bleed into his brain again. He’s too unstable for us to put in a filter.”
“What can be done, doctor?” Cherie glanced anxiously at her frail husband who was not yet extubated from the ventilator that supported his breathing after his operation.
The doctor shrugged helplessly. “We will give him a milder version of medication to help with the clot and we will hope and pray.”
Cherie nodded wordlessly. She wanted to scream and cry at the same time. Why, God? She sobbed inwardly.
That night as she rested fitfully, almost nine months pregnant, she had another vision. Jesus, shining in light and glory, wrapped his arms around her and whispered in her ear, “My daughter, don’t worry. Remember, I said before that everything would be all right. You will see and talk to your husband again. He is my child as much as he is your husband. I am with you both. I will not forsake Henry now. I have not forsaken you.”
She awoke reassured. And yet, her problems were not over. Not for her; not for her husband who by a miracle continued to improve day by day from his stroke. He could move all his limbs. He motioned to her, clearly recognising her as his wife. When the tube was finally removed, he could talk. His mind was sharp and clear as ever. Cherie rejoiced. Her heart smiled. “Thank you, God,” she rejoiced.
“We are going to transfer him to a general hospital ward now.” The doctor wrote Henry’s transfer orders back to the original hospital. “He will continue his recovery there. He no longer needs the high-level of specialty care here.”
At the general hospital, Pastor Henry’s recovery did not go as smoothly as hoped though.
“He has pressure ulcers, bed sores,” the new doctor informed the couple. “He will need a minor surgery to debride and clean the wounds so they can heal.”
Cherie sighed, “Please God,” she prayed the now familiar prayer.
“Please bring my daddy home from the hospital soon,” Doris prayed from her bed each night before she went to sleep.
The surgery was a success. The wounds on Pastor Henry’s body began to heal, slowly but steadily. Cherie clung to her vision of God’s promise that her husband would be healed. She delivered their son in the same hospital in which he was a patient. It wasn’t easy taking care of a 4 year old, a newborn baby, and a husband that was still ill in the hospital. Somehow, Cherie found the strength. Every other day she’d travel the bumpy roads from their country home to spend the day with her husband in the general city hospital.
“You’re going to be ok, honey,” she murmured as she helped bathe him in the hospital.
Then one night, Cherie was violently awakened from another of her dreams. A dark shadow of doom engulfed her senses. Quickly she dialled her family. “God just showed me in a vision that someone is going to die. I think it’s Henry,” she cried to her sister.
“Call the hospital,” her sister admonished.
“It’s 2 am though,” Cherie lamented.
“That’s ok. The nurses are awake. Just call them.”
As Cherie hung up her phone, her hands trembled. What was going on? Didn’t God say everything was going to be ok? Didn’t God promise that Henry would be healed to talk and walk with her again? “Please, God, please keep him safe!” She couldn’t shake the dreadful feeling of death that gripped her heart.
Her phone rang. It was the hospital. “Can you come to the hospital now?” The nurse on the other line spoke crisply. “He’s taken a turn for the worse. We don’t know what will happen.”
“I’m coming.” Cherie had never driven into town before but somehow she managed to take their vehicle over rocky country roads and into congested city traffic without accident.
Her husband died shortly after her arrival to the hospital. This can’t be happening? Her thoughts were torn and confused. No, no… “God, you raised Lazarus from the dead. You can raise my husband from the dead. Please.”
Even as the funeral preparations ensued she held out hope. “I know you can raise the dead. Surely you can raise my husband. You promised he’d be ok, God. Please, please. Please bring my husband back to me.” Even as the embalmer spoke to her about the process she held out hope. He could be the first person God’s brought back to life after embalming, she reasoned.
Only when his body was buried beneath the heavy clay-earth of his childhood village did his death begin to sink into her own soul. The fact that he was gone began to penetrate her consciousness for real. He really had died.
“Then Job arose, and rent his mantle, and shaved his head, and fell down upon the ground, and worshipped, and said,
Naked came I out of my mother’s womb,
and naked shall I return thither:
the Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away;
blessed be the name of the Lord.”
“Where’s daddy?” Doris asked.
“He’s gone to heaven, my daughter.”
“But I want daddy to come home,” Doris said anxiously. The little girl folded her hands and closed her eyes. “Please God, please let daddy come home from heaven soon.”
“No, no, my darling,” Cherie put her arms around her daughter. “Daddy can’t come back from heaven.”
“Then can we go to see daddy in heaven?” Doris asked.
“Only when God is ready for us. None of knows the exact time. We have to stay here until God says it is time for us to go to heaven and join daddy.”
“Daddy never did bring me any pizza,” Doris noted and crossed her small arms as she slid under the covers.
Cherie kissed her daughter goodnight. “I’m sure he is saving us lots of pizza to eat with him when we see him in heaven. Goodnight.”
The new baby and dealing with a four-year-old grieving the loss of her daddy were enough to keep Cherie busy during the day. She was lonely at night. He wasn’t coming home. Henry would never lie next to her in bed. So many empty places in her life that her husband, Henry, used to fill. They were all hollow and empty. Why, God? She asked herself again and again. You gave me those visions that gave me peace and assured me that Henry would be ok. Why did you give me such revelations? He’s dead.
Softly, faintly at first, then gradually increasing in clarity, the answer came. “The revelations were for you, my daughter. I gave them to comfort you. Henry is ok. And you are ok. I am with you.”
Cherie sips tea across from me and shows me photographs of her daughter and baby son. She beams with pride as I comment on baby’s plumb cheeks and Doris’s beautiful smile.
“I understand now that God gave me those revelations to comfort me. Who knows what might have happened without those messages to give me peace when I needed it most.” Her face is full of enthusiasm as she testifies to the goodness of God. “God gave me those revelations when I needed them. I don’t always understand why but I trust that He does lead and guide us daily. And, one day, I know I will be with Henry in heaven.”
I smile at her obvious joy. She’s a young widow recently bereaved of her husband after a tragic loss. We should be weeping together but instead we’re smiling and rejoicing together in the hope of heaven.
“You know, one time, Doris, my daughter, asked me why she couldn’t see daddy anymore. I didn’t have an answer. Then, one day, when she was spending the night at her auntie’s house, she came home all excited.”
“Mummy, I saw daddy with Jesus in my dream!”
Cherie shrugged with a small smile. “I don’t know. God speaks to adults through visions, why not children?”
This world is not heaven. We are children of God, citizens of another country, and pilgrims on our way to our heavenly home. None of us knows the time when God will call each of us home. This we can know, He is with us always.
“…and be sure of this—that I am with you always, even to the end of the world.” Matthew 28:20
“In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.”