Our Ever-Present Hope

New Jersey Sunset

Psalm 46 (NKJV)

God is our refuge and strength,
         A very present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear,
         Even though the earth be removed,
         And though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea;
Though its waters roar and be troubled,
         Though the mountains shake with its swelling.  Selah  

There is a river whose streams shall make glad the city of God,
         The holy place of the tabernacle of the Most High.
God is in the midst of her, she shall not be moved;
         God shall help her, just at the break of dawn.
The nations raged, the kingdoms were moved;
         He uttered His voice, the earth melted.

The LORD of hosts is with us;
         The God of Jacob is our refuge.  Selah  
         
Come, behold the works of the LORD,
         Who has made desolations in the earth.
He makes wars cease to the end of the earth;
         He breaks the bow and cuts the spear in two;
         He burns the chariot in the fire.
         
 Be still, and know that I am God;
         I will be exalted among the nations,
         I will be exalted in the earth!

The LORD of hosts is with us;
         The God of Jacob is our refuge.  Selah  

Two days ago, my father-in-law passed from this life into the loving arms of his Saviour. He had struggled with several serious medical issues for the past three years while valiantly taking care of his wife of fifty-seven years.  Almost thirteen years ago, on an Easter Sunday, my mother-in-law suffered a catastrophic stroke that rendered her in need of full-time care. He had faithfully provided that care, day in and day out, since then.

It was a great privilege to spend some time with him on the last evening of his life. He had entered the hospital to have a relatively common outpatient procedure to revise the fistula that he needed for his three times a week hemodialysis. The surgery had been delayed for some reason, and while my husband and sister-in-law did what was necessary to make sure that my mother-in-law was taken care of, I sat with him in his hospital room. We didn’t speak much of earth shattering importance during that time, but one thing struck me profoundly. Dad was the most at peace I had ever seen him.  He not only allowed me to do a few small services for him, but he also asked for my help.  This was unusual, as he was a fiercely independent man.  He did not readily accept help, much less ask for it, even when he needed it most.

Spending that time with him was a precious gift. I have no idea if he had any sense that his time here on earth was short, but for the first time in my memory he was asking me questions about dialysis, his fistula, and his heart condition (I had been a dialysis nurse for ten years prior to the birth of our daughter).  And, he was listening and processing the information I was giving to him. I knew in my heart that this time he was really hearing what I was telling him and he was at peace with it. The struggle that I had sensed in him so many times in the past was not present that evening as we talked.  Peace seemed to cover him like a blanket.

There are many things I could say in tribute to my father-in-law, but what was most evident to all who knew him was that he was a faithful and steadfast man, especially as he cared for his wife.  He was also a man of his word; when he told you he was going to do something, he did it. He faithfully kept the wedding vows which he had spoken so long ago: “to have and to hold, from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till death do us part, or the Lord comes for His own, and hereto I pledge you my faithfulness.”

The joy for us, as a family, is that my father-in-law knew Jesus Christ as his Lord and Saviour.  He served God with his whole heart. For us, this separation from him is only temporary. We have the ever-present hope and promise we will spend eternity with him, and with all of our other loved-ones who also knew Jesus Christ preceding us in death. While we will miss him terribly, we can rejoice he is now in Heaven, lifting his voice in songs of praise to the King of Kings.

God brings family, friends, and marriage partners into our lives to be a special blessing to us. They laugh with us when we celebrate the goodness of God and they cry with us through life’s sorrows.  Their loving care helps to sustain us when we feel alone and when we struggle to find God’s direction for our lives. We have been overwhelmed these past two days with the out-pouring of love and support from family and friends.

These events have reinforced to me just how we need to be thankful for each day God gives us with those we love; God has not promised us tomorrow.  Therefore I urge you, if there is someone who you have not recently told how much you love them, do not waste any more time. Let them know how much they mean to you. Each day with them is a precious gift from the Father of all life.

“And above all things have fervent love for one another, for ‘love will cover a multitude of sins.’ Be hospitable to one another without grumbling. As each one has received a gift, minister it to one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.”  Hebrews 4:8 (NKJV)

Luther W. Johnson (1933-2011)

Copyright © 2011 by Susan E. Johnson
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