Before I had cancer, I might not have noticed it. And even if I did, the impact definitely would not have been the same.
My in-box contained two similar e-mails last Monday, one right above the other. In the first, one of our church’s missionaries sent word that his father, who had been hospitalized, had been released. The subject line of the e-mail summarized the good news: “Thank you – Dad is home.”
In the second, we received sad news from another missionary, whose wife had been seriously ill for months. The cancer had finally taken her life late last week. This fact was proclaimed in the subject line: “Janet is now at home.”
Two illnesses. Two very different results – one person lived, and the other died. Two e-mails written by their loved ones described each of them as being “home.”
And both e-mails were right.
This certainty was the foundation of my own cancer battle earlier this year. Many of my friends were struck by the laughter we found in the situation, which if you knew my brothers would not have been a surprise – in my family, you either get ahead of the humor, or it runs you down.
Can I let you in on a secret that I hope will not surprise you? We weren’t laughing ALL the time. In fact, there was a period of about 18 hours in which I knew I had cancer, but had not yet heard the relatively good prognosis that would follow. I went on a hike that day, and God and I had a heart-to-heart talk. Most of it revolved around my family, and how He would take care of them if I was no longer here. It was a bold prayer on my part. Truth be told, you could probably say that I got in His face a little bit.
But that day, and all the others as we walked through two surgeries and the resulting clean bill of health, were all permeated by a rock-solid confidence about the future, a confidence for which I take no credit, and for which He gets all the glory.
I knew – without a doubt – that whatever happened, I would be home. Live or die, I would be home – home with my family, or home with my God. But in either case, I would be home.
This is the confidence of the Christ-follower, whose trust in the sacrifice of Jesus creates a bold assurance that eternity is a welcoming place. We catch glimpses of it in what Paul said about being “away from the body and at home with the Lord” (2 Corinthians 5:8). It’s a supernatural confidence that is impossible to fabricate, but so crucial to our lives. It has been crucial to mine since late January.
It all comes down to this: for the Christian, death is simply an exchange of homes. That fact has never been more important to me than it is now.
Blessed is the man whose worst-case scenario involves exchanging one home for another.
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