Title: When there are no words...
By Randall Vaughn
"Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set
you free." (John 8:32 NIV)
A subscriber recently wrote me asking for words of encouragement and help in the circumstance of her husband's struggle with cancer. I would like to share my response with you in this message, originally published in three parts (due to length).
My husband has cancer. I know you lost your wife years ago and I just wondered if you had any words to help get us through whatever happens. It is hard to understand why my husband, only 48, has this aggressive cancer. It is hard to watch someone you love suffer and go through this. Just wondered if you had the time to give me a few words to hang on to.
I so well understand your feelings, even now as I think back to the events of Rose's suffering and death, almost four years ago. She, too, was 48. It was the most difficult thing I have ever endured, yet, looking back now, four years later, if I could "undo" it, I would not.
Why? As I said on our website [ www.e-min.org/pres.htm ]
"Because what I have learned and the relationship I now have with God is worth more to me than life itself! If it took all that I have experienced, endured, and survived to acquire that knowledge and relationship, then it was a bargain!"
You may search for reasons, but you likely will not find them. You may search for a purpose, but that purpose will likely elude you. You have many questions, but those questions, at least for now, will likely have no answers.
Those are not comforting words, but they are true words, and I have learned that there is more comfort in the truth than in those comforting words (so called) that are, so often, empty and meaningless at best.
For your answers, you will have to look beyond reasons, beyond purpose, beyond circumstances, beyond feelings, beyond questions.
My search for answers, for purpose, for reasons, ultimately, for "why", led me not to "why", but Who - my relationship with God.
I eventually understood that I had to find my comfort, my peace, my security, my reason (and reasoning), my answers, my search for purpose, and even my own identity, in that relationship.
That relationship IS the "bottom line" of life. It is our purpose.
Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent. (John 17:3 NIV)
We "talk all around it", but never really embrace the truth of those words. We know that Jesus came here to give us eternal life. So... What is "eternal life"?
It is, in its most simple form, relationship with God. From that relationship will flow everything. No exceptions. EVERYTHING .
But, could that be "real"? It just sounds too simple.
When I got there, I found that it really is true. Everything He said is true. It really is about knowing Him, not by "definition", but my "intimacy".
Right about now, you are probably wondering, "But what does that have to do with what I have asked you?"
I will explain, at least in part (because we do not have time here for the "rest of the story").
About two months prior to Rose's death, a question kept coming to my mind. It was persistent. Incessant. It kept coming and coming. I ignored it at first. Then I rejected it.
Then, one day, I came to the realization that this question was coming from God. Once realized, I had to deal with it. The question was,
"What are you going to do if she dies?"
I did not want to face that question. I expected Rose to live, not die. But I had to answer the question. I knew that the question was not concerning circumstances, but rather, my relationship with Him.
So, being an "all-or-nothing", "black-or-white" (no gray), "is-or-isn't" person, I made a commitment to God that day, that my relationship with Him would not change. My faith in Him would be absolute. I would trust Him, whether Rose lived or died. End of discussion.
And then, two months later, she died. I held her hand as she breathed her last breath. It hurt, but it was peace. I knew it was her choice to go. That was all right. It was peace because He was there. Not figuratively. He was there, because He had promised to be there. (John 14:3).
At that moment, the very moment of her death, I was very consciously aware of my commitment. I had chosen to trust Him, regardless of circumstances, regardless of what happened. So, now, would - and in truth, could - I do it?
I had no choice. To do otherwise would require a decision to reject Him, and I could not do that.
Please understand: This does not mean that I did not question, but trust had to override the questions. It does not mean that I did not hurt, but trust had to override the pain.
I did not like it. I hurt. It was the most painful thing I have ever experienced. I did not understand. I did not have answers. I did not know the reasons. I did not know the purpose(s).
But I knew Him. I trusted Him. I had committed my life to Him. I loved Him. I believed Him. I knew that my answers - all of them -were somewhere in Him. If I did not understand now, it was because I did not yet understand Him as I should, or I had not grown to a point at which I was capable of understanding. I had to trust Him.
I cannot say that it made it easier. But trusting Him made it possible. I knew I would survive, because I trusted Him. I knew I would eventually understand, because I trusted Him.
Now, how does all that "fit" from Rose's perspective? After all, she is the one that physically suffered, endured pain beyond measure, her once beautiful body devastated by the disease, and symptoms that would herein not bear "polite" description. And she is the one that died. What of her?
For that, I will share with you a story told to me by a very good friend, Dr. James "Jay" Ferguson. These are his words:
"Fifteen months after my daughter Rebecca went home (three days after Christmas in 1994), I was more depressed than I have even been in my life before or since. I was laying on the floor crying, and this is what I said to the Lord.
From my experience with Rose, and Jay's experience, I got a tiny tiny glimpse of the "bigger picture". And my life was never the same.
"Lord, I love you, I love my wife, and I am trying to love Jimmy -- but I miss Rebecca so much that all I want to do is come home and be with You. Lord, Rebecca came back three hours after going into a coma and said, "Holy! Holy! Holy! He's so holy!" Please, Lord, take me home to be with You!"
Randall, I promise you, this is what happened next. A few seconds after I prayed that prayer, I heard the audible voice of God as clearly as it can be heard! The first thing God said was,
When I heard those words, I thought to myself, "I've heard that voice before!" I realized it sounded just like Curly of the Three Stooges! (I understood later that the reason God used the voice of Curly was because that's how stupid I sounded to Him!)
The next thing He said was like thunder, and it was "no laughing matter" at all -- His mood had changed! He said,
"Are you telling Me that you want to come and be with Me, where I AM all that I AM all the time, but you don't want Me to come and be all that I AM in you all the time?"
Within a few moments after that powerful rebuke, I prayed a prayer which has changed my life. I said, "Holy Spirit, all I want is ALL of You, in ALL of me, ALL the time!"
It's the most important prayer that I have ever prayed -- it changed my entire life -- the Holy Spirit began to "tabernacle" in me in a more powerful way than ever before!"
It is no longer important to me whether I live my life with God today "here", or "there". It is irrelevant. The point is, I will live it with Him, in relationship with Him, in "oneness" with Him (John 17:20-21). "Where" is not important anymore.
For me, the question is no longer "why", but Who .
I also know that at the end, Rose understood the same. That is why she could "go" in peace. In that bigger picture, she was all right.
You see, things are not as they appear to be "here". In reality - true reality - Rose is well today. She is alive and well with the Lord. She is more alive than she was in the body I knew here.
Either I believe that as true reality, or I am a liar every time I claim to believe scripture. (It either "is", or it "isn't". There is no "gray area" for the truth.)
So, from the perspective of one who has been there, made it through, and survived, spiritually, emotionally, and physically, I would encourage you to focus your seeking, not on "why", but on Who.
I understand much more of the "why" now, but only because I did not seek the "why", but the Who. I sought Him. And He eventually answered all of the "whys" that I need to know up to this point.
And the rest? I trust Him with that also. So can you.
I have told you what I believe to be the truth here. And I believe that there is more comfort in the truth than in all the "sweet" words that exist.
For me, the truth is what got me through my struggles. The truth is what got Rose through hers. And the truth will get you through yours, because at the "bottom line", the truth is not an "it". The truth, also, is Who. (John 14:6)
You will survive. You will be all right. In truth, you are all right now, regardless of how things appear or how you feel, if You trust in Him.
You husband is all right also. He may be suffering and his body may be devastated, but he (the real, true, eternal person that he is now (John 11:26)) is all right. His life (just as yours) is in your relationship with God, whether it is spent "here" or "there". "Where" is irrelevant, except from our "earthly" perspective.
You asked for words to "hang on to". Hold to these words.
For me, they have been my greatest comfort. I believe they will be yours also.