I have been wavering between heartbreak and anguish for the past three weeks. The cause of these vacillating feelings has been the sudden and rapid decline in my grandmother’s health. I even spent the weekend before Thanksgiving driving up to see her in the hospital and sat with her for an entire day, and she barely spoke a word to me….her mind fluctuating between coherency and hallucinations. Finally, in the past few days I’ve found out that she has stage 4 kidney cancer. One kidney is no longer functioning. Her pancreas, also affected, no longer works. The cancer has also spread to her lungs and liver, and doctors have been fighting an ongoing battle with blood clots that keep forming in her lungs. This week, I was told that one of the valves in her heart is no longer closing, and doctors can’t do anything else for her but make her comfortable as she approaches death.
But to be honest, she’s old….80 to be precise. Her death was always to be expected, but never could I have imagined something like this. So you may be wondering why am I so worked up about this.
You see, I don’t know if my grandmother has true, saving faith in Jesus Christ. Yes, she has spent all of her life in church, and she even served as a deaconess for a period of time as well. But if you ask me the fruit or marks of her life that accompany regeneration, conversion, and sanctification…..I honestly don’t know what to tell or show you. If you asked me about changes that I saw in her life through the years, I can’t tell you anything positive. She attended church less often. She didn’t have a desire to read her Bible or do anything like that. There were never any conversations pertaining to spiritual things. Nothing.
In my 31 years all I have been told is that she believes in the “power of prayer” (my mom said that….that’s her reassurance). Unfortunately, all sorts of people believe in praying when circumstances become dire, but that does not mean that those same people are actually abiding in Christ and have Christ abiding in them by the power of the Spirit of God.
In all of my years growing in the Lord, I’ve had to realize over and over again that there is no middle ground when it comes to being a Christian. You can’t “sort of” or “kind of” be a Christian. You can’t be a Christian “a little” or even “for the most part”. God doesn’t work like that, and salvation certainly doesn’t work like that.
It is a complete overhaul of your life, heart, soul, and mind. Your affections change. Your desires change. Your habits change. You change, and the changes are inevitable. No, they don’t all happen at once. We don’t just “arrive” the moment we place our faith and trust in Jesus. But those changes take place systematically over time so that month by month and year by year there is evidence of steady growth and conformity to the image of Christ. And it is undeniable and unmistakable.
My heart feels so heavy right now because I’ve been down this road before. When my father (my grandmother’s son) died, as a young Christian even then I wondered if he was really saved. People tried to be so comforting and encouraging when he died, but none of their words ever brought peace to my mind. It hurt, and it still does. I saw absolutely no evidence of anything, no matter how hard I prayed for him. And then he died. I mean, it’s possible. It’s definitely possible that God moved upon his heart before those last moments and he threw himself upon the mercies of God….just like it is possible that this will happen to my grandmother. But I know that deathbed conversions are not the norm, nor should they be expected.
It’s a bitter pill to swallow….that simple fact that we are all without excuse. God, it hurts. It’s the truth. And as much as I want a way around it, there is none.
He is perfect. His ways are just, holy, and righteous altogether, no matter the pain I’m feeling or the tears I’m crying.
While my husband sat with me as I cried, I told him that when I die I want it be known without a hesitation that I belong to the Lord and that I will live with Him forever and ever, and that I want him and our children to be assured of that. He simply responded, “Honey, that’s something you need to be assured of for yourself. You shouldn’t worry about us.”
So true. That smart man of mine speaks the truth. And I’ve grown so much over the years in having assurance in Christ. But facing this impending death of my grandmother has caused me to be concerned again with an issue that I can easily fall prey to…..complacency.
That is the one area in my life that I fight against constantly…the thorn in my flesh… because I have a very natural desire to be complacent. To think that everything is good enough, that I don’t need to keep working this hard, and be generally dismissive of anything that requires more of me…including Christ. And the last place I want to be complacent in is my Christian walk. So, in the midst of a lot of tears, pain, heartbreak, anguish, and sorrow, I’ve been meditating on this passage I read to my daughter this morning. My prayer was that God would make this the constant plea of my heart.
But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith – that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.
Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. – Philippians 3:7-14
Ultimately, I know that my opinions and observations do not determine another person’s eternal destination and that we all cast ourselves upon the mercies of God in the end. But for now, until I reach my last day, I would like to spend myself pressing forward so that I may know Christ more perfectly, so that this world has a weakening hold on me and my affections, and so that when it is all said and done, I do indeed receive that heavenly, eternal prize in Him.