The pastor lay in his hospital bed thinking about his time in his new church. His year there had been plagued with health issues. There had been intestinal problems, an emergency appendectomy, and now here he was with terrible abdominal pain due to an inflamed gall bladder. The socialized medical system had promised a surgery date—several months in the future. What was happening to him? In Lima he had the occasional cold or intestinal problem, but nothing serious. Now in Arequipa it seemed he had been sick as much as he had been well.
As he lay there thinking about these things, the doctor approached his bed. Her expression was serious and professional as she began to talk to him. “I’ve been looking at your charts and the results of all the tests we’ve run. It appears that the trouble has gone beyond your gall bladder. According to your test results it looks like the process has advanced and now your pancreas and liver are compromised.” She paused while he tried to absorb the full meaning of her words. After a few seconds she continued, “I recommend that you make sure your affairs are in order and that you prepare for the worst.”
His heart dropped. He was a pastor, but a pastor is also a man. He thought of his wife and his teen-aged children. He thought of his ministry in the church. Was he prepared to leave all of that? His mind knew and believed that God is sovereign, all-knowing and all-powerful, but his emotions were in turmoil.
Through his tears he begged God to spare his life. How had a supposedly simple gall bladder problem turned into something so serious that his very life was now in danger? He wasn’t afraid of death—he was confident of his salvation and eternal life in heaven based on Jesus’ sacrifice—but he’d never considered the possibility of leaving this world so soon, of not growing old with his wife or seeing his children reach adulthood. Now he was being forced to face that possibility.
Sleep eluded him that night. He picked up his Bible and turned to the story of King Hezekiah. The prophet Isaiah had told him that God had said that he was going to die from the illness he was suffering from. Hezekiah cried out to God, begging him to relent and grant him another opportunity to live. But when God answered his prayer, Hezekiah changed. His pride led him to commit errors that would have devastating consequences for his people. What was his response when confronted with his sinful actions? “Well, at least it won’t happen in my lifetime.”
“How selfish,” thought the pastor. “How could anyone who had received such an obvious blessing from God be so arrogant and self-important, so totally unconcerned with how his actions were going to affect those who came after him?”
Then his thoughts returned to his own situation. Again his tears flowed, but this time not out of fear or even sadness at the thought of leaving his family. No. This time he cried out of a love filled with humility and contrition. He loved the church—the local church he served, El Camino, as well as the universal church comprised of all believers everywhere. As he thought about his beloved church, he spoke to God from the depths of his heart. Through his anguish he said, “God, I want to live. I believe there is still work for me to do here. But if my life is going to bring shame or embarrassment to you or your church, then take it; take me now so that I may never be a cause of reproach or a stumbling block in your work.”
The pastor recovered from that episode and several weeks later underwent surgery to remove his gall bladder. His pancreas and liver are functioning normally and he is regaining the weight and strength he lost over the months of pain.
God answered his prayer and spared his life. I, for one, am eagerly waiting to see how God uses him in the life of El Camino in the years to come.
- By Sue Querfeld
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