It was Easter Sunday 2002. I felt horrible. I had a fever. My body ached. Somehow, though, I was able to make it through our two worship services. I went home after church and crawled straight into bed.
For the next three days, I felt lousy. I was nauseous. My body ached, especially my chest. By Thursday there was blood in my urine.
We spent all day Thursday in the Emergency Room running tests. That evening, our doctor walked in with tears in her eyes.
“It’s grave,” she said.
“How grave?” I asked. “Do I need to call my parents in Michigan and tell them to fly down immediately?”
“Yes,” she whispered.
Everything was pointing to Leukemia, the bad kind (as if there were a good kind). She said there was still a chance it could be Hepatitis or a virus that was attacking my liver, but everything pointed to Leukemia. They would run tests the next day to confirm.
That night I did something I never thought I would do. I prayed to God, “Please let me have Hepatitis.” We thought I was dying. My doctor thought I was dying.
The next day, they did a spinal tap. By noon, the results came back negative. I quickly prayed, “Okay, God, never mind about that whole Hepatitis thing.”
Sure enough the test for Hepatitis came back negative as well. It turned out to merely be a virus which had attacked my liver. Within a few days I was released from the hospital weak, but recovering.
The next time we went to my doctor, we scolded her for scaring us. She then told us about a friend of hers who had presented with the same symptoms only a few months earlier and was dead from Leukemia within two weeks. She thought it was happening all over again. “Besides,” she said, “your immune system was so weak, if you would have waited any longer to come to the hospital, you would have died.”
I’ll never forget that night I spent honestly thinking I was dying. That dark night in the hospital has helped me relate to those in my ministry who hear the haunting words, “You are dying.”
One of the things I have come to realize, however, is that even before I got sick, I was already dying. I am no doctor, but I can tell you with one hundred percent certainty, “You are dying.”
Every moment that goes by is one moment closer to death. Every breath you take is one breath closer to your last. You are dying.
And when you die, you will face God the Judge. He will then open a book in which is written everything you have ever thought, said or done. That is the evidence. It is clear. You are guilty. You have lied. You have cheated. You have said horrible things. You have done despicable deeds. You deserve the eternal death of hell.
But that’s why Jesus came – to free us from the death we deserve. He suffered our punishment in our place. He died our death on the cross.
Death, however, could not stop him. The grave could not hold him. He rose from the dead proving his power over death and now he promises us, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die” (John 11:25,26).
You are dying, but through faith in Jesus, you will live even though you die. Death is just a door for those who believe. The stinger of death has been removed. Because of Jesus – through faith in him – you will live forever in heaven.
You are dying. One day you will close your eyes in death, but you will open them immediately to life eternal in heaven. That is God’s promise and God doesn’t lie. Trust that truth. Find comfort in that truth. Cling to that truth until your dying day.