For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that Day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing. 2 Timothy 4:6-8(ESV)
The last 36 hours have been tough ones for my family. On Saturday evening we got a phone call that my wife’s mother was being sent to Barnes Hospital by helicopter. When we arrived around midnight we got word that she’d had bleeding in her brain that was catastrophic. As many of you know, the end result was that she died on Sunday morning, to the glory of God. Mary Lahr was a follower of Jesus, and the Bible tells us that the death of God’s saints are precious in his sight (Psalm 116:15).
Her death ended about fifteen years of suffering and great difficulty. Without giving the entire story, during that time her life was one medical problem that brought pain and struggle after another. It seemed that as they tried to treat one thing, it would lead to another unbelievable problem. This included two bouts with cancer, two heart valve replacements, blood disorders, and so much more. She was weak, could not do so many thing that she loved so much, and life had become hard. Financially, all of this was extraordinarily expensive. She loved to sing praises to God, and had a beautiful voice, but she could not do that anymore, which was so sad. Still, I know that she would say that God was faithful to her.
A few months ago we had a conversation about the purpose of her struggle. When life is so hard, and things pile up, the answer to the question “why?” is incredibly difficult. We all prayed often that these things would be removed from her, but they were not. Did this mean that God was not faithful, or that he had taken a vacation and was not hearing her prayers? Of course not. The Apostle Paul had a similar life situation, and often prayed that God would remove his “thorn in the flesh.” Rather than removing the problem, God responded, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Corinthians 12:8-10). Paul’s conclusion was, “Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” I can say that I saw the truth of this Scripture in my mother-in-law’s life.
During our conversation, we discussed the very Biblical idea of suffering well. This does not jive with much contemporary theology, but is a very Biblical idea; for a person to live for the glory of God in the midst of suffering and hardship. God’s glory is often displayed the greatest in the life of a person who continues to trust God and find their joy in Him in the most difficult situations. He proves Himself faithful to them, as they suffer for the glory of God. In our conversation, I shared with her that my family was learning the genuine meaning of faith and faithfulness through her suffering. And that there may be someday when her grandchildren would be confronted with hardships and maybe even persecution, and that her endurance and faith during this time would teach them how to suffer well if they were ever confronted with the difficult choice of denying their faith or suffering for the cause of Christ. The discussion was filled with tears, but I can honestly say that Mary suffered well for the glory of God, and I believe my children learned true faith from her.
Yesterday was difficult. Most of you have been through the loss of someone you love before, so you can empathize. But the wonderful hope we have is that mom “finished the race”, an incredible hard one though it was, and that she was given the righteous crown that was laid up for her by the righteous judge. As we stood around her bed in the last minutes with her, Heidi sang one of her favorite songs, we joined in, through the tears:
To God be the glory, great things He hath done,
So loved He the world that He gave us His Son,
Who yielded His life an atonement for sin,
And opened the life gate that all may go in
- Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, let the earth hear His voice!
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, let the people rejoice!
Oh, come to the Father, through Jesus the Son,
And give Him the glory, great things He hath done.