I enjoy meeting my friend Paula for lunch once a week. At these lunches we talk about our shared medical issues, our God, our love for Jesus, our service at church, the possibility of saving room for dessert (we never do), and any other good thing that comes up in conversation.
Paula is one of my OCFG’s. I haven’t talked about this group of women in a while – they’re my Outrageously Christ-Filled Girlfriends. Their faith runs deep, is outwardly displayed by their walk through life, and they constantly replenish, stretch, and support me.
But what do you do when the faith of a friend starts to go south?
The last few posts about Divine Appointments were specifically about how God brought Paula and me together. Until this past week I thought I was part of the appointment to provide prayer and support … which is huge in the realm of friendship … but when I met with Paula this past week I wondered if I wasn’t part of the equation for a time such as this.
At lunch Paula expressed some real issues she’s having trying to maintain her faith in light of her serious medical issues. I don’t know if it happened earlier in treatment or just recently but Paula confided that the doctors have called her “incurable.”
I immediately bristle when someone – anyone – slaps a label on a person. I know how easily a label can damage the psyche and I could easily see the effect it was having on my friend.
Trying hard not to proffer platitudes we continued to talk about God but the conversation got really deep – really fast. She doesn’t know why God’s not healing her. I don’t know, but I also don’t know that he’s not going to heal her. I think as long as she is still drawing breath then God can heal her. She brought up a scripture (Isaiah 53:5) that someone turned into a song, part of which is: “by His stripes we are healed.” She and I don’t see eye to eye on this particular scripture. She believes its physical healing while I believe it to be spiritual healing. I look at her … probably blankly. I don’t want to focus on our difference of opinion over scripture. She’s in real trouble. But every question she asks is not meant to be answered. I can’t. I can just listen and pray that God is listening.
I don’t feel adequate to be having this conversation. Far too often my answer is, “I don’t know.”
Dejectedly Paula says she’s not hearing from God because she can’t concentrate when she reads the Bible. I ask her not to beat herself up. I can attest that cancer treatments mess with your mind. Your memory has leaked out your ear and you can spend minutes searching for the right word for some every day, ordinary thing. It’s aggravating but it doesn’t mean that God isn’t listening or talking to you.
At some point in the conversation, as we’d been tiptoeing around the topic of death, I mentioned that if it happened 5 days or 50 years from now it will be glorious to see Jesus. She wonders how I can be so sure. I know how. About five years ago I had an experience in which I could have been killed and even though I was praying for Jesus to save me, I realized after the fact that I wasn’t afraid to die. It was the first time I’d really comprehended that. I’ve also just about finished up a BSF study on Revelation which has justly excited me (and many others) about the certainty of the believer’s eternal life.
This discussion led to yet another question I didn’t know the answer to. Instead, I answered what I know to be true, “I don’t think we can know the answer to that question this side of heaven.”
Paula looked off into the distance over my right shoulder, “I don’t even know that if I die tomorrow that I’d go to heaven.” She couldn’t meet my eyes as she looked back at her lunch.
I was silent. The severity of my friend’s situation coming into full view. If I hadn’t known it before, I knew it now. Satan had my dear friend in his sights. It was war. I immediately grabbed her hands and prayed for God to rebuke the devil. There was no way the enemy was getting ahold of my OCFG – because she is an outrageously Christ-filled woman – even if she didn’t feel like it at the moment.
Join me Monday for the conclusion of “When Faith Falters” and have a great weekend!