"In my distress I called to the LORD; I cried to my God for help. From his temple he heard my voice; my cry came before him, into his ears. He reached down from on high and took hold of me; he drew me out of deep waters." - Psalm 18:6, 16------------------------------------------------------------------------------
In pursuit of happiness, my American birthright, just like liberty, I’ve worked hard to get where I am today. And it has paid off with great dividends. I have more than enough money to buy what I want to buy, to eat what I want to eat, to shop where I want to shop and to purchase the “keys to the kingdom” if I so desire. Well, maybe not the kingdom of heaven, but, then again, where is heaven? I say, the only heaven we’ll ever have is the one we make for ourselves, right here on earth. A heaven with a god and angels on clouds is a concoction of the losers who can’t make it here, if you know what I mean.
I hear about this “god” thing – I mean, I go to church and everything. It’s good to cover all my bases. I really just don’t need a god too much as far as I can see. But, I do like to keep Him on the back shelf, somewhere, just in case... But, really, when was the last time I needed Him?
I choose my friends carefully and they are just like me - self-reliant and highly successful. Honestly, we’ve talked about it and we all agree – this god thing is for the ones who can’t take care of themselves – they’re just too weak or lazy or who knows what. I can’t imagine how they got where they are. Didn’t anybody ever teach them how to be successful?
Speaking of friends, I got a scary call from one of my best buddies yesterday. He’s been my mentor for as long as I can remember. Nobody made more money or rose to the top faster than he did. I watched him pass all the weaker types behind as he climbed the ladder of success, sometimes climbing on the bodies of those who whined and cried for his help along the way. He let nothing get in his way. Whatever it took to succeed he did it, even if he did blur the lines of integrity now and then. You do what you have to do, he always told me. He taught me so well!
Well, anyway, he called me yesterday, with the strangest request. He asked me to come to the hospital to visit him. Seems he woke up with a pounding headache a few weeks ago and after routine tests for what he thought was migraines, he was diagnosed with inoperable brain cancer. They give him about three weeks to live. Three weeks. I couldn’t believe my ears. This can’t be happening to my friend. He is so strong, so healthy, so successful…
I did go to visit him, this morning. He lay there, barely recognizable with his head and face and body so swollen, I wasn’t sure who I was looking at. When he spoke to me, his words were barely audible and his speech was slurred. He had asked me to come to visit him but when I got there, he wasn’t sure who I was. The color had completely drained from his face and body which had become a mere extension of the many tubes that assaulted his body from every direction. His wife, dressed in the beautiful clothes she was accustomed to wearing, was red eyed and weeping uncontrollably by his bed. I asked her if she was sure she had the best doctors – after all, this is the 21st century and surely, there was a medical solution for those with the kind of money my friend has. She looked at me with pity through eyes that had suddenly discovered a truth I had yet to encounter. "Nothing can save him now," she said. "Nothing but God." "We need Him," she said with desperation in her voice and tears streaming down her face. "We need Him," she cried. "We need Him. We need Him. We need Him..."
I can still hear her words echoing in my head right now. My friend is dying. All of his money can’t save him. He needs God. Watching the suffering of my friend was like a lightning bolt searing through my soul. For the first time in my life, I saw my need for God. He has broken me with the beauty of the suffering of my friend. Yes, I call it beauty. Because it was his suffering that brought him to recognize his need for his Savior. And, as I looked suffering straight in the eye, in the face of my friend, I saw my own need. It wasn’t through health, or wealth, or the trappings of success that I came to know Him. It was through the gift of suffering that broke me and showed me my need.
Thank you, Jesus, for the witness of suffering to a rich and self-centered generation. Thank you, Lord, for the gift of suffering that teaches me there is no substitute for You…