Recently I ran across an old videotaped recording that contains a fascinating conversation between two men, Tim and Greg. Thirty years ago, when the conversation was recorded, both men were in their middle 30’s, and both were teachers at the same college. At about the same time, they were both diagnosed with an incurable form of cancer. Both men were dedicated Christians and prayed for healing, and both had many others praying for them. Everything about their two situations was almost identical; except for one thing. Tim, apparently in answer to the many prayers, received a miraculous healing of his disease. The doctors could not explain it, but his cancer was gone, and he sat there strong, healthy, and with a long future ahead of him. Greg, however, received no such healing, and he was dying. He sat there thin, weak, and full of the cancer that would, in a mere two months, end his life. Tim began the conversation by expressing his gratitude to God for the healing he received. He then asked Greg how he felt about not being healed. Tim said, “Greg, don’t you think God is being quite unfair about the whole thing, healing me and not you?”
This is how Greg responded:
Well, in order to say something is unfair, you have to know everything about both situations. Our situations look similar, and so it looks to us to be very unfair. But God sees far more of the whole picture than we do, and perhaps God sees some differences. Perhaps you and I, or those around us, have different things to learn by what is happening to us. Perhaps there is someone you know who will be brought to faith in Jesus because you were healed. And perhaps someone I know will be strengthened in their faith by seeing how I face death. I am content to leave the answers to my prayers in God’s hands, knowing that He alone sees everything, and knows far more than we do. Besides, we get a rather short time of it here on this earth anyway, no matter how long we live. But the promise of God is that we will live again, forever, in a better place. So I am not going to fret over missing out on a few extra years here. We both have a whole eternity of life ahead of us.
I am impressed by Greg’s calm and faithful acceptance of his disease and approaching death. He spoke of death with courage and confidence; without any bitterness or fear, and without a hint of jealousy over the miracle Tim received. Rather, he chose to speak about finding meaning in his suffering. Perhaps, he thought, God intended that some important purpose would be served by his death. I believe he was right about that. I know my own faith was strengthened by Greg’s testimony even now, thirty years after his death; and perhaps his words will have an impact on you also, along with the many others over the years who saw the video.
Greg was encouraged by God’s long-term promise of eternal life, and it was in that context that he viewed his short-term suffering and early death. Greg was receiving some rough treatment, but he knew the end of his story would be good. There is much in the Bible and in life that we do not understand, but the Bible is not so much about smooth sailing and perfect understanding, as it is about remaining faithful until the end; an end which, for the Christian, is always a happy ending. Greg’s story indeed had a happy ending, ending not in death, but in the heavenly home that was prepared for him by Jesus his Lord and Savior.
From another young man who whose prayers for healing were not answered with a long life on earth:
“I have been healed of my desperate need to be healed.”
–Dave Busby, quoted in a speech I heard given by a close friend of his.
Dave Busby died in 1997 as a young man after a life-long battle with cystic fibrosis.
Psalm 31:15a — My times are in your hands.
Isaiah 55:8-9 — “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.
2 Corinthians 12:7b-9 — In order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.
John 14:1-3 — (Jesus said), “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. My Father’s house has many rooms… I am going there to prepare a place for you… I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.
PSALM 31:1-3, 5, 9-10, 14-15a:
In you, Lord, I have taken refuge;
let me never be put to shame;
deliver me in your righteousness.
Turn your ear to me, come quickly to my rescue;
be my rock of refuge, a strong fortress to save me.
Since you are my rock and my fortress,
for the sake of your name lead and guide me.
Into your hands I commit my spirit;
deliver me, Lord, my faithful God.
Be merciful to me, Lord, for I am in distress;
my eyes grow weak with sorrow,
my soul and body with grief.
My life is consumed by anguish
and my years by groaning;
my strength fails because of my affliction,
and my bones grow weak.
But I trust in you, Lord;
I say, “You are my God.”
My times are in your hands.