There is one particular moment that stands out from my church retreat experience last weekend: falling to the ground weeping at a single song lyric:
Death is defeated.
Just moments before, I had stood for an altar call to release disappointment, and deep disappointment had surfaced about my grandmother’s passing back in December.
It wasn’t just disappointment that God never physically healed her from Parkinson’s. Nor mere sadness about her being gone. It was a deep, fear-filled question that has popped up again and again the past six months:
Does God really reward those who seek Him?
I had addressed this question before. I thought I had come to terms with all the difficult questions stirring deep in my heart. Amidst the tears and wrestling, I had declared that God is a rewarder of those who seek Him! But last weekend, as we sang of Jesus’ victory over death, God took my understanding of His faithfulness to a deeper level.
Death and disease did their best to defeat your grandmother, He said, but they couldn’t. In the end, she was victorious.
I began to see visions of my grandmother in heaven with Jesus, dancing and worshiping. And my whole view of her suffering shifted.
This whole time part of me had felt God had allowed her to suffer an unjust punishment, but now I realized that it wasn’t like that at all. It wasn’t a punishment; it was an attack. The enemy always attacks those close to God, those who intimidate him. But he couldn’t defeat her––she was victorious.
Don’t you know that all the suffering fell away and was forgotten in a single moment, obliterated by that first waking moment of joy?
But still, a question was on my lips.
What about all those years she suffered on earth? Now, it’s all fine and forgotten (for her at least), but what about in the midst of the suffering? How could God abandon her? His response was immediate:
I never left her for even a moment.
He began showing me His faithfulness piece by piece.
How He had prompted me so often to pray for her. (Don’t you know that was because she was on My mind?) How He had provided my grandfather to take loving, untiring physical care of her.
He reminded me of the moment I got to tell her how much He loved her––the sudden awareness that came into her eyes as I held her hand and told her that the first thing God told me when I moved to Korea was to pray for her.
I remembered one evening when she could barely talk, couldn’t even keep her eyes open, and we weren’t sure if she was present mentally or not, when she suddenly laughed at something my grandfather said. (She used to laugh quite often––I believe I inherited my sense of humor from her.)
She never lost her sense of humor. And you won’t either, no matter what you go through.
At His words, deep, unspoken fears within me fell away. I can’t control what may happen, but I can know that I will never be defeated.
Then God spoke one thing more.
A dear college friend of mine is in a coma right now.
She has been for a number of weeks. I, along with hundreds of others, are currently praying for a miracle: full restoration of her brain.
She is so young and beautiful and amazing that anything except full and complete healing would just seem terribly wrong. And perhaps that makes it scarier for me to pray. What if God doesn’t answer? How will I keep from growing bitter toward Him about this one?
Well, that night, after showing me all those revelations about my grandmother, God pinpointed this fear inside me about my friend also, the fear that she wouldn’t be healed. He said, You know death and disease can’t defeat her. Her victory is sure. You don’t have to be afraid.
I stayed on my knees on that floor for quite awhile after that, sobbing, as the reality of heaven and Jesus’ victory washed over me.
My friend is victorious. That is already a certainty.
There is nothing the enemy can steal that God can’t more than repay. Her youth, her beauty, not even her dignity. All will be restored one hundred-fold.
That assurance frees me to pray with more boldness and faith. God can heal her––God can do anything. And God wants to heal her. I am certain of that. But I believe He wants to stretch our faith first. Don’t be afraid; just believe. I cling to those words of Jesus as I step out in faith for my friend.