Wednesday night I went to visit my seventy-year-old father who lies in very critical condition as a result of liver transplant surgery two days ago. Prior to surgery, his doctors discovered that his heart is in much worse condition than they had anticipated, and he may not recover. Even if he does, he will spend at least the next three months in the hospital.
When I walked into the ICU, I gasped. I cried. He was heavily sedated; tubes coming in and out of everywhere. Bloody bandages all over the place. He was bloated. He looked dead. Even though his eyes were closed and filled with tears, he would grimace in pain from time to time. I think he knew I was there-I'm banking on it, anyway.
I spent 45 minutes with him by myself talking to him, reminding him of our trip to Switzerland (his homeland) last year and all the fun we had. I told him how much I love him and what a great dad he has been to me. I told him how much Jesus loves him and how, one way or another, he will be just fine real soon. I cried some more. It was the first time I came face to face (literally) with the sobering reality that my dad will die-perhaps much sooner rather than later. The thought of losing him breaks my heart. Dad is one of my best friends and wisest advisors. I haven't made one major decision over the past seventeen years without seeking his counsel. He's also one of my biggest fans. No one encourages me more than my dad. He's a gospel man through and through. God's amazing grace still amazes him-and that amazes me!
Thinking about living the rest of my life without my dad makes me want to wail. I can't imagine the loss I'll feel when he dies. But this experience reminds me of the fact that life and the world we live in aren't what they're supposed to be. This isn't the perfect world God created before we filled it with sin. There's something about diseased hearts, painful recoveries, death, and relational separation that sobers us up to the reality that things aren't right in our world.
But, as I reminded my dad Wednesday night (hoping-believing-that he heard me), for those who are in Christ, the best is yet to come. The day is coming when God will satisfy our deepest longings and fulfill our highest dreams. He'll wipe away all our tears and end every frustration. He will, in the words of J. R. R. Tolkien, make "everything sad come untrue." He'll right every wrong and correct every injustice. The day is coming when we'll work and play and worship forever, with no more sin, no more sickness and disease, no more failure, no more pain, no more death. There is coming a day when the kingdoms of this world will become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and we will reign with him forever and ever (Revelation 11:15).
I ended my time Wednesday night with my dad praying with him and singing a hymn that has brought me deep comfort in these difficult days as I watch my dad suffer-a hymn that speaks loudly and clearly of the hope we have in Christ: "It is not Death to Die"…
It is not death to die
To leave this weary road
And join the saints who dwell on high
Who've found their home with God
It is not death to close
The eyes long dimmed by tears
And wake in joy before Your throne
Delivered from our fears
It is not death to fling
Aside this earthly dust
And rise with strong and noble wing
To live among the just
It is not death to hear
The key unlock the door
That sets us free from mortal years
To praise You evermore
Original words by Henri Malan (1787-1864).
Please keep praying for my dad. Pray for a full recovery. I need him around a little longer. But it sure is a deep comfort to know that, for those who have placed their trust in the finished work of Christ, it is not death to die.