I’m entering my fourth decade as a pastor. Thirty years is plenty of time to hear Joseph stories. I’ve met many Egypt-bound people. Down, down, down. I’ve learned the question to ask. If you and I were having this talk over coffee, this is the point where I would lean across the table and say, “What do you still have that you cannot lose?” The difficulties have taken much away. I get that. But there is one gift your troubles cannot touch: your destiny. My father walked the road to Egypt. Family didn’t betray him; his health did. He had just retired. Then came the diagnosis: amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease), a cruel degenerative disease that affects the muscles. Within months he was unable to feed, dress, or bathe himself. His world, as he knew it, was gone.
My Dad lost much: his health, retirement, years with his children and grandchildren, years with his wife. The loss was severe, but it wasn’t complete. “Dad,” I could have asked, “what do you have that you cannot lose?” He still had God’s call on his heart. Several years after Dad’s death I received a letter from a woman who remembered him. Ginger was only six years old when her Sunday school class made get-well cards for ailing church members. She created a bright purple card out of construction paper and carefully lined it with stickers. On the inside she wrote, “I love you, but most of all God loves you.” Her mom baked a pie, and the two made the delivery.
Dad was bedfast. The end was near. His jaw tended to drop, leaving his mouth open. He could extend his hand, but it was bent to a claw from the disease. Somehow Ginger had a moment alone with him and asked a question as only a six-year-old can: “Are you going to die?” He touched her hand and told her to come near. “Yes, I am going to die. When? I don’t know.” She asked if he was afraid to go away. “Away is heaven,” he told her. “I will be with my Father. I am ready to see him eye to eye.”
About this point in the visit, her mother and mine returned. Ginger recalls:
My mother consoled your parents with a fake smile on her face. But I smiled a big, beautiful, real smile, and he did the same and winked at me.
My purpose for telling you all this is my family and I are going to Kenya. We are going to take Jesus to a tribe on the coast. I am very scared for my children, because I know there will be hardships and disease. But for me, I am not afraid, because the worst thing that could happen is getting to see “my Father eye to eye.”
It was your father who taught me that earth is only a passing through and death is merely a rebirth.
A man near death winking at the thought of it. Stripped of everything? It only appeared that way. In the end, Dad still had what no one could take. And in the end that is all he needed.
Excerpted from You'll Get Through This: Hope and Help for Your Turbulent Times by Max Lucado. ©2013. Used by permission of Thomas Nelson, Inc. www.thomasnelson.com.
Publication date: September 3, 2013
Photo credit: ©Getty Images/Halfpoint