When I see illness ravages her body, my heart breaks into thousand pieces. She is no more the same. No matter how severe the contortion, nothing can hide her inner beauty. She has never murmured a single word of complaint against God. In her condition, any lesser person would have whined all day long. She just goes about her daily chores with the strength that God gave, though now taking much longer time than before. Throughout 26 years of ups and downs, I seldom see her cry nor crumble under crisis. She possesses that quiet confidence, I know it’s the faith that is forged over long years of walking with God.
Then she broke down and cried. I know it’s unusual. I saw for the first time her vulnerability. She began to take step to slow down her work. I have taken her to physiotherapy, chiropractic sessions hoping that the condition can be corrected. Each day is a daily battle against deterioration of her condition. Strangely, I find those times to be faith building and relationship deepening. It’s easy to make the vow ‘in sickness and in health’, but when one is being confronted with reality, that is when rubber meets the road and the traction will reveal the true character of one’s commitment. I discovered that I love her dearly and would gladly step down from my ministry to care for her. That day might come sooner than I can prepare for it.
I have always long for a community that cultivates and reflects a deep faith. So much of what I see is shallow. We know how to celebrate victory of healing, but inept when healing does not take place. We display our lack of pastoral sensitivity to those who continue to suffer because our theology compounds their guilt. Many in the church go through suffering silently. The theology of triumphalism may appeal to the crowd, it will certainly precipitate crisis of faith to the undiscerning.
I revisited the Book of Revelation for strength and solace. I have preached this Book many years ago but nothing comes close to seeing and feeling its impact upon the suffering church. The vision was given in the context of a suffering church. John himself was exiled in Patmos Island without the possibility of coming out alive. It seems that life does not make sense, a faithful disciple of Christ who had served Him for 60 more years was now discarded in a God forsaken Island. John saw a vision of Christ and the word that Christ spoke was most comforting: “Do not be afraid, I am the First and the Last. I am the Living One; I was dead, and behold I am alive forever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades.” (Revelation 1) The vision of God sitting on His throne in heaven was shown to John. John saw myriads and myriads of angels worshiping God and the countless host of angels celebrating and exalting the Lamb who was slain to purchased men for God (Revelation 4 &5). Revelation 6 to 19 describes the war of Satan waged against God’s people and the injustices inflicted by the inhabitants of the earth on the saints. God’s people greatly suffered because of persecution of their faith. Many were killed and seemingly defeated by Satan and his hosts. God meted out his judgment upon the earth through earthquakes, famines, sea pollution, earth being scorched & plagues. I would not want to live in the time that is described in Revelation 6 to 19. Revelation 20 is a breather, an angel coming down out of heaven, having the key to the Abyss and holding in his hand a great chain. He seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, which is the devil, or Satan, and bound him for a thousand years. After the thousand years are over, Satan is released and goes out to deceive the nations and then he is thrown in the lake of burning sulfur. Satan will be tormented day and night for ever and ever.
Then John saw a new heaven and a new earth. The first heaven and the first earth had passed away. He saw the Holy City coming down out of heaven from God. God tabernacles right in the middle of his people and he lives with them forever.
God will wipe away every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.
It dawns on me that we have complicated our interpretation of the Book of Revelation. All that we need to know its quite simple. And it is this:
In life we will have suffering and even defeats (Rev 1)
We need to know that Jesus is the author of life and he is the living Christ who holds the key of life and death (Rev. 1). We therefore do not need to fear death.
We need to constantly lift our eyes upward and see that God is still sitting on the thrones with myriads of angels worshiping him and that Christ has already purchased us with his blood. We belong to God forever. No one and nothing can touch our lives unless permitted by God. Even if persecution, illnesses ravage our bodies, God sustains us by his grace.
We will go through great suffering because of our faith in Christ. The final script has not been written yet. Satan may have temporary an upper hand over us. But his time will soon run out when God wraps up history.
We all look forward to the day when God ushers in the new heaven and new earth. The paradise lost shall be regained. We will learn to get use to the new existence where there is no sicknesses, no pollution, no moral impurity, no injustices, and no death. The lame shall walk, the mute will speak, the blind see, the deaf hear.
Everything good, beautiful, wholesome that takes place now and here on earth is only a foretaste of what is to come.
Anything bad, ugly, broken even beyond repair will find its full redemption and restoration on that Day.
Meanwhile, I still need to routinely take my wife to UMSC for medical attention, the unending rounds of chiropractic sessions, and the ferrying around to do errands. Life has to go on but we look at it in a God-centered perspective.