My brother John is chronically ill with emphysema brought on by his working environment and our family predisposition to lung disease. He is 53. On several occasions, he and I have discussed his prognosis and his belief that he won’t live long. This gives him a sense of urgency to reach those who are lost in the world. In the past year, he started a church and began preaching for the first time. Meanwhile, he attends his regular church on Sunday evenings.
He has been incredibly sick this week, struggling just to breathe. I was shocked to hear how bad off he was when he called me en route to the doctor. He’s had a rough week. However, I received the following e-mail from him on Sunday night, which shows what can happen at a good old fashioned Baptist singing service when God is allowed to work.
Tonight a miracle happened. Distraught and believing I might not make it through the week, I came to church tonight. Coughing and choking, struggling at times to breathe I attempted to sing with song service and was able to sing very little. Struggling with the thought of what I must look like to others as the steroid psychosis interfered with my ability to see or think straight, I staggered down the aisle to where my pastor stood. I reached out my arms to him and said between sobs as he held me, "I need everyone to lay hands on me and pray. I need everyone to pray." They immediately gathered around me and began to lay hands on me as I knelt at the altar. Immediately a calmness rushed through my body as they prayed. I'd never felt prayers working like that in my behalf before. My lungs were relieved and I was able to breathe again. As they finished and two men helped me to my feet I shouted, "thank you, thank you." I have been a part of healing services like that before but never as the recipient. God was working in our church tonight. I had to share this with you, Love, John
It goes without saying that because my brother is part of my daily life, my life will have a tremendous hole when he’s gone. The only thing that will soothe the pain is the knowledge that he’s with my Savior and I will join him one day. My prayer for John is that God will heal him of his lung disease, but God in His infinite wisdom will do what is best. Our wisdom is incredibly inferior to God’s (1 Corinthian 1:25). John is completely at peace with God being in charge. He is ready to see Jesus. I hear the longing in his voice and in his writings.
Sometimes the closer you get to death, the closer you become to God. For the first time you truly understand life and see the precious time that gets wasted. I also pray that when John’s time comes, that God will be merciful in taking him. Although John and I don’t always see eye to eye on approach, I’m so proud of my brother’s tireless work to reach the lost. He is truly an example of Christ’s love.
(Originally appeared as a Facebook note February 15, 2010. I'm happy to report John is still preaching God's word and will do so as long as God ordains it. His health is still very tenuous.)