WEEK NINETEEN: LORD, DON'T YOU CARE THAT WE ARE PERISHING?
Have you ever felt like crying out to God because He seemed to be asleep at the wheel of your life? Have you ever felt He surely could not be tuned in to what is going on with you because you were hurting or terrified or heartbroken? Then you are like those closest to Him, his disciples, when they called out to Him, ““Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” In Mark 4:38-41, when a terrible storm comes up suddenly and their ship is in danger, a few of his disciples are afraid for their lives. They cry out plaintively to the Lord because He has fallen asleep, seemingly unconcerned about what is happening to them.
One of my dearest friends lost her daughter this week. Monica, at age 48 went home to live with Jesus in Heaven for eternity. She fought one of the most difficult battles with cancer that I have ever witnessed. This beautiful masterpiece of a woman was what we all aspire to be as Christian women. She lived for the Lord every day of her life and her cancer years and death were an even greater testimony of her faith than her years of health. The joy of the Lord shined on her countenance despite debilitating chemo treatments. She was clearly at peace, though she received one devastating report from her doctor after another for years. In the world’s eyes, there was no happy ending. But they don’t see the ending.
Just one of the many passages that comfort Christians is 2 Corinthians 5.
5 For we know that if the tent that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. 2 For in this tent we groan, longing to put on our heavenly dwelling, 3 if indeed by putting it on we may not be found naked. 4 For while we are still in this tent, we groan, being burdened—not that we would be unclothed, but that we would be further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. 5 He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who has given us the Spirit as a guarantee.
6 So we are always of good courage. We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, 7 for we walk by faith, not by sight. 8 Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord. 9 So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him. 10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil.
Here are three things I take from this passage.
1. The moment Monica finished her difficult journey here on earth, folded her earthly tent, and left this world and took the hand of Jesus, she was absent from her body but present with the Lord. The incredibly wonderful Christians I have known who went to Heaven before I wanted them to have this one thing in common: because I know how they loved Jesus with all their hearts, I know they would not step back into this life even if they could. The healing I wanted for them is nothing compared to how wonderful they are feeling in His presence. And we will enjoy that with them one day and for eternity. This waiting time seems long to us, but one day we will see it is just the blink of an eye. So Monica would say to us, “ Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord.” (Verse 8.)
2. Monica experienced much pain and sickness while on this earth. We all do to some degree, but hers was extensive. Verse 4 says, “For while we are still in this tent, we groan, being burdened.” Monica is no longer groaning. She is experiencing something you have never had a moment of: the experience of having not a single burden in the world. She has a wholeness we can’t even grasp; her relationships are perfect; she rests completely in God’s provision and care; and she enjoys worship and fellowship with Him like none she has ever known.
3. Verse 10 says, “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil.” Monica’s main credential is that she took the Lord at His Word and asked Him to live in her heart and save her from her sinful self and accepted His salvation. That one choice made the difference in what happened to Monica the moment life left her body. The bliss and joy she experiences every minute is entirely dependent on that day she said, “Yes, I choose to believe you,” to the Lord. But in addition to that, Monica served Him on this earth, taught others about the Lord, went on mission trips to ensure others far away could know His love, and set an example for me and others about how our lives should look after we accept Jesus. She was a Godly woman in the eyes of every single person who ever met her. She had nothing to fear at the judgment seat.
Monica has her happy ending, a happiness so great the world cannot begin to create anything remotely similar. This world could not offer someone as wonderful as Monica the joy and delight she is enjoying now. In the old days, people would have said, “She has gone to her reward.” That is exactly what has happened. God used Monica’s life and her process of death to bring Him glory while she was with us, but now, she is enjoying her reward. I am praising the Lord for that as I pray for comfort for her family who have lost a remarkable person.
Jesus came to bind up the brokenhearted. I am praying that Monica’s husband, mother, brothers, and other family members feel His loving touch as He binds up their wounded hearts. I pray they will be more aware than ever of the Comforter, the Holy Spirit. And I am praying that they will be able to experience the joy of knowing that they will be living with her in glory for many more years than they had with her on earth and enjoying the Lord with her forever. I know the Lord will carry them in His loving arms through this pain.
The Lord was not asleep when Monica died. He brought her to live with Him for eternity. Everything in her life was used as a blessing, though our limited understanding cannot fathom all of it now.
And He is not asleep in your circumstances. When Jesus rebuked the wind and calmed the storm the disciples were in, they were stunned. They said, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?” It is our Lord, the Master over everything. The Master over whatever has your heart hurting or faltering. Doesn’t He care? Yes, He cares so much He died an even worse death than we can imagine to take your place and pay for your sins. And He can rebuke and change whatever is stirring in your life if you ask Him to. Just because you do not hear Him for a while does not mean He is asleep. Trust His character. Trust what He has told you from His Word. He will be there for you in life and He will be there for you in death.
(The story from Mark 4:35-41 is printed below for you. How might it apply to something in your life?)
35 On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, “Let us go across to the other side.” 36 And leaving the crowd, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. And other boats were with him. 37 And a great windstorm arose, and the waves were breaking into the boat, so that the boat was already filling. 38 But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion. And they woke him and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” 39 And he awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. 40 He said to them, “Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?” 41 And they were filled with great fear and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?”