When I think about Israel’s experience coming out of Egypt and into the Promised Land I think also of our Christian lives. The parallels found in the types and shadows are a wonder for any believer to explore. But here we have a passage that seems to get little press these days. But the land which you cross over to possess [is] a land of hills and valleys, which drinks water from the rain of heaven. Is this God telling us that our life will be filled with ups and downs? I think it is. Jesus said it this way, said, “In the world you will have tribulation, but be of good cheer I have overcome the world?” But could it also be God telling us that the end of our lives will likely be the longest and deepest valley of all? I want to examine that question in this latest entry.
For nearly 20 years I have been involved in ministry to the elderly. Once a week and as often as twice a week, my wife and I have been involved bringing the Gospel to non-believer, backslider, and faithful Saint in multiple nursing homes in the area. Some of you know me as a Bible Teacher, Preacher, Manager, Moderator, or other things, so this ministry has kind of sat on the fringe. It began in early 1994 as I was invited to assist a team that went to a hospital here in Kansas City. There I met many dear saints of God at the end of their lives. Some lived in bodies that were twisting and breaking down; others were slowly losing their thinking and memory ability. These are Saints like a precious man named Nineveh that was once a Pastor. Though he once preached the Gospel and traveled around, now he was confined to a room in a lonely hallway. He loved to sing all the verses to “O, how I love Jesus!” Then there were Saints that I look at and say as they writer to the Hebrews- people of God to whom the world was not worthy. Women like Juanita and her best friend Doris. Juanita was a quadriplegic induced by years of cerebral palsy. Her friend Doris that was also an elderly person battling cerebral palsy would push Juanita across the hospital, down the elevators, down a long corridor to the meetings. There were many residents to push down and Doris wanted to make sure we got Juanita. She could barely walk herself. She used the wheelchair as a walker of sorts and pushed her there and back when the meeting was over. The time would fail me to tell of all the dear saints that made a tremendous impression on me as a young Christian and continue to make an impression today.
Going in the rapture
I’m sorry to have to say this but many dear Saints of God that are now in their graves have died believing they would go up in the rapture. That is not a criticism, I am merely articulating the circumstances to give context for this entry. I have heard folk testify that they want to die in their sleep or they want to go up as Enoch that walked with God and was not for God took him. Many never saw the deepest and darkest valley they could have ever imagined would be the last scene on the stage of this earthly life. Some Saints I have known looked forward to retirement only to have their spouse turn ill or pass away before they could enjoy one day of it. Do we believe God when He says, But the land which you cross over to possess [is] a land of hills and valleys? Would it be indiscreet for me to tell you that dear Saints that have been with us helping out in the meetings have passed away almost with the frequency of a college or high school sports team? They get a player for 3-4 years, but we see precious Saints sometimes pass in one year after filling a role. Does that shock you to hear? It is true. What about Christians that are to young for elderly care, but have watched a spouse walk out on them for green pastures after all their kids left home? We can argue about the what’s and wherefore’s, but the truth is it happens and for the victim it is a deep and dark valley.
Solomon tells us clearly about old age in Ecclesiastes 12. It would be wonderful to believe that everyone is going to go up in the rapture, but if the Lord should tarry every one of us will die of the last thing that ailed us. The longer we live the more suffering we will experience. I have known many people that have outlived their spouse and children. Some were widowed, remarried and lost that spouse also. Think of the suffering and pain of heart. As it is said, death is one per person; but we can prepare ourselves now by spending time in the Word of God while we still have good eyesight and hearing. Many dear saints cannot see good enough to read anymore and are dependent on someone else to read to them. Hiding the Word of God in our hearts while young will be invaluable in times of trouble, especially if and when our senses start to fail us. Living in a room all alone is a dreadful experience if you don’t know the Lord. Learning to pray and spend time in fellowship with the Lord is essential to maintaining joy and love and peace in the difficult times. I have found that sometimes all that is left for a Saint is to pray. Selah.
At the New Life Conference 2012 I heard a dear Saint say that as long as we can find someone to love we will always have a reason to live. In some countries the elderly are taken care of by family so nursing homes are small. But if a person lives long enough they will eventually need some level of trained care. This is where Christians can go in a minister to dear saints that are no longer able to express their faith in ways they did when they were young and mobile. I think of the words of the Lord Jesus, I was in prison and you visited Me. Is it enough just to tell folks that Jesus will never leave them nor forsake them? A nursing home is almost like a prison to many because it’s the last place they will ever live. They cannot leave so they live lives that are somewhat like a prisoner. I think Jesus’ words apply here.
I once made a long anticipated trip through Monument Valley. It is the backdrop of many Westerns and car adverts. Traveling down the valley headed West is a very sobering experience. It seems as if the scenic view is only a few moments ahead. I can’t imagine walking it. Life is that way. Sometimes the last stretch is the longest and most grueling, but the finish line is just ahead. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to have a cheering section lined along the highway shouting YOU CAN MAKE IT! You are almost home! The Lord loves you and He has not forgotten about you. Millions of dollars are spent each year on various ministries and missions organizations and rightfully so, but what about that train station down the street or in your town where some dear Saint just boarded the last time on their road to eternity? Probably the greatest mission field on earth is a building full of terminally ill backsliders or dear Saints that wonder if they are forgotten.