Conversations of The Inner-man
June 23, 2020
I recently spent time with a dying man, a wonderful Christian man who was wrestling with end-of-life issues. As a pastor for a long time, I will tell you, this is not the first conversation I’d ever had with an individual facing a terminal illness who seemed perplexed by decisions he never had to think about before.
As I sat at the bedside of my friend, he explained part of his dilemma. “The doctor says if I continue with the treatment I’m on, it will compromise my lungs and my breathing. And, if I take medicine that will treat my lung disease, that medicine will probably cause my cancer to grow more rapidly.”
Then, he questioned what he thought the real issue was. He asked, “Do I take one of those treatments and leave the results to God? And if so, which one should I take? Or do I forgo any further treatment and assume that, unless God does something miraculous, I will be gone in a few days or weeks?”
He said his family knew of his condition, and they were good with whatever he decided. Now, he was looking to me for advice, counsel, encouragement or, perhaps, permission…permission to do the right thing.
The man is a mighty Christian who loves God and has studied deeply in the Word of God. There is no question about his eternal destiny in the person and work of Jesus Christ. “But,” he said, “If I can manage it health-wise, there’s still a lot more I’d like to do for the Lord. I don’t want to be in denial about the truth, but I don’t want to give up too soon either. I’m struggling to know how to solve the issue.”
Sometimes when I’m having a conversation with someone, while they are talking, I am praying. Inside, where no one but God Himself can see, I’m asking God what I should say or how I should respond. As my friend began to earnestly describe the challenging decisions he faced, I asked God to help me know how to respond.
As I prayed, a thought came to me. I’d like to think it was the Lord answering my prayer and giving me a question to ask my friend, since I was hesitant to give him advice or direction. The consequences of his decisions would have profound impact on him and on his family. The decisions needed come from him and what he felt God was saying to him. And so, I asked:
“What’s God saying to you?”
He quickly responded with, “That’s just it. I can’t hear what God’s saying.”
I sat in silence with him for several seconds before I asked my question again, only this time in a slightly different form. I asked him, “What is God saying to your inner-man?”
I am convinced many people have developed what I would call casual conversational skills with God in addition to conversations that have agendas of a more visceral or inner-man focus. The casual conversations I have with God every day are many, varied and not very intense. “God, watch over my life. God, help me through this day. God, don’t let me run out of gas before I get to the gas station, since I’m running on fumes and I was too negligent to stop sooner.” There are a ton of ways to pray to God in a casual conversation. Not bad. Any conversation with God, in my opinion, is a good conversation.
But, I think inner-man conversations involve weightier matters. Most doctors I’ve coached over the years have had those kinds of difficult conversations with patients at some point. My conversation with my friend was certainly a very heavy matter. So, I asked my friend that inner-man question: “What is God saying to your inner-man?”
He talked, and I listened. I heard a dying man recount what His loving God was really saying to him. I took two important things away from my time with my friend. First, when people understand that their time is short, the dialogue between God and their inner-man becomes increasingly important to engage in. The second thing I took away was my own need to acknowledge my temporal existence since I join all humanity in the reality that I am a dying man too; it’s just that no one has reminded me of that fact recently. Asking myself that “what’s God saying to your inner man” question helps me re-center, focus and quiet myself in His presence. I have come to find quieting myself in God’s presence is always a good thing.
“For this reason I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, from whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man” (Ephesians 3:14-16, NKJV).