Light and Momentary
April 13, 2021
“For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all” (2 Corinthians 4:17, NIV).
They said I was wonderful to take care of Michael until he died, but they had it backwards. It was wonderful instead for me to be blessed as his doctor. We had been distant friends until his illness, and then we became brothers. There is so much I learned from him in his days of struggle. He struggled well. He had this tremendous hunger for Jesus and a deep appreciation for God’s grace in those last months. Friends would take him to a small cemetery nearby where an eight-foot cross stood watching over those who had gone before. At Mike’s bedside sat an eternally profound picture of him standing and hugging that cross, longing to be united with the One who had hugged the cross for him.
He suffered a great deal from his illness with chronic vomiting and pain, but he kept his sense of humor through it all. On one of his last few days, I was in his home, trying to reposition him for comfort. I pulled a pillow up under his neck and asked him how he would like for me to fix his head, to which he smiled slightly and replied, “Decapitated.” Humor in the midst of real suffering. It’s as if he knew he was going through a temporary struggle to get to someplace wonderful, like a young boy running barefoot over sharp rocks to get to Christmas.
He was especially kind to me on his last night this side of glory. After completing my hospital rounds, I felt an inner nudge to check on him, to see how he was doing. When I drove up, his daughter was in the yard, calling the hospice nurse. “I think he’s about gone.” I walked into an incredibly peaceful bedroom where he lay breathing slowly with a palpable pulse. I whispered quietly, “Love you brother.” Two minutes later, Mike left us for heaven. I now imagine that he had been holding up his departure until I could receive the blessing of telling him goodbye.
What if we really believed gut-deep that the heaven we long for is real? What if we really longed with desperation to see Jesus face to face? My friend showed me what that looks like. Mike lived his last days knowing that his cancer, his pain, his vomiting and the burden on his family were just “light and momentary troubles,” looking ahead to an “eternal glory that far outweighs them all.” I had not seen it lived so clearly until I was blessed to walk with him through it all.
I must not waste the blessing of Mike’s deep and meaningful departure. My time with Mike places a stamp of authority on the hope I have in Jesus Christ. It adds incredible weight to the gospel I believe.
I want now not only to die well like my friend, but to live my remaining days in the same frame of mind and heart. I want to go to work, and walk with my wife, and play with my grandkids, and treat my patients and struggle through hard times—knowing that these are steps along a path that absolutely leads to the Living One who died for me, the Crucified One who waits at the end of my journey. I want to share that confidence with those around me, just as Mike did. I want to hug the cross each day, to long for Jesus each day, to laugh at my sufferings—because I know they are temporary. I know they are leading me to someplace grand. And I know I share any struggle I might face with Mike and with the Christ who both laughs and suffers with me.
Give me that great longing for you and your cross.