It’s funny how God can stop you in your tracks and give you a different perspective. It’s not so much the events as much as the timing of those events, sometimes. Case in point, my trip to Arizona this week. I thought I was visiting Scottsdale so God could use me to encourage and challenge people. Instead, God used a new friend to change me.
I had just finished up my third presentation of the day. Honestly, I was pretty wiped out after sharing my story again. (Each time is kind of like tearing the scab off of an old wound. It never gets easier). We (Lisa and I) were hanging around to chat with some new friends we had made at the hospital. I noticed one lady hanging around till all the others had left. She had joined the conversation a few minutes earlier and talked about the presentation. When everyone else had excused themselves from the room, she said, “Can I ask you a question?” I assumed she was going to ask something further about the presentation so I told her yes.
As tears formed in her eyes, she began. “I’m sorry to bother you but…” she hesitated. “My brother is upstairs in this hospital. He’s been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and told he doesn’t have long to live. Would you mind praying for him?” I glanced at Lisa and the look in her eyes told me what we needed to do.
“Do you mind if we go up to see him?” I asked.
“I don’t want to bother you guys. You really don’t have to go to that trouble,” she said.
“It would be our pleasure.” Understatement of the year.
We made our way to the elevator and through the cancer ward there at the hospital. Before we reached his room, I asked the woman to check and make sure her brother was comfortable with a stranger visiting the room. After doing so, she confirmed that he was interested in talking with me.
As I approached his bedside, I asked God to give me something good, something encouraging to share with him (I’ll call him Scott to protect his privacy). “How are you feeling, Scott?” I asked. “And before you answer, tell me how you are REALLY feeling.”
Scott began to cry. I leaned closer to hear what he was trying to say. “I’m scared,” he whispered.
“What scares you the most?” I asked. I was genuinely interested, curious as to what this fifty year old man was facing; even more curious as to how Lisa and I could encourage him.
“Scared of the pain. Scared of death. Scared of what lies after this. Scared for the family I’m leaving behind.” The words came out slowly but with a steady nature. He had obviously spent many hours thinking this through before I had ever arrived.
“Do you believe in God?” I asked him. “Yes,” he replied. “What do you believe?” I continued.
Scott spoke words I have uttered hundreds of times to thousands of people. The difference? Scott said them with more conviction than I could muster as he lay there anticipating what was to come. “I believe He loves me more than anything or anyone.”
I won’t share the rest of our time with you. Some moments are best left for the hearts of those who get to experience them. I knelt by Scott’s bed, took him by the hand, and begged God to give me the words to pray so that Scott would feel stronger and more at peace with what he is facing. When I finished, Scott wouldn’t let go of my hand. I didn’t want him to. I needed him as much as he needed me in those moments. His confidence reminded me that economic downturns and impending elections don’t define life—only God does. And only those who know Him can really know what life is…no matter how long or short that life may be.
I finished my time with Scott. I bent over, kissed him gently on the forehead and said, “I love you.” We both cried a little. I don’t know what Scott took away from our time together. But I know I took his spirit of courage with me. I promised that Lisa and I would pray for him every day.
I’m a better man for knowing Scott. Lisa would tell you she’s a better woman. My prayer for us—all of us—is that we can embrace the challenge of each new day with the quiet confidence that comes from knowing what Scott knows—God loves you desperately.