Allowing God to Reveal Himself as Savior in the Midst of Suffering and Dying
As Life Draws to a Close
Over the course of the last fifty years of my life, I have dealt with death in many different capacities well over a thousand times. As an EMT, an Army flight medic, a nurse, a Christian minister and finally a police officer, I have been blessed to be able to view life and death from many different perspectives. I have learned that there are many things that can happen to a person that are far worse than death. Yet, I never cease to be amazed at how strongly a dying person will hold on to their life in the face of pain and suffering until finally they are prepared to surrender and commit their soul into the hand of God.
Recently, I was reminded of some simple yet profound lessons I have learned about those who are approaching their final moments or hours.
- Although there is an appointed time for one to die, it seems that the individual person can and does have some control over this, although it does come with a price.
- There is a God, and He is in control of all things. Yet, he uses His people to effect His will on this earth. As such, the unwillingness of a servant to respond immediately to the voice of God will effect the course of events in the short term.
- It is God's will that none should perish and that all should have everlasting life with Him. However, this has to be according to God's plan, not by the devises of men.
- When in the presence of someone who is dying, you are literally surrounded by the supernatural. As such it is not unusual to experience supernatural phenomena.
Recently I was called to the bedside of a man who was dying. I had only met this man once before, when he had come to a church service in a small church. It was his desire, after so many years away, to return to the church in which he was saved, or born again. At that time, it occurrred to me that he was preparing to die and this was one of the things that he had to do in his personal preparations.
I was called to the hospital, when it seemed that death was only hours away. Truly, looking at him through the eyes of a nurse, I was sure he couldn't hang on much longer. He was worn out physically and breathing is nearly impossible in that state of exhaustion. Yet the next day he was moved from the ICU to a regular room at the end of the hall, to live out his final hours in the presence of his family. During my first visit to the man and his family that day, I felt the presence in the room that has become a familiar sign that the circumstances were right for death to come and take hold. Yet, I knew that there were still several people there that would not let go. I knew from my experience that he would not let go until they let go. I prayed with the family, I read scripture and I left, knowing there were other things I could do, but that I knew would not be welcome at that time.
The next day, the call came from a family member. They felt that he was being prevented from dying because one person was still hanging on. The nursing staff wanted me to talk to that person and see if we could come to a resolution, in order to cut short the suffering of this man. I prayed for wisdom, and was reminded not to worry about what to say, as it would be provided to me by the Spirit when the words were needed.
I entered the room and ws left alone with two family members. As I sat before them, I explained to them the feelings that I had about why he had not let go. I told them that I felt that there was some business that was left unfinished. I told them about how there is a season for all things, a time for living and a time for dying. We talked about the bond of love that a person has for their family and how it is difficult for a person to say goodbye when the other is holding on. In a last ditch effort to encourage them to let go, I reminded them that they would be reunited with him in the hereafter. There came the breakthrough. Although this man was a born again Christian believer, one of these people was not and the other seriously doubted the state of their own salvation. It dawned on me that this was the key to the whole situation. I asked both of them if they wanted to make sure that they would be reunited with him in eternity. They both did and so we prayed. They both accepted Jesus as their Lord and Savior. When this was done, we joined hands at his bed side and prayed. Then the two said their final farewell. I knew he could hear what we were saying and that his mission on this earth was finally done.
I left he hospital with a sense of peace. Thirty minutes later I received a phone call, the man had died.
Guidelines I Try to Observe When I Deal with People Near the Time of their Death.
- Turn the lights in the room down low.
- Don't talk any more than is necessary and keep all noise to a minimum. It seems that noises, especialy harsh noises, tend to disturb the soul and make it more difficult to transition from life to eternal life.
- Hearing is the final sense to go. As a minister, I have shared the gospel of Jesus Christ with people moments before they have died and observed tears from people who were reportedly brain dead. On this occasion, two family members accepted Jesus as their Lord and Savior in the presence of the dying man. I believe this is what enabled him to finally let go.
- Don't beg a person to stay if their time has come. There is a season for all things. Many years ago, I had a patient that had died from complications of HIV. The family arrived back at the hospital about forty minutes after she had taken her last breath. The woman's mother came back into the intensive care unit unexpectedly and threw herself across the young woman and cried out for her not to leave. The woman began to breath again and lived for another three days.
Being in the presence of one who is dying is a powerful and humbling experience. It forces one to examine their own beliefs and often to make changes in their own life in response to that examination