A number of years ago a friend asked me to visit a woman dying of cancer in the hospital. Her sickness had begun as breast cancer, and now an ugly, tell-tale purple blotch crept from the top of her night gown to her shoulder. Chemotherapy had robbed her of all her hair. As I approached her room I wondered if she really wanted a pastor to see her. Or was my visit just the result of a desperate measure taken by an over-eager friend? I did not have to wait long to find out. Almost immediately, she asked me deep questions about finding peace with God. My friend and another woman had spent hours with her reading from the Bible and sharing the good news of Jesus, yet she felt no assurance in facing death and whatever came next.
“Is there some special prayer I must say?” she asked with a bewildered look. At that moment I saw so clearly the stark reality of our human predicament—the need for something more than this world can give, and yet seemingly facing a silent universe.
I used an illustration with her that I got from the great preacher, Spurgeon. He talks about the difference between the words, look and see. In a dark, windowless room you can look for the door, but you cannot see it–until someone turns on the light.
I told this dying woman that her part was to look. If she kept seeking Jesus, he would cause her to see. I came back often to visit her, but week after week she felt no abiding peace. Finally, the doctors sent her home from the hospital as they could do nothing more for her.
One day her husband called me and said he wanted me to come to their home as he believed she would die shortly. When I got there I found her incoherent at times, lapsing in and out of reality. She would reach out to pick and try to eat imaginary fruit from a tree. At one time she started speaking to me in her native Lithuanian language, unaware that I could not understand her. She clutched a six-inch wooden cross like a drowning woman grabbing a tiny piece of driftwood with no land in sight. Her husband told me she sometimes shook so badly at night he had to take the cross away for fear she would injure herself with it. Her violent shaking compelled him to sleep in another bed.
I prayed with her that morning and read scripture to her as did my friend later that day. No one knows exactly how or when, but sometime that day she finally saw. God came into her life in a wonderful way and gave her the peace she so desperately craved. The dramatic change stunned her unbelieving husband. “Whatever you people are doing,” he enthused, “keep it up!” As it turned out, she still had a number of weeks to live and from that day onward she never shook violently again. She no longer needed to clutch the cross. She was coherent and never lapsed in and out of an imaginary world. Once she turned her eyes to Jesus and fixed her gaze on him, she was no longer worried about herself. She desired only that her family would find Christ the way she had. Shortly before she died, she gathered as many family and friends as could be squeezed into her bedroom. We sang, read from the Bible, and prayed. I then had the privilege of baptizing her in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
Today, perhaps you find yourself unsure, bewildered, afraid and seemingly facing a silent universe. If so, remember something else Spurgeon said, “Jesus in the dark is just as good as Jesus in the light.” Your job is simply to look for him. If you keep doing so, you have his promise that sooner or later, you will see.