Why do we cling to this life as though it’s all there is? Why do we despair when we hear of a loved one diagnosed with a terminal illness? Why are we afraid of death when our greatest treasure lies on the other side?
Over the past three years, God has chipped away at my trepidations about death. He has made heaven so real through the testimonies of friends in the small group I co-lead with my husband.
At the beginning of our first year, we asked for introductions. I was curious to hear from the radiant woman across from me. What was her story?
When it was her turn, she smiled brightly and said, “Hi, my name is Bev, and I’m a short-timer.” Her words hung in the air in silence. Then I spoke.
“Bev, tell us about that.”
She continued, “I have cancer, and I’m not going to be here long.” Smiling even brighter, she said, “I get to go to heaven very soon.” I could see she meant it.
About six months later, Bev was with her Savior. She wasn’t with us long, but her presence made it clear that God had brought us together.
Before meeting Bev, I had never seen anyone face cancer as she did, with joy and dignity. This amazing woman not only accepted her plight, but embraced it. She not only embraced it, but openly shared her journey. Her faith and contagious laughter are planted in our hearts forever. I am so thankful for this dear lady and the courage she displayed, revealing her deep and genuine trust in Jesus.
Our next small group year, we welcomed another beautiful woman hit by cancer. Keri was undergoing treatment for the fourth time. As we talked about the possibility of death, Keri looked at me intently.
“Susan, why wouldn’t people want to go to heaven?” she asked. Her conviction was solid! Keri continues to confront cancer. An excerpt from an email reflects her heart: “I’m in God’s hands, just knowing he is in control. I seriously do not fret over this. It’s about God and my hope in him, not cancer. Praise God for his grace️.”
That same year, mid-year, Dan came to his first small group meeting. He was carrying a heavy burden; we all felt it. Keri shared an update on her health. In typical Keri fashion, with a peace that passes all understanding, she assured us her hope was in God. Curious to hear from Dan, we waited as he struggled to share. That day Dan had learned stage 4 cancer was raging throughout his body. He said he hadn’t planned to talk that night, but after hearing Keri’s faith-filled words, he felt led to tell us his story. After Dan spoke, our group gathered around and prayed over him. Two short months later Dan went to be with his Savior, but not before he let us into his heart. A firm foundation of faith had replaced his fear. A courageous, loving, kind, servant of the Lord Jesus Christ had walked among us.
At the end of our meetings last year, yet another person in our group learned he had incurable cancer. Keith wrote this note to our small group: “I would ask for continued prayers. First that God is glorified in all of this. If it is God’s will, pray that a supernatural healing takes place (my selfish desire).” This dear man demonstrates the same faith we all have witnessed. It’s amazing grace and it’s powerful!
Our small group has faced three years filled with twists and turns. Part of me cries out to God, “Please deliver them!” Another part warns, “Pay attention. There is more to your life than what you see.” Keri’s probing question, “Why wouldn’t we want to go to heaven?” often rings in my ears. Bev’s declaration, “I get to go to heaven soon!” defies the sting of death. Dan’s shift from fear to faith reveals a God who grants peace amid a terrifying diagnosis. Keith’s declaration to glorify God no matter what speaks of great allegiance to the One who has never failed.
I pray the story of these precious saints merits a pause for you today. May vague thoughts of the future become a firm conviction of the hope of heaven.
Lord, strip away the cares of this world. May my heart rest in the reality of eternity. Thank you for going ahead to prepare a place for me. I trust you with all that is within me.
“Death has been swallowed up in victory! Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” (1 Corinthians 15:54–55 NIV).
Susan Ream is basking in the grace of God. She loves all kinds of people. Being a Mom is her favorite role. She has collected many “kids” throughout the years. Most of her life she has been a pastor’s wife. She cherished that opportunity and proudly supported her devoted husband. She is a mother to three grownups and Nana to eleven extraordinary grandkids. Much of her writing features insights gained through the messes of life. God never wastes a hurt, and He is faithful to work ALL things together for our good. You can follow her on HubPages.
Photograph © Sam Wheeler, used with permission