In the Shadow of Death, Part 5

This is a continuing email exchange between Wayne and a man who is struggling with healing, faith, love, trust, and mortality as his wife appears to be dying from metastasized breast cancer in the face of a promise they both held in their hearts for her healing.

You can read from the beginning starting here.

From Alan on May 21, 2019 (25 days after his first email):

Thank you for words of life. They are truly helping me. I read them and peace just “happens,” and for that, I am most grateful.

The past few days have been interesting. I have convinced myself at times that the reason she is “lingering” is that God is healing her. I realize that He can heal her in a millisecond, but it helps me to think that He is putting her back into a state of complete health.

I do wonder what in the world is going on? But, as you said, God is doing something. Maybe someday He will make it all clear, or maybe not.

I guess one just has to decide whether or not they truly believe that God is good. While all the pain, frustration, and lack of explanations are real, they do not knock us off the rock upon which we are standing that is labeled, “God is good.”

I think I mentioned to you that I struggle with all the affirmative Scriptures – “If any two of you agree” “Anything you ask in my name” “By His stripes we are healed” that somehow wind up with caveats or disclaimers like, “If it is His will” that are not included in the particular Scripture. It’s like God gets let off the hook because we do not understand the true meaning of a verse or its context, or we have not exegeted it properly.

I’m not trying to be irreverent or ugly toward God in expressing this frustration; it’s just a real issue at this time. May I let you in on something: Years ago, I believe that while having a conversation with the Lord as I was driving, He revealed to me why Jesus was beaten. You see, neither Leviticus nor any of the other books that outline the specific instructions God Himself gave regarding the Day of Atonement—wherein the sins of God’s people were dealt with for another season—say anything about beating the sacrifice. On the contrary, the sacrifice was to be without blemish.

So why was the Lamb of God beaten? Obviously, you know the answer that is in Isaiah 53–“by His stripes, we are healed.” Peter also mentions this wonderful truth. I believe that Jesus could have said to Pilate, “You can crucify me, but you are definitely not whipping me,” and sin would still have been cleansed. It is so clear to me that He allowed Himself, the Lamb of God, to go through that horrific beating so that we can be healed. So, that we as His beloved children can know Him as “I am the God that heals you.”

I believe that the Holy Spirit said to me as I was driving, “People get healed the same way they get saved or born-again: “You have to believe.” Just as if we confess with our mouths, the Lord Jesus, and if we believe in our hearts that God has raised Him from the dead (Romans 10), we shall be saved. I believe that this is how we receive the reality of “by His stripes, we are healed.” Not everyone is saved because not everyone believes. Not everyone is healed, because not everyone believes. (Not saying that in any condemning way whatsoever).

On my ministry website, I have an entire podcast about Isaiah 53 and all that Christ endured for us that is in addition to our salvation. I relate this to you so you can know that this is the belief that I had going into this cancer-journey with Lynn when she was diagnosed with Stage 4 metastatic breast cancer three days before Christmas, 2014. To be completely transparent, now I have to re-think what I believe. Maybe it was not the Holy Spirit whispering to me what I thought was Him teaching me about healing.

Lynn has beaten the odds repeatedly. From a “2-3 month” death sentence that has turned into four years and five months and who knows how much longer, to the “She has 2-3 days to live” death sentence that the hospice folks pronounced at the beginning of February when we called them in. My sister gave me Psalm 107:20 back in January 2015 – “He sent his word and healed them, and rescued them from the grave,” as a verse to hold onto when this all began. She is a fighter, but more than that, God has allowed her to live. I am very grateful for that and don’t want to seem ungrateful because I am having a crisis in an area of my faith.

Wayne, during a Sunday morning worship time a few years ago, God showed me a cave in a vision. In that vision, death appeared and tried to walk out of the cave, and God punched him right in the face, and he fled back into the darkness of the cave. Lynn reminded me of that vision a couple of months ago, when I voiced some trepidation about the diagnosis of having tumors in one’s brain. She asked me if I really believed what I have been saying I believe for several years? (Wives are good at putting us on the spot like that).

I wanted you to know that I have invested a lot of my personal, strongly-held beliefs in His appropriating healing for us through the Lamb of God’s having been beaten for our healing. Do I stop believing that? Do I stop preaching that? I know that His ways are higher than ours and that it is dangerous to develop a theology on personal experience, but I want so much for it “to work” and to be able to say, “Yes! By His stripes, she has been healed!! It works! It’s true!”

I don’t want to have to say, “Well, I guess I was wrong,” or “God is sovereign, and He knows what is best.” Of course, He is and does.

I am determined that He is good. My life’s mission that He gave to me is to share the eternal, passionate, unconditional love of God. But, most sincerely and transparently that I can be, I confess to you that this is the hardest thing I have ever been through. I don’t understand it. I don’t like it. It sucks!!!!!!!!!

I love Lynn more than I can even begin to say. Yet it jolts me that so much of my thoughts and fear of being without her is filled with selfishness. “Alan’s beliefs.” “Alan’s faith tested.” “What is Alan going to do without his Lynn?”

We have settled into the bottom of the ninth inning with two outs. It’s either God does a miracle, or she steps into Heaven. Each further decline brings a fresh tsunami of tears and waves of that selfish fear. In between those times, I hold her as best as her frail body will allow, tell her not to fear, and say, “I’ve walked you to the door of the other side. You can step through whenever you are ready. I will be ok.” (I also said, “Tell Jesus I said hey,” which made her smile a little.)

Again, as you have said, she is either not quite ready to go, or the healing is about to explode here on earth.

Before I could finish my response, Alan wrote again one day later:

I was with Lynn today as her breath became labored and then went away.

I believe the Lord let me know when she was close to crossing to the other side, so as I have before, I took her hand and said, “I’m taking you to the door, don’t be afraid, just step through.”

It took her a while after that, but then I saw in the Spirit that she was actually stepping over a stream to the other side into the loving arms of Jesus. She was so covered that I could not see her, just Him holding her, enveloping her with His love. (She has been wearing socks for weeks, and in my vision, I saw someone remove her socks, and she was so thrilled to be barefoot. Someone told her it was ok to splash in the stream, and she was having a fun time before she stepped to Jesus).

Wayne, I’m more devastated than I can say – Scripture says we became one flesh—my heart has been violently ripped in two.

But I am also happy she is no longer in pain, and that she is in Heaven, cancer-free. I asked her to wait for me, to look for me, and to tell Jesus I said, “Hey.”

Now, what do I do?

My response:

I have some things that might help in response to your past two emails, but now there is nothing to say except I am so, so sorry that you did not get the miracle you wanted and have lost your Lynn. This news was a stab in my heart, even though I didn’t know Lynn. I feel like I’ve gotten to know you both over the last few weeks. My heart breaks for you and your pain in this, albeit temporary, separation from Lynn. I can’t imagine losing Sara at this stage of our journey, but even if I did, I know nothing takes our Father by surprise.

And, the strange thing about the death of a loved one is that she’s in such a space of unfathomable love in the presence of Jesus and his Father without all the distractions of flesh and distrust. You, however, are left here without her. A part of your heart has been ripped out, most certainly though it is best to have her safely home if the miracle you wanted wasn’t to be.

Somehow his purpose in this life was fulfilled in Lynn, even as Father still has things in mind for you. The loss is part of it, but God has a purpose for you in still being here. You don’t have to figure out what it is now or in any future time; it will unfold. Now is the time to grieve, to embrace God in the pain of your loss, to let him over time fill the space your wife vacated. That happens with loads of tears, and they are not proof of your lack of faith. Hold your heart before the Father. I will be praying for you, too.

From Alan on May 25, 2019 (29 days after his first email):

I am broken like a smashed vase. The reality that Lynn will never, ever be in our home again, will never be there waiting when I get home is unbearable. I realized that I have had someone to talk to every day for over 30 years, and now I am all alone. Nothing that mattered to us as a couple matters now. She’s gone. Forever. I don’t even really know what promise I have of being reunited with her in Heaven.

Lynn said she’d look for me, but now that she is in the other realm, is she finding out that is not the way it will work? I’m so overwhelmed by the permanence of death and even the suddenness of her being gone. We had a five-month runway before she was flying into eternity, and I knew her death was possible, even probable in spite of my attempt to have faith and believe for her healing here on earth. But, it feels so sudden. She’s gone. Forever. Gone. And I am feeling without hope.

My response:

I’m sorry, so sorry that you lost Lynn, and all the pain you’re going through now is a normal part of the fog grief. Invite God into this season. This is where faith really has to count, not when we get what we want, but when we don’t. I’ve known many to stand where you now stand, with all the pain and disillusionment you’re feeling, and God got them through it, and they found their way to the heights of joy even here in this world. You will never get over the loss of Lynn, but you will get on to other experiences with God, your children, and your friends.

Joy will come in the morning. It will take some time, though. Don’t despise the hurt, because it only marks the depth of your love. But don’t get stuck there either, or her memory will only bring pain and despair, and you’ll lose the ability to celebrate what you had for as long as you had her.

I have no doubt you will see her again, that the separation here is temporary and that we will see and know those we have loved in this life, most especially the one with whom we have been united in body and spirit. Fear not, my friend; she is not gone forever. She isn’t even gone now. Every treasured experience you had with her, every bit of wisdom she added to your life, every place where you were loved, lives on inside of you. You’re a different person because of her. You will always be.

Given the last email you wrote to me before her death, I knew this would be really difficult for you because it isn’t just the death of your wife, but the destruction of a theological conviction you had, that if you could “have faith and believe for healing here on earth,” she would be healed. If that is true (and I am confident it is not), then either God failed you, or you failed Lynn by not having enough faith. Either will only cause you unreconcilable pain because they are built on a false theological premise. We will talk about healing, prayers, and faith later. I had hoped to write you back about it all before Lynn died but did not get a chance to do so. I will someday, but that certainly is what’s most important now.

Just hold in your heart the possibility that your doctrine of healing may not be complete, and that God didn’t fail you, nor did you fail Lynn. This was obviously her time, and that time is coming for all of us. Her death is not the failure of your faith, but the culmination of it. God with us, even in the darkest moments of human existence, where we face full-on the futility of this age. Death is still our enemy. It is God’s enemy, too. He didn’t create us to be torn away from those we love, but that is the price of redemption. Sin had to die so that we could embrace the fullness of eternal life. It’s so rarely true that couples die together.

You will survive this and even thrive in the life Father still has ahead for you. Trust that the Jesus you’ve known all your life will fulfill your heart in ways you cannot conceive. Don’t focus too much on the questions that plague you. Just wait until his glory comes. Grieve with the Father whose heart even hurts more than youea at the toll this fallen world has taken from you. Find him there and what he does in you will become a great comfort to others. Even Paul despaired of life in a crushing experience he speaks of in II Corinthians 1. He could only make sense of it knowing the comfort they would receive in it would make them more comforting to others who traverse the Valley of the Shadow of Death.

You have my prayers and love. I’m happy to do whatever I can to hold your heart in the presence of the Father. He’s big enough to get you through this. But for now, it just hurts. I get it. Let it hurt. Don’t run from the pain; run to him in it.

To be continued…

We’ll switch the headline here, but the story continues. Read part 6 here:

Part 6:  When You Don’t Get The Miracle You Want…

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7 thoughts on “In the Shadow of Death, Part 5”

  1. Oh goodness. My heart and my prayers go out to Allen on the death of his precious Lynn. Thank you for sharing these posts, Wayne. Thanks for speaking love, encouragement and hope to this grieving man.


  3. In response to the scripture Alan’s sister shared with him I would say that possibly we do not always have the proper context for the scripture quoted. My understanding would lean more towards that Jesus was the Word his death and resurrection healed us from our sins and took the sting of death and grave away. Our doctrine of healing often ignores the reality that all men die unless Jesus returns to receive us to himself before death. I have crossed that reality with parents and as I age know that one day my spouse and I will sometime suffer the loss of the other. I think grief and loss are magnified when we are older because we have less of a future in many aspects to anticipate.
    I pray Alan is comforted by the eternal reality of Jesus and the love of others around him.

  4. Crying as I read through your correspondence with Alan. Unfortunately, I relate so well to Alan and all his struggling doubt and devastation. The hole of grief is deep. The emptiness of the loss of a spouse is tangible. The loneliness an oppressive weight. One and a half years ago I went grocery shopping and came home to find my perfectly fine husband of 42 years dead in the front yard. Gone! Suddenly. Unexpectedly. No warning. No clue. A lights out heart attack took him from me instantly. I‘m left with a 39 developmentally disabled son to care for alone without my tag team partner. My husband was a business man and a pastor and had most recently been serving as a staff pastor at a mid-size church in our area. I‘m still struggling with the reality of this. The questions. The doubts. The horrible heart wrenching sorrow and loneliness. Physical death is the last victory, the last Earth suffering to be overcome and I can’t wait to go to death’s funeral in eternity. It will be laid in a casket and banished forever and I for one will be rejoicing on that day, unlike now. There is still little joy in my heart yet. My heart aches for Alan. I know the long journey of grief when loosing someone who, for years, has been completely intertwined inside every part of you. It’s indescribably overwhelming. When he is ready he can look in his area for if he thinks it might help, a group for those on this journey of loss. I went through it 3 times trying to deal with my husband’s death. It’s not a fix or cure all but does offer coping skills and it helps to be with others who ‘get it’. I‘m standing on the things I know that I know (which is very little at this point and honestly some days I have to remind myself of), God IS good. He promised to never leave us. He does not do abandonment. He is walking with me through this dark valley, even though I can’t feel Him, see Him or hear Him in this despairing moment. That’s all I got for now. So far it’s been enough to keep putting one foot in front of the other as I look back over over this past 22 months and wonder how I‘ve kept breathing. How I’ve made it. How I‘ve survived. I pray these simple things will be enough to carry Alan forward from here. I pray those of us who mourn will find moments of peace and comfort as Jesus promised as we run again and again into the Father’s arms with all our pain, confusion, exhaustion and despair. Sending love and understanding to a fellow griever and adding him to my most sincere prayers.

    1. Diane, I am so sorry for your loss, and how it came without warning. The fog of grief can be paralyzing for sure and the way through it is never easy. I’m glad you know he is with you even if you can’t feel him or see him well at this point. I pray you’ll have all the courage you need to keep following him one day at a time and to find your way once again into a greater sense of his fullness. With love and blessings…

  5. What a devestatingly tender and personal event to allow us to share in. Thank u Wayne and Alan…and Lynn (who now with her Lord). My husband and I have been following your story and hoping Lynn would b miraculously restored. But we will forever remember the love that Alan was able to give Lynn as she met Jesus.

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