God’s Comfort When You Are Discouraged, Depressed and Fear the Future/Program 4
By: The John Ankerberg Show
|By: Joni Eareckson Tada, Dr. Michael Easley; ©2012|
|Does God always promise to heal those who come to him with enough faith and have confessed their sins? In this session, we will look at some of the basic beliefs in the Bible on this issue of healing from the perspective of both Joni Eareckson Tada and Michael Easley.|
Today on the John Ankerberg Show, God’s comfort when you are discouraged, depressed, and fear the future.
Tada: And I hope I can take this wheelchair with me to heaven, because if I could—I know it’s not theologically correct—but if I could, I’d put it right there and I’d say, “Jesus! You see that thing? You were right when you said in this world we’d have trouble, because that thing was so much trouble! But, Lord Jesus, the weaker I was in that thing, the harder I leaned on You! And the harder I leaned on You, the stronger I discovered You to be. Oh, my goodness! Thank you for your wisdom.
My guests are: Joni Eareckson Tada, the founder of Joni & Friends, an international ministry for people with disabilities; and Dr. Michael Easley, President Emeritus of Moody Bible Institute and lead pastor at Fellowship Bible Church in Brentwood, Tennessee. We invite you to join us for this special edition of the John Ankerberg Show.
- John Ankerberg: Welcome to our program, I’m talking with Joni Eareckson Tada and Dr. Michael Easley. And I want to start this program with a fear that we all have. But some of you might have it more than some of the rest of us right now. That’s the fear of dying. We’ve got illnesses. And I’ve faced death, and these two have faced death where we weren’t sure we were coming out of it. And you put yourself in the Lord’s hands. I want to talk about that experience and what God does for you. And, Michael, I’d like you to start us off in terms of the fear of death and God’s answer to it.
- Michael Easley: A good friend of mine’s had two liver transplants, which is a massive 12-plus hour surgery. And he tells a story of coming into the admitting and pre-op, IV, all of the things you go through, your gown. And he says, at the very end they bring your wife in, and you can, you know, talk to your wife a little bit before they wheel you down to the O.R. And he says the last thing you do is you take off your wedding ring and give it to your wife, and kiss her on the cheek. And he said, “You’re rolling down on this gurney, counting the fluorescent lights, with two strangers that are masked and gowned.” And he goes, everything you said good-bye to—your kids, your wife—to who knows what? And he goes, “It’s just me and Christ. And if I wake up, I will serve Him; and if I don’t, I will see Him.” And that picture is just poignant to me. And every day, literally, but when we go under anesthesia, and the morbidity rates of our health, it’s a reminder, we’re going down that corridor even now, as we speak.
- Ankerberg: Let’s answer the question to the person that says, “I don’t know if I’d wake up and see Christ. I’m afraid of death, because I don’t know what’s on the other side.” What is the good news of the gospel?
- Easley: Well, the only hope we have is the resurrected Christ’s words, that “he who hears the word, believes in me, has eternal life.” And, of course, many passages in Scripture that explain to us that we’re putting our faith, our trust, and our belief in Christ—that He lived, died, was buried and came back from the dead. And any and all who trust in Christ and Christ alone are promised this gift of eternal life. These things are written, John said, that you might know that you have eternal life. So my hope, Joni’s hope, your hope, those of us who come to that encounter with Christ, know that even though we might be fearful of the timing of death—I’m not even fearful of the timing anymore—that there’s life after this. But, I think for those who have yet to come to that place—that’s the only hope that there really is—that they come to trust in Christ and Christ alone, for their salvation.
- Ankerberg: Yeah. You’ve heard people say, you know, I know this man and I trust him with my life. And I got thinking about Abraham. Abraham believed God, God looked down and counted it to him as righteousness. And I thought, why is it that we can’t just trust God; that when He sent Christ, Christ has it covered? What He did at the cross is enough. We couldn’t even come close to touching what Christ did for us. He lived a perfect life and then He paid for all of our sins. He takes our sin and He imputes His righteousness. And if I can stand before God with Jesus Christ’s track record, I’d be in good shape. And that’s exactly what the righteousness that’s imputed to us, but we just trust God that He wants to give us this gift. We trust a lot of people, we don’t trust God.
- Easley: Well, and there’s this internal thing in all of humanity, this do’s and don’ts scale. I do the bad stuff, I do some good stuff to compensate. And we’re forever trying to equalize our sin, as we perceive it, or as we oversimplify it. And as we’ve said earlier, we’re all on a freight train headed to hell. All humanity is destined to hell, apart from trust, faith, belief, in Christ. And to relinquish… I can’t be good enough to get to God; but God was good enough to send His son to me, to die in my place, on my behalf, instead of me—and that I’m forgiven in that work on the cross. It’s great news.
- Ankerberg: It’s great news.
- Easley: And I think it’s so simple, sometimes people stumble over it because they have to do something themselves—when they can do nothing apart from Him.
- Joni Eareckson Tada: You know, and this is one reason why I think God allows suffering, especially for the non-believer, because when you go through suffering, it’s like alarm clocks go off, it’s like red flags waving, red lights blinking, doo-doot, doo-doot, doo-doot. Wake up, wake up out of your spiritual slumber. I think suffering’s like an ice cold splash in the face to the non-believer, asking them, “What’s going to happen to you on the other side of your tombstone? What are you going to do about the cause, the claims of Christ?” I don’t think we, as natural people, would consider such things, were it not for suffering, to wake us up out of our spiritual stupor.
- Ankerberg: You’ve got a great illustration about your friend Denise, in terms of this fear of dying.
- Tada: Well, Denise was someone I knew. She was one of those people in that six-bed ward. She was in the middle bed, opposite me. She had a strange neuromuscular disease: paralyzed, blind. She woke up one morning, an active teenager, and by the end of the day she couldn’t walk. And when I met her she was unable to move at all, and pretty much bedridden, in that geriatric ward of that state institution. And she had such a sweet spirit. Her mom would take the cross-town bus to see her, almost every day, and would read the Bible to her at bedside, and I would listen from a distance. And I was so admiring of this young woman, but could never seem to muster the sort of faith that she seemed to exhibit.
- Well, I graduated out of that state institution and went on with my life; went back to the University of Maryland. She remained in that hospital. I would go back every year to see her, for my annual check-ups, but the eighth year I went back—eight years after my paralysis—I looked for Denise to greet her, but she was gone. And when I asked the nurse where she was, they said, “Oh, you didn’t hear that she died, she passed away.” And I was so stunned. She was always there. And I remember going back and talking to a friend of mine, with whom we were reading the Bible together. “I don’t get it,” I said, “This young girl, I mean, all she had was her mother. It’s not as though her testimony could rub off on many people; there were very few visitors. For eight years—blind and paralyzed, in bed. What’s the sense of it?”
- And I remember, my friend showed me a portion of Scripture: Ephesians 3:10: “For it is now God’s purpose that through the church, his manifold wisdom should be made known to the powers and principalities in all the heavenly realms.” To paraphrase it, he said Denise’s life was like a blackboard upon which God was chalking all of these incredible lessons about Himself. Lessons like, “My grace is sufficient”; “I will give her strength to sustain her”; “I will give her peace that passes all understanding.” “And, Joni,” my friend said, “angels and demons are standing on tiptoe, because they’re so intensely interested to see how you’re going to respond, how Denise would have responded. So, don’t be thinking that her suffering was wasted; because for those eight years, she was accruing for herself an eternal reward that far outweighed the inconvenience of her blindness and paralysis. And it’s true for you, Joni; what was true for her, is true for you.”
- So, don’t be thinking that you’re alone in your suffering. Angels, demons, millions upon millions, and millions and millions of unseen beings are learning something about the greatness of God through your obedience and your trust in God. Because every day, everything we do down here on earth, has a direct bearing, proportionally, to our capacity for joy and worship and service in heaven. I can’t wait to see Denise and the rewards accrued to her account, and all that she’ll cast at the foot of Jesus.
- Ankerberg: Let’s turn that just a little bit, because I have quadriplegics that in the last few days have asked me this question: What value do I have in living? They’ve told me, “John, I’m confined to this bed; my kids are having problems, and I can’t do anything about it. And my wife is getting worn out here, trying to take care of me. And I just feel so helpless and I can’t do anything. So, what value and purpose do I have in life?” What is the answer that you give to folks?
- Tada: Well, that’s interesting that you ask that. I was just talking with a friend the other day, bedridden, paralyzed, dealing with chronic pain. And I said to this friend, I quoted to her, Psalm 10:17, “God hears the cry of the afflicted. He listens to them and encourages them in their cry.” That verse and many others tell me that the prayers of the afflicted have enormous power. We have a special audience with God. We’re ushered into some inner sanctum of some throne-room that others are not permitted entrance into. When the afflicted bring their intercessions on behalf of others before the Lord, I think that God bends and cups His ear to hear what they have to say. And the faintest, most feeble prayer, I told this friend of mine, that you offer before God, can shake the destinies of nations, can uproot sin, can destroy strongholds, can encourage the saints, can make successful the missionaries.
- Please don’t minimize or mitigate the power of prayer in your life. He hears the cry of the afflicted. He upholds the sick on their beds, because their cries before Him carry such weight, carry such power, are of such enormous importance. Prayer—it’s a huge vocation. I don’t want to get to heaven and hit my head in a V-8, “oh, gee, why didn’t I do that?” I don’t want to get there and think, oh, my goodness, my prayers accomplished that? This? Why didn’t I pray more? And I think suffering pushes us to that threshold where we see the importance of prayer. And we get on our knees and do it.
- Ankerberg: Some of you, you’ve gotten to the point in life, where your body is deteriorating on you while you’re living, and there’s nothing you can do about it. And you realize the end is coming. What value are you then? What do you do then? Why should you go on? Joni, explain how a person can truly glorify God and be greatly used of God, in ways that other Christians cannot, exactly in that situation?
- Tada: I’m thinking of a woman I know named Carla, Carla Larson. And she was arriving with juvenile diabetes. She had lost a couple of fingers; both legs amputated; had a kidney transplant; heart attack; edema; collapsed veins; legally blind. Oh, my goodness, I had to meet this woman. So, when I met her, I said, “I can’t believe you made it.” To which she replied, “Well, Joni, I thought I’d better get here before I lost any more body parts.” This was the woman, who, after she went to the retreat, had such a great time, and she sent me a little gift. It was one of her prosthetic legs, with a note attached to the toe, which read, “Since all of me cannot be with all of you all of the time, part of me will have to do.” What a woman!
- But she wasn’t in great humor at that first retreat. She was pretty low; she was pretty down, having lost so much and facing more surgeries and imminent death. And she was struggling. And so, my hands didn’t work, I said, “You know, with what few fingers you have, would you pick up your Bible and turn to Philippians? I want you to read what Paul said. He said that he did not know whether it was better to depart to be with Christ, or to remain. He was torn between the two. And then, Carla, look at this next verse. He says, ‘but it is more needful for you that I remain.’” I said, “Carla, you’re wondering, what’s your purpose, why go on. But your transplant nurse doesn’t know Jesus. The ladies back at the clinic, who love you to death and love your sense of humor, they don’t know Jesus either. God’s got a lot riding on you, Carla. You’ve got a lot more people around you. It’s more needful for them that you remain and not kick the bucket all too soon. So, Carla, can you just hang in there, with me, with others like you, who are persevering? Can you persevere a little bit longer for the sake of Christ, for the sake of the expansion of His kingdom among people whose souls are in peril of hell?”
- Well, she hadn’t thought about it that way. But, of course, those words from the apostle, it is more needful for others that we remain, with our ravaged, pain-wrecked bodies. We’re needful for others, our family; friends; neighbors; business associates; college alumni; the janitor at the place where we work; the ladies in the cafeteria at the college campus. I mean, there’s so many people. The ladies at the dry cleaners, the bagboy at Gelson’s Market. There’s so many people around us who are hungry and thirsty for what we’ve got. And Carla hung in there for another four years before she went to be with Jesus, but, oh, what a train of souls she took to heaven with her.
- Ankerberg: I remember when my mother had Lou Gehrig’s Disease, and she lost the ability to speak; and then she lost the ability to walk; then she had to have everything done for her. And I remember calling her on the phone, and I got used to hearing the metallic message that she would type on the computer. And she would type a little prayer for me, and it would come across in that metallic message. There are things about my mother that I don’t remember, but I’m telling you, I remember those. And people that are in those situations, maybe she didn’t think it was a big deal. I’m telling you, I will never, ever forget that.
- Joni, I want to switch hats again. Along this line, I want to talk about family members that care for folks that have disabilities, or have Lou Gehrig’s, or Multiple Sclerosis, and it wears on them. You love the person that you’re caring for, but you show up day after day after day after day. And some people, they get to a spot and it just, on some days, it just overwhelms them. And they say, “I quit, I can’t take this anymore.” The problem is, you cannot quit. What’s your advice to them?
- Tada: Well, first I want to say something to the viewer who might be the one being cared for. You’d better say “Thank you.” You’d better be nice to that person; you’d better not be rude. Oh my goodness, God has put that person in your life to feed you, turn you in bed, tuck your pillows, change your sheets, do your laundry. You’d better be nice to them. I had someone say to me, “Joni, your sister is bending over backward to make your life as pleasant as possible, and you can’t even say, I thank you.” And he turned his back on me and walked out the door. And my cheeks got flushed with anger at him. But he did me such a kind service. And I love my sister so much to this day, and I’m very careful to say, “I thank you.”
- But for the caregiver, I would say, it is so important to ask for help. I mean, we are such proud people. We pull ourselves up by our own bootstraps, we stick our chest out, pull our stomachs in, tuck our chins. We are going to do this. But we can’t and we mustn’t. And God created spiritual community so that we could all minister and help one another. And it’s a good thing to ask for help, because you are doing that other person in that church who is standing at an arm’s length distance, you’re doing him a good service by asking for his assistance; because Jesus came not to be served, but to serve. And he—that person in church, those others in that congregation—need to come into your home; into your kitchen; into that bedroom; and assist, whether it’s with toileting; running errands; doing shopping; doing laundry; folding towels; mopping the floor. You need help, and so ask for help. And if you don’t feel comfortable in the church where you are, then find a church where you can ask for assistance, where these people will come and provide you that aid. No one should ever suffer alone, whether it’s the person afflicted or that caregiver giving assistance. Nobody, no couple, should suffer alone. That’s why the church is there.
- Ankerberg: My wife’s been wonderful to me, when I’ve had all these operations. Talk about Cindy, what she means to you; and people that help you; because you are a proud guy; you can do everything; you’re a smart guy, okay? And you’ve been put into a position where you couldn’t take care of yourself.
- Easley: It’s hard to talk about that. I have done everything at the house: the cars, the brakes, the water heaters, the plumbing, the electricity; nothing I can’t do. And now I have to pay someone to do it poorly. [Laughter] And one day I was in Chicago, sitting on the Eisenhower at a whopping five miles per hour. And I call her on the phone, and I said, “How are you, honey?” A woman who would stand before thousands of women and teach them. And she goes, “Well, I just finished cutting the grass.” And I just lost it. I thought, what kind of a husband are you? And she didn’t sign on for this. And, it’s still hard to talk about. And she never complains. I know there’s times it’s frustrating for her. I know there’s times she’s going to process internally. But she has never once complained; she has never once gotten angry with me; she has never once lost her cool with me. Post-surgery, when you come home and there’s a lot of hands that have to help you, you lose your dignity—you have none. You’re in pain. And you’re just thankful. As Joni said—such great counsel—care for and love the people that care for you.
- Tada: Absolutely.
- Easley: Even the ones in the hospital who are sometimes difficult.
- Tada: You know, I love my husband most—and this is going to sound so strange—but I love him most when he does my toileting routines. I mean, it’s not his habit. I have another friend who assists with most of that. But there are many times when he does my toileting routines. And as he’s wiping my backside, I’m lying there and I can’t just believe that he loves so much—loves me that much, and to do it so graciously. I am forever in his debt.
- Easley: But to accept it. And to say this person…and to turn the tables—you for Ken, me for Cindy—I mean, without second thought.
- Tada: Absolutely
- Easley: But it’s hard to be on the receiving end of that when you are a proud, capable person.
- Tada: That’s so true
- Ankerberg: Next week we’re going to continue talking about this, and Joni and Michael are going to tag team on this one here, and we’re going to talk about depression and discouragement along with this chronic pain. Because when you have the disease, and you’ve got this constant pain, boy, it’s easy to get discouraged, and it’s easy to be depressed, and you both have been there. And a lot of our folks that are watching are there right now. Folks, join us next week and we’re going to talk about these topics.