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Monday-Almost Died

 

Indeed he was ill, and almost died. But God had mercy on him, and not on him only but also on me, to spare me sorrow upon sorrow.

 

Philippians 2:27

 

When my dad was 99, he went into assisted living. Their very detailed physical confirmed what we all knew to be true: he had a leaky heart valve and congestive heart failure. After talking it over with him, the family, and the staff serving him, everyone agreed to put him under hospice care.

 

I cannot put into words how terrific the hospice staff was. Compassionate. Considerate. Communicated with all of us. They not only took care of everything, they took great care of my dad. Funny thing though, after three months, he was re-evaluated for extending hospice. But this time he didn’t qualify. His general health improved. His heart seemed to be holding its own. And the fluid in his body was manageable. So, he left hospice care through an unusual exit. Instead of dying, he got better.

 

Everyone expected dad to die. He was 99 and sick. Mom had died 18-months earlier. He was alone. He was in assisted living because he couldn’t take care of himself any longer. As one person put it, the physical wheels were falling off the wagon of his life.

 

But unexpectedly, he got better. Slowly he regained some strength. He was able to walk again with a cane. He was eating better. He lost over 50 pounds of fluid. He started talking more with everyone that came into his room. He was back. We thank God for those extra 17 months we had with dad.

 

And while this isn’t exactly what happened to Epaphroditus, also known as The Big E, it’s close. The Big E was sick. He was physically at death’s doorstep. Everyone thought he was going to die. Everyone assumed that he was going to die. But he got better.


It’s worth thinking about the fact that it’s not always God’s will to heal people in miraculous ways. Paul didn’t lay hands on The Big E and heal him. And there’s nothing pointing to some miraculous healing. There were others in the New Testament who were not miraculously healed but remained sick.

 

  • Paul left Trophimus sick in Miletus, 2 Timothy 4:20

  • Timothy suffered with stomach problems and frequent illnesses, 1 Timothy 5:32

  • Paul was not cured from his thorn in the flesh, 2 Corinthians 12:7

 

We get a little insight into Paul’s relationship and feelings for The Big E. Our reaction to someone getting sick is directly tied to how close we are. If we just know their name, it’s no big deal. If it’s a neighbor that we see every so often it’s a tiny bit nearer. If it’s someone we work with, then it’s a little bit stronger. If it’s a cousin that you grew up with, then it’s starting to get serious. But when it crosses into your family, it really gets important.

 

Look at how Paul describes his deeply emotional reaction to The Big E being near death. Paul says that he’s got sorrow upon sorrow. He doesn’t just have sorrow. Oh no. He’s got sorrow stacked up on top of sorrow. Just like a brick wall, he’s got one block of sorrow built on top of another.

 

Think about Paul’s extreme sadness this way. It’s like going to the beach. In the morning, you take your beach chairs out and sit down with a cup of coffee just to watch the waves. As the sun continues to rise, you keep watching the waves. Sometime around noon, someone brings you lunch so you stay out there, watching the waves. As the sun begins to set, you don’t move. You keep on looking at the sea as the waves keep coming in.

 

That’s how deep Paul’s pain is. It just keeps on coming. And coming. And coming. It’s beyond measure. His relationship with The Big E is that tight. That intense. That close. But God had mercy on The Big E. God healed him. He didn’t die, he got better. God removed the sickness and replaced it with good health. And that same mercy from God spilled over onto Paul. His sorrow was removed and replaced with joy.

 

That’s who God is. That’s what he does. He not only has mercy, but he also gives mercy. He speaks mercy. He demonstrates mercy. He’s got mercy to spare. He never runs out of mercy because it’s part of who he is. He’s eternal God and he’s got an eternal amount of mercy.

 

But even though we were dead in our sins God, who is rich in mercy, because of the great love he had for us, gave us life together with Christ

 

Ephesians 2:4 Phillips

 

When I run into this kind of truth about who God is, I just about lose it. This great and eternal Heavenly Father who’s got nothing but love and mercy for me. And how do I treat him? How do I respond to his reaching out to me? How do I react to his everlasting arms[1] reaching out to me?

 

I turn away. I pull away. I run away. And I’d bet all the money in the world that you do the same. And God’s response isn’t to pull away from us. He has no pleasure in our rejection. He only wants us to turn and live[2]. We almost died, but God had mercy on us. Will we turn and be saved[3]? He’s right there, waiting for you and me.

 

Noodling Questions

 

  • Describe a time when you’ve been close to death.

  • How has extreme sadness overwhelmed you recently?

  • What makes us run to God? How painful does it have to get?


[1] Deuteronomy 33:27

[2] Ezekiel 33:11

[3] Isaiah 45:22

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