55 But he, being full of the Holy Ghost, looked up stedfastly into heaven, and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing on the right hand of God, 56 And said, Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God. Acts 7:55-56
Two days ago, a terrible tragedy occurred in our country. An overloaded ferry which was making a crossing between two islands in Lake Victoria capsized and, as I write, more than 150 people have been confirmed dead from that accident. The social media in our country is clogged with photos of the bodies of these our fellow countrymen and women . Our nation is currently in a state of deep mourning. So many lives have been needlessly lost; and so many lives left irreparably scarred. Lake Victoria islands are closely-knit communities, and many families lost more than one relative. At any rate, the nation of Tanzania is like one big family, thanks to our founding father, ‘Mwalimu’ Julius Nyerere, who managed to unify it under the banner of one language, Swahili.
This tragic accident occurred at about 2 p.m. local time. That same evening, another death occurred, far from and quite unrelated to the one on Lake Victoria. At 8 p.m. of the same day, a lady in one of our churches went home. She went to be with the Lord. I was informed of the news by her pastor at the exact time she died, since she died in his arms.
When I heard the news, I broke down and cried. In fact, I cried the whole night. I cried, not because this lady had died, but because I knew the circumstances surrounding her demise. And my tears were tears of joy, not of sorrow.
For those of you who read my recent post titled “Kishapu!”, immediately I left the town of Kishapu I passed by one of our churches in a town called Igunga. Being new in these parts, it was my first time to visit this church. I intended to sleep over and have a little chat with the pastor there.
Early the next morning, however, before I left, the pastor took me to see one of his parishioners. He informed me that the lady in question had been suffering for a while now with what appeared like the beginnings of paralysis on one side of her body. She had been to the hospital and all the doctors could diagnose her with was high blood pressure. But no medication brought any relief. The pastor wanted me to pray with her.
When we arrived at her house we found her alone; her children had gone to school. She was attempting to go about her normal chores, but it was clear she was in extreme pain. Her body seemed bent completely to one side.
My heart went out to this sister. I could not imagine someone living in that condition for any amount of time. But in my heart, I knew I had to do something more than just pray. I told her, “Sister, before we pray, I want to know a little bit about your life history.”
Although she was in pain, she managed to talk clearly and she told me quite a lot about her life. She told me that she had suffered much in life (I could see it in the poverty surrounding her). She had four children to take care of; but what really hurt her was that her husband had left her. Life was therefore very difficult. She ended by saying that she was “bitter at life”.
When I heard that, I knew I had nailed what was troubling her.
Right there, in the presence of her pastor, I told her, “Lady, you have to let that go. You have to let go that bitterness. You cannot take one step forward in life with that heart condition.”
Immediately, I said that, she went into a paroxysm of pain as the paralysis hit her.
But I was unrelenting. I told her, “The condition that is tormenting you is a result of what you have allowed into your heart. You have to forgive where you need to forgive, and you have to let go where you need to let go.”
With many such words, my fellow pastor and I coaxed this lady to once again submit to the Lordship of the Lord Jesus in her life even though she was already saved. I waited for her to respond.
At length, she nodded her head in acquiescence, and I prayed for her. I prayed for God to heal her body and her soul. As is normal with me, I laid in heavily when it came to praying for her soul; my heart was all there!
When the pastor called me to inform me of this sister’s demise two days later, I was surprised. She hadn’t seemed that close to dying. But then the pastor told me something that made my heart to dance with joy. He told me that the sister’s last words were: “Thank God for the words you and pastor spoke to me. I am well in my soul. I have let go everything and I feel at peace with God.”
After which she said, “I am having a splitting headache, pastor. Please pray for me.”
Those were her last words. She tried to talk further, but nothing else coherent came out of her mouth. Her body gradually lapsed and death made its final futile grip on her.
That was when the pastor called me.
When I received news of her death, I spent the whole night visualizing the kind of welcome that sister must have received from the Lord Jesus Christ. I played the scene over and over. And I cried and cried.
With the stroke of a pen, so to speak, this precious lady had accomplished what none of us could accomplish were it not for the grace of God. Even though it were a matter of something that she probably had accomplished in a single day, yet this lady had joined the ranks of the Apostle Paul, who wrote,
“7 I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith; 8 Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing.” (2 Tim. 4:7-8)
For the believer, death is all about finishing the race that has been set in front of us in the Spirit. It is a matter of grasping the incredible grace that is available to every child of God, and putting it to good use.
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