Today my neighbor died.
My family and I had been praying for her for several months. She’d been diagnosed with lung cancer and lived with only the owner of the house, where she rented a room. I remember when I first met her. I’d heard what sounded like someone choking coming through the walls of our townhouse. It was so distressing I went over to see what was going on. There I met a woman that seemed worn-out by life. Immediately my own life troubles receded to white noise. In front of me was a woman suffering and seemingly alone. Unlike her, I had my family around me to support me. She told me how she’d just found out yesterday that she had lung cancer. She had overcome cancer several times now from different parts of her body. She exclaimed that it just didn’t want to let her go! That she would die alone with the cancer.
I really didn’t know how to comfort her. I was used to quietly sojourning through my troubles. When I did out-voice them it was passed when I needed comfort. The only thing I felt could comfort and help her was God. However… I never said his name. I didn’t open my mouth and tell her about how his water could quench her loneliness and weariness and give her eternal life. I didn’t talk about how even death shouldn’t be feared because He is there waiting for us. That he will lead us to springs of living water and will wipe away every tear from our eyes (Rev 7:17). All I did was give her love in the way I thought she would accept it. In hugs and comforting words. I withheld from her the greatest comfort there was. We exchanged numbers so that she could call me whenever she wanted someone to be with and also when she was in distress. At the time I believed I would ease her into conversations about Jesus.
The next day I realized where I’d erred. I sent her a text:
“.. You’ve been on my mind. How are you feeling today? I don’t know if you’re Christian but I wanted to share a verse with you. Jeremiah 29:11 (NLT) “For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.” You are in my prayers and I hope we can be friends.”
she responded: “Thank you very much, my friend.”
She never contacted me again after that.
Days, weeks, and months passed and I prayed for her but never approached her again. I’ll be honest, I was scared. I did not know how to go about being what I considered “intrusive.” My family has always been very reserved. Not opening doors that someone hasn’t already opened and invited us into. The coward in me wanted her to make the next move so I wouldn’t have to. Since she never did I considered my prayers enough. Now I feel terrible. Now I say “God rest her soul” not knowing if she was saved or not. For me that hangs on my head. I felt it when I first met her that God had brought me to her but I’d wanted him to make it easy and comfortable for me to engage and share him with her. Where is my courage in sharing my faith? Its easy to write about it, talk about it with other believers but where does it go in the face of those not yet in him? The last task Jesus gave was to share his truth.
18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
Matthew 28: 18-20 (NIV)
Now I pray that she is with Him. I’m praying that she’s receiving the solace she didn’t have on earth. I pray that next time I do better. That next time I don’t limit my understanding to my own but let him take control. I pray that God does give me a next time, another chance to share his love with no limits and no shame. This world can be too harsh not to go all out for him. People perish from lack of knowing him.
14 How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them?