“Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen…now these all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth.” Heb 11:1,13
Everything fit together like a providential puzzle this week. At times in our life, I think we can say, and know with confidence, that we saw God preparing us for a certain moment (or event) in life. This week was such an example.
While preparing to speak to a group of ladies on the topic of faith, my mind was contemplating the preciousness of a life committed to God. A life lived in the reality of our hope which is to come. The Lord chose, on this very day, to give me a real life example, a personal example of the value of a life lived by faith.
My Aunt had been ill with cancer on and off over the course of the past 5 years. From my vantage point, this year in particular was one of great difficulty. She suffered immensely with numerous physical problems caused by the cancer her body was heartily attempting to battle. Her pain levels sky rocketed, and no pain meds seemed to manage the pain anymore.
Each day, she woke up and made a choice. In the midst of all her pain, she chose faith. She didn’t tell me this verbally, but I know it to be true. I know this, because the work of faith in a human life results in fruit.
She trusted God in the midst of her suffering. She bore her cross with patience. The only thing that flowed freely from her heart, and then out through her lips was praise, not complaint. These are some exceptional fruits that can only come from the spirit of God. He chooses to use the things that are weak (namely: us) to proclaim His strength. He used Auntie Mary Ann in such a way.
Her testimony did not only begin in her illness. Her faith was certainly magnified through her suffering, but it didn’t begin there. In fact I believe, in a sense, that she was prepared for God’s plan of suffering in her life. She chose faith long before the reality and battle of cancer commenced in her body.
Let me tell you what I remember of Auntie Mary Ann while growing up. Rather, let me start with what I don’t remember.
I don’t remember Auntie Mary Ann complaining. It’s true. Try as I might, I could not remember an instance of her complaining. Now, this doesn’t mean that she never complained in the entirety of her life, but she certainly, without a doubt, was not characterized by it.
This is what I do remember. I do remember a woman who served.
When we went to Auntie Mary Ann’s house, we knew we were going to get a full spread of a meal. She served others simply because she loved to do so. After the meal, she would wash the dishes (along with others) in a seemingly joyful manner. It seems important to note that she had no dishwasher, and a great deal of guests on these days. She never seemed to tire of serving.
Auntie Mary Ann was a hard worker, and most of her life this work was done for the benefit of others, and not so much herself.
When she spoke of her God, it was with great passion. There is no doubt that she loved her saviour.
I know that during her last year, she assured the family that she was ready to go home. She, of course, referred to heaven as her home. This is not odd or strange because she, as the men and women mentioned in Hebrews 11, lived as a stranger, a pilgrim on earth. She “set her affections on things above, not on things of this earth.” (col 3:2). She, as the great men and women of faith, “looked for a city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God.” (Heb 11:10) She “desired a better country, that is an heavenly”. (Heb 11:16)
This past week, we feel the loss of a godly woman who simply made life sweeter. We call these times in life “bitter-sweet”. The sorrow is heavy, but joy triumphs.
This week, Auntie Mary Ann’s hope was real-ized. She lived her whole life in anticipation of the moment that she entered and experienced on Thursday morning. I can guarantee this: she was not disappointed.
Today we grieve her loss, but we do not grieve as those who do not have hope.
Let us learn some valuable lessons from a life lived richly. Though she is with us no more, her testimony will continue to live.
Time is fleeting. Today, Auntie Mary Ann, we cherish your memory and glean from the testimony you leave behind. We don’t know what tomorrow will bring, but we anticipate the day when our hope too will be realized, and we will join you in heaven for ever. and ever.