In accordance with your great love, forgive the sin of these people, just as you have pardoned them from the time they left Egypt until now.”
- Numbers 14:19
When evening came, many who were demon-possessed were brought to him, and he drove out the spirits with a word and healed all the sick. This was to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet Isaiah:
“He took up our infirmities
and bore our diseases.”
- Matthew 8:16-17
Surely he took up our pain
and bore our suffering,
yet we considered him punished by God,
stricken by him, and afflicted.
- Isaiah 53:4
Surely, he hath born our infirmities, and carried our sorrows, yet we did judge him as plagued and smitten of God, and humbled.
- Isaiah 53:4 (1599 Geneva Bible)
When Paul had finished speaking, he knelt down with all of them and prayed. They all wept as they embraced him and kissed him. What grieved them most was his statement that they would never see his face again. Then they accompanied him to the ship.
- Acts 20:36-38
“Love may forgive all infirmities and love still in spite of them: but Love cannot cease to will their removal.”
- C. S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain
On the day that this was written, we had a marvelous Sunday school class the day before. The pastor sat in for the introduction and some of the initial discussion, discussing how Paul loved his church at Ephesus and they too loved him. The elders of the church went to the coast to say farewell. Paul knew that if he travelled inland to Ephesus, the draw of his love for them would cause him to tarry and he would miss Pentecost in Jerusalem. The Holy Spirit was leading him to be there for Pentecost.
He could have interpreted the pleas for him to not go to Jerusalem at this point as the people simply missing him. But the coming warnings at Tyre and Caesarea were more pointed.
We talked of what was God’s will, even though it might mean suffering and death. The pastor mentioned places in the world where pronouncing that you were a Christian could result in beatings or death.
We had been discussing the Lord’s will. Our youngest class member mentioned Esther deciding that she must act even though it might result in her death. I mentioned Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego and the fiery furnace, and Daniel in the Lions’ Den. A variety of other people mentioned others who accepted God’s will in the face of danger. We have a lot of people in our class who have read their Bible.
The pastor had just left when we read the last verses of Acts 20. I quipped that the pastor had just left and I saw no tears. Everyone laughed, and one of the more stoic men added, “The Ephesians thought they would never see Paul again. We’re afraid the pastor might come back!” And that brought more laughter.
Then my wife cast her net to reel the class back in. She said, “You pray for a loved one with a terminal illness. You want them well, but God may be calling them home. If they go to be with Him, they will no longer have any pain, but you are praying that they stay because you will miss them. It’s very hard to add that ‘Your will be done’ at the end of the prayer, but it is a win-win if you do. You know that God’s will was done and that the person that you loved is no longer in pain and in the presence of Jesus.”
There was silence for a moment. Was she talking about herself? There have been loved ones, a brother and her mother, who have passed in the past ten years. Was she talking about them?
Later that day, it started to snow heavily. We were committed to go to the funeral home, ten miles away. For many, many years when I was still working, my wife picked up two octogenarians from the church and they went for brunch once each week. It had to be brunch instead of lunch because one of the ladies was extremely demanding. The other lady was a member of our Sunday school class, but the demanding lady refused. She didn’t believe that the Bible was God’s word, so why study it? Odd, she had taught Sunday school herself in her young adult years.
When my wife became infirmed, I was then out of work, and the brunches became monthly and I drove, but even then, it dwindled to nothing. The demanding one developed dementia and eventually had to be placed in a nursing home.
Now we were driving through a snowstorm to say farewell. We met so many family members who echoed the “demanding” sentiments, but there were a few comments of how she had loved her greatgrandchildren. Over the years, my wife had met about half the family members that were in the room, even though they rarely visited their mother or grandmother.
Could my wife have been thinking about her, even though she professed that she did not believe? It was this woman of whom my wife prayed to God about how she would not listen to any argument about how Jesus had come to die for her sins. Then a voice said, “Why should she listen to you? They did not listen to My Son.” On that occasion more than ten years ago, my wife had to pull the car over to the shoulder of the road to weep.
C. S. Lewis said it so well. Whether the “infirmity” is sin in someone’s life or an illness, we love the person but that never stops us from asking God to remove the infirmity. Yet, “Lord, Your will be done.”
Soli Deo Gloria. Only to God be the Glory.