For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. John 3:16-18 NIV
A little over a week ago a friend of mine lost her battle with cancer. I am still having trouble believing that she is gone. Her death was pretty sudden. Even though she had cancer, her heart stopped which was what caused her death. Even in this, God answered my prayer. We were praying for her healing, but I asked him if he wasn’t going to heal her to please not let her suffer more than she already was. And while I miss her, I am thanking him that he took her suddenly and she didn’t suffer anymore.
She was definitely an interesting character. All throughout her journey with this disease, she never gave up. She kept working. She kept living life. She fought. I really don’t think I ever heard her complain. When I asked how she was doing she’d say something like “Oh you know, a little nauseated from the chemo but I’m ok.” And then she’d say, “How are you?”
Even to the very end, she would always ask “How are you?” I would wonder about this. Sometimes when I get into a mode where I am complaining about something going on in my life (way more trivial than fighting cancer), I forget to ask people how they are because I am so focused on myself. And here was Joy, still thinking of others.
When the church would help folks who needed a hand, she would ask how she could contribute. Fighting cancer, doing chemo, and working and she still was volunteering to help.
We had some conversations at the end about what comes next. She wanted to talk about salvation and Heaven. Joy became very serious about her faith when she was diagnosed. She wondered if God wouldn’t accept her because it was later in her life. We talked about the thief on the cross who figured out who Jesus was at the last minute. Jesus didn’t say “Sorry you haven’t believed long enough.” He said, “Surely, today you will be with me in paradise.”
She wondered if waiting until she was diagnosed was a problem. She used to say, “You know, like buying fire insurance at the last minute.” There is the story of the prodigal son who didn’t turn back to his father until he was at the end of his rope. And the father ran to him and welcomed him with open arms.
And then we read today’s verse. And I think she knew. She knew God loves her and that he wants her to be his no matter when, no matter how. God isn’t there pointing fingers and telling us we didn’t do it right. He is welcoming us. He is saying “Come. Just come. I love you.”
As we mourn Joy’s loss, we are comforted in knowing that we will see her again. We will see her in Heaven when we all get to celebrate Jesus together. I still miss her here, but I know she is in a way better place and after I spend some time with Jesus, I am going to hang out with Joy and hug her tight!