Seventeen years ago today, I became a widow. I was thirty four years old, with a three year old daughter. Much has happened since then and I remarried in 2002, but I thought I would share with you about God's faithfulness to me in this time of my life. Here are excerpts of a reflection I wrote some time ago...
At times in our lives, we are led to "places where we would rather not go" (John 21:18). In November of 1990, my journey began when I learned that my husband, Jing, had malignant melanoma, the most deadly kind of skin cancer. Our daughter was only eight months old at that time. That year had started out with blessings for our family and I had written in my prayer journal, "Cherish every moment, for you know not what tomorrow brings and life holds many surprises."
Jing underwent an operation and chemotherapy and we prayed for his healing. Although it was a difficult time for us, it was also a time when we experienced how the Lord provided for us in so many ways. Jing’s new job was with a pharmaceutical company and so, aside from the medical benefits granted by the company, he also got free medicine. Jing’s boss at the time was a man who had lost his wife to cancer and he was specially sympathetic and supportive all throughout Jing’s chemo treatments and afterwards.
After two years, my husband seemed to be doing so well that we dared to hope that he was healed. But, in April 1993, Jing suddenly felt ill and had to be hospitalized.
The time in the hospital was an amazing time for me. Each day, a lesson in faith and hope. We started out not knowing just how serious Jing's condition was and later learned that the cancer had spread to Jing's liver. During the next few days we found out that there was an oncologist’s conference in the US and many of the oncologists, including Jing's doctor, were out of the country to attend it.
Many other people that we were relying on were also out of town. His surgeon, one of our best friends, was on medical mission. Many of our leaders in the community we belonged to were out of the country. We could depend on God alone.
By now, it was clear to us that nothing less than a miracle could heal Jing. Amazingly, when I learned this, I experienced the peace which transcends all understanding (Phil 4:7). I did not have to frantically search for the best treatment, the best doctor. I had only to depend on God alone - the God who created all things and each one of us and the God who loved us so much that He gave us His Son.
As I prayed, I looked back in my prayer journal and found this passage which I had written a few weeks before -"I am a faithful God, and My promises are true. Have I not sustained you throughout all your trials? As a boat in the ocean keeps you from getting wet in spite of waves and storms, I will bring you to where I have promised in spite of problems and trials. I am a faithful God and you have nothing to fear. Even your own weaknesses, you own lack, are not enough to keep me from loving you and keeping my promises to you." Even then, the Lord was already preparing me.
Looking back, I marvel at how the Lord poured out His grace upon me and sustained me during that time in the hospital. I felt like I was walking across a great chasm and just putting one step forward in faith and hope, not seeing the bridge and not knowing what was on the other side. Knowing only that the Lord was with me in this journey, and whatever happened, my life would never be the same again. Yes, "Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. (Psalm 23:4)
Throughout this time, many people tried to encourage me, telling me that the Lord would grant us a miracle and heal my husband. But one night, for the first time, someone told me what to do when I felt that the end was near. "Tell Jing not to worry. Tell him that you and your daughter will be okay." I was to say these words only a few hours later.
All throughout, I hoped for a physical healing. But when my husband passed from this life to the next, I was finally able to accept that the healing I hoped for was not to be. And in that instant, in an amazing way, the Lord transformed my hope for a physical healing to a Hope for Heaven and Eternal Life and my heart soared with the Hope of God's promise of salvation and thoughts of a happy homecoming. I claimed God's words to me for Jing, "Even your own weaknesses, your own lack, are not enough to keep me from loving you and keeping my promises to you". In an amazing way, the verse "Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see" (Hebrews 11:1) became so real for me.
The days, weeks, months, and even years that followed were challenging ones. But although it was a most difficult time, it was also a time when I most experienced the Lord’s love and faithfulness. In my journey, I went through the valleys of desolation but also the heights of consolation.
I remember that as I prayed for Jing’s healing, I would think, "If both Jing’s healing and his death would bring glory to God, surely the Lord will grant me my heart’s desire." Sometime after Jing’s death, just as I was doubting my certainty about his salvation and asking for the Lord's assurance, I read Romans 10: 1f…
"Brothers, it is my heart’s desire and prayer to God... that they may be saved… Do not say in your heart who will ascend into heaven… if you confess with your mouth Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead you will be saved… Anyone who trusts in him will never be put to shame…"
Amazed at how God answered my prayer, I rejoiced in these words. I had thought that my prayer for my heart's desire was for Jing's physical healing but as I read these words, I realized that indeed my heart’s desire for all my loved ones is for them to be saved and to inherit the promises of the kingdom of God. Whatever way the Lord would accomplish this, however difficult for me, I was thankful and trusted in His wisdom.
"For though the fig tree blossom not nor fruit be on the vines,
Though the yield of the olive fail and the terraces produce no nourishment,
Though the flocks disappear from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls,
Yet will I rejoice in the Lord and exult in my saving God.
God the Lord is my strength;
He makes my feet swift as those of hinds and enables me to go upon the heights."
In the bible, when it says "the wondrous works of the Lord" I used to think of things like parting the Red Sea and other miracles. Now, as I marvel at how the Lord sustained me through this difficult journey and transformed my heart, I consider this, too, a wondrous work.