The Mystery of the Waiting Time
She was eighty-eight and she was tired. She had buried two husbands, attended the funerals of every sibling, and all but one of her close friends. She lived with her daughter, which was wonderful, but she was ready for her heavenly home. She often quipped that maybe God had forgotten about her. She knew different. She just didn’t understand all that waiting time.
Most kinds of waiting are distasteful. End-of-life waiting is unnerving at best, scary at worst. But at least we do not have to wait in vain. We can make the most of this waiting time. This is the time for healthcare providers and family members to show love and care. It is a time for patients to tie up loose ends, mend fences, and say words that need to be said. It can also be a time to worship.
I have patients who may linger much longer than expected. I ask family members, “Is there anyone else that your loved one may need to see or feel their presence so that they may rest?” Sometimes, it is the prodigal son or the cousin he or she played with when younger.
While God is preparing the patient’s home, He often desires for the circle of relationship to go unbroken. I don’t believe this is just for the patient’s benefit who will soon enter His presence, but rather, those left behind who didn’t understand the depth and breadth of God’s love for them. He heals them as He perfectly heals the one coming home.
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In God’s Word, we witness a death bed scene revealing a purpose in the waiting time. Jacob, son of Abraham, who would be called Israel by God, falls ill and family are alerted.
“When the time drew near for Israel to die, he called for his son Joseph… Sometime later Joseph was told, ‘Your father is ill.’ So, he took his two sons Manasseh and Ephraim along with him. When Jacob was told, ‘Your son Joseph has come to you,’ Israel rallied his strength and sat up on the bed.”
He then spoke over each son, “giving each the blessing appropriate to him.” He then instructed them specifically on where he wanted to be buried. Then his waiting time had fulfilled God’s purpose:
“When Jacob had finished giving instructions to his sons, he drew his feet up into the bed, breathed his last and was gathered to his people.”
You can imagine the drama of this death bed scene as the brothers wait to hear what their father had to say and when finished see him take his final breath. We only know that “Joseph threw himself upon his father and wept over him and kissed him.”
In the Holy Bible, God reveals the lives of humans throughout history. In every story there is the visible description of what happened. However, beyond each story are lessons layered in depth that speak to all generations. “For the word of God is alive and active.” With Jacob’s dying we can understand that our waiting time also has purpose.
Jacob was giving instruction for those he was leaving behind. This is also a time for patients to teach lessons from wisdom gained through life experience. It may be a time to share stories of heritage that would be lost if not remembered in these twilight hours. It is also a time to speak of legacy and what is meaningful.
The waiting time is also a time of worship. We get to anticipate heaven at the end of our wait and therefore, our souls are drenched in His Holy Presence. We do not know the exact time of our soul’s separation from the physical body and yet, the Holy Spirit who resides within us is prepared for the moment when we will journey home. The Spirit within erupts with worship as the splendor of heaven draws near.
To the degree in which we are able to worship in our sufferings, our dying, and in our final days, is the degree in which we experience the richness of understanding the everlasting Grace we have been given by our Lord and Savior.
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