Earlier this year I officiated the funeral of a church member who died unexpectedly (I've written about him before). Since the funeral I have given him quite a lot of thought.
Several months prior to his death he had surgery, and there had been complications, so he continued to be ill -- taking several trips to the hospital, and at one stretch spending three months there. But, he had gotten better and was home and was on the mend. So, we thought he was out of the woods. Not so.
I have been in the hospital a couple times, and after the about the second day I'm ready to make a daring escape. There is something about the institutional setting and the constant interruptions that drive me to the brink, which means that this guy's three month stay in the hospital really opens to me a world of hurt. How did he last so long without losing it?
Well, actually he did lose it. He came out of the hospital quite a different man than when he went in. It just wasn't that he was physically better, he was spiritually better as well. Before he was troubled and stretched thin by the cares of this life, but he came out of the hospital calm and open to the callings of the Christ. Very surprising.
Once, toward the end of his extended hospital stay, I asked him about the change. He told me that at first the days were so difficult for him that he despaired, but when he gave up the LORD was with him.
He spoke in christianese, of course, but it was true for him. In his isolation and in his despair apparently he had been visited by the LORD in such a way that it changed him spiritually. As I think about this change it somehow reminded me of the hermits, or those inhabitants of the desert, where solitude offered time for one to move toward the living Christ. To be sure, his solitude was forced, but the LORD took the opportunity to touch this lonely life with his presence.