Wednesday, 12 August 2009

From Anguish To Peace

Josie was dying. She was deeply distraught and in intolerable anguish. Her family didn't know what to do. Despite the best efforts of the Hospital's medical staff, nothing more could be done for Josie. Her pain was more than just the pain of what happens when cancer invades and conquers a body. Her shrieks, moaning and writhing was making her family feel even more helpless. Finally, her husband called for her pastor. Then things took a dramatic turn.

Pastor Gordon MacDonald arrived at the hospital twenty minutes later. He saw the family and medical team around Josie's bed. He said to himself, "Be a Pastor."
"Josie!" I said as I approached. I said her name firmly, as if to establish my presence with some authority.

"Pastor Mac!" she responded. The circle broke as everyone stepped back to make room for me.

When Gordon MacDonald spoke to Josie, he recognised that her pain and anguish was not due to problems with the medication or care she had been given. It was spiritual. Spiritual anguish affects your mind. It then manifests in your body. People who carry guilt can experience a tightening in the neck and shoulders and a heaviness in their chest. They see a doctor but find no relief. Then one day a pastor guides them through confession, forgiveness, and reconciliation and their neck, shoulders and chest immediately feel different. Josie's anguish was spiritual. She felt guilty that she was dying and would no longer be able to love, care for, and look after her husband and daughters. Pastor Mac empathised with her. He then reassured her. He then put his hands on her tense and agitated shoulders and gently but firmly pushed her writhing shoulders back onto the bed. He then asked Josie to look at him. With her eyes attentive to him, he recited Psalm 23 to her. And then he said-

You are one who is in God's care. You've been a wonderful wife and mother. You've been a good friend. And now it may be time to go and live in God's house for ever and ever and ever. Some day we're going to join you. Each of us." I named Josie's husband and their daughter. They're going to be there with you."

"Are you sure?" she asked.

"I'm sure," I said. "And I want you to know that everyone here loves you and is thankful to you. I want you to rest now and let God take you where he wants to lead you. Josie, don't be afraid."

"Are you sure it's okay to go, Pastor Mac?"

"Yes, I'm sure, Josie."

Then Josie did something I'll never forget. She looked away from me and spoke to her husband: "Thank you for being such a good husband to me." And to her daughter: "I love you; I'm so proud to be your mother." And then to the medical people: "Thank you for taking such good care of me." After a few words to each friend in the circle, she thanked me. Then Josie closed her eyes, sank into a calm sleep and, about an hour later, left our presence.

Josie went from anguish to peace by having her true condition attended to. She experienced in the last what I suspect we all crave, to die with the greatest dignity that comes from having a soul at peace with God and thereby at peace with others. Because of this her family at her bedside experienced a moment they would treasure for the rest of their lives.

Do you have a Pastor? Do you have peace for your soul?

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