It was a clear, crisp night, Sunday November 30, the end of a wonderful day.
In the morning I preached at an assembly in Hamilton, a place where that I had not been for a few years. The subject was prayer, from Matthew 6, and the Lord’s voice was heard. Susan and I came home thrilled with the way the saints responded.
The afternoon was spent in prayer and preparation for the evenings teaching on John 17, as well as writing an article for a brother who wanted to know why Jesus said that the “violent take the kingdom by force.” in Matthew 11:12. I wanted to give him the article that evening.
The Lord blessed the evenings work and I came home with a delicious feeling of exhaustion from this exciting, though strenuous, day. Arriving home about 9:00pm, I picked up the messages on my study line.
Bill had called and in a quiet voice left this message; “Gordon, Joyce wants to see you. She’s low and would appreciate a visit tonight or tomorrow. I am sorry to trouble you.” Susan and I quickly got the children organized for bed and went to the hospital.
When we arrived, Bill and his children were sitting quietly with Joyce. Joyce was well known to me, I first visited her 16 years ago after her cancer surgery at St. Joseph’s Hospital. She and Bill had occasionally tried over the years to come and hear me preach, but the symptoms of Joyce’s disease seemed to interfere with their plans every time. Notwithstanding, they always regarded me as their pastor and they welcomed every visit.
Now the disease was entering the final stages and Joyce reluctantly acknowledged her time was short. Joyce was a fighter and through the years her wonderfully cheerful disposition and that irrepressible sense of humour won everyone’s heart who visited her. Even now, when she was so desperately weak, she sought to cheer us up, and succeeded!
I went over to the bed , took her hand, kissed her on the cheek and sought to minister grace to her. We spoke of the Good Shepherd and how tenderly He cares for the lambs. I assured her that she would be heard if she simply asked the Shepherd to embrace her.
She assured me again and again that she had asked the Lord to receive her as she was, weak and frail. I responded that He certainly had received her and would carry her all the way to His eternal home. But all she would say in that soft accent was, “I’m hoping’ He will.”
Her faith was very tentative and would not allow her to speak with confidence of being embraced by the Lord Jesus. With a few words, I sought to comfort her in the truth that the faintest cry for help from any of us brings the Lord alongside.
I recalled the imagery of Scripture which said of our gentle Saviour, “A bruised reed will He not break, nor quench smoking flax.”
I spent a while in the hall with Bill and his children chatting about what was happening. One of the children was not ready just yet to acknowledge the reality their eyes saw. They struggled to realize that the one who gave them life was losing hers.
As we stood in the hallway Susan assisted the nurse in shifting Joyce into a more comfortable position to relieve some of the pain. When we reentered the room, Susan’s head was laying on the bed rail only inches from Joyce, and face to face they talked about the simplicity of salvation – “If you ask Him to come, He’ll come.”
Stroking Joyce’s head Susan assured her that the Lord Jesus is near to all who call to Him and that He had certainly heard her prayers. Joyce relaxed and seemed to be at peace. After an hour or so, Susan and I once again assured them of our love, embraced each one, and left.
Now, as we drove home we were really tired! But what a glorious feeling it was. There we were on the doorstep of eternity with a dear one who was in profound need.
The Lord was pleased to use us and we rejoiced in the context of sorrow that we had such a precious Saviour to offer and that we were involved in a “ministry of hope for those who hurt.”
The next morning we went back to check on our dear friend, and we were only in the room a moment when she asked me to pray.
Later as we said good-bye Joyce whispered to Susan, “Everything came together last night, everything’s okay”.
Eternity dawned for Joyce a couple of weeks later. It was peaceful and triumphant.
The family were thrilled to witness such a gentle departure of their loved one.