Cancer confined a friend of mine to a hospital bed for what proved to be her last few weeks on earth. Even though I knew the possible outcome, it surprised me when she said she was afraid. “Afraid of what?” I asked, knowing she had a deep and peaceful confidence of Heaven.
“Of lying here like this for weeks and weeks,” she replied.
And that is exactly what happened. She lay in the same bed for many weeks, suffering the indignities of hospital life, enduring a painful season until she was set free from her body. However, she was not afraid of the pain. She was afraid of becoming useless, serving no one, a drain on others. I heard my elderly in-laws express much the same sentiment as they looked toward the possibility of a slow decline.
What about God?
What, then, shall we say about God? Has the Lord forgotten one little corner of the world? Does His sovereignty stop at the foot of the sick-bed? Of course not. His control extends to the depths of the sea and to the outer edges of the galaxy. The Lord has established His throne in the heavens, and His sovereignty rules over all (Ps. 103:19). All the ‘useless’ places are as centered in His good will as the places we deem so ‘useful.’
The Apostle Paul spent many years in various prisons. He might easily have felt that he had been shunted to the side-yard, uselessly awaiting the scrap heap of life. But this same Apostle wrote about the joy of sharing in the sufferings of Christ, glorifying God in his weakness, and the privilege of praising Him in chains. Paul knew that God is glorified wherever men love Him, including the slave compound, the prison yard and the hospital wards.
Many of us want the chance to do something ‘important’ for God. We’d like to show the depth of our love and exercise our unique gifts. But the greatest thing we can do for our God is to pour out our hearts to Him in the places He has ordained for us. Could any work be more important than the work we have sovereignly been given to do? Could any circumstances be more right than the circumstances which come directly from His hand? There is a folly of pride in thinking that some other work, some other life, would be a better way of serving God.
God alone is the audience of One whose applause echoes in eternity. He is just as present in the lonely hospital room as He is in the televised pulpits of the world, perhaps more so. You do not know but when you see Him face to face, it will be that one hour you suffered, those weeks that you lay still and cried out to Him in faith, the years your life went unnoticed by the world that made the angels catch their breath, that honored Your King most of all.