Jeremiah 13:15-17 – Hear and give ear; do not be haughty, for the Lord has spoken. Give glory to the Lord your God before he brings darkness, and before your feet stumble on the mountains at twilight; while you look for light, he turns it into gloom and makes it deep darkness. But if you will not listen, my soul will weep in secret for your pride; my eyes will weep bitterly and run down with tears, because the Lord's flock has been taken captive. (NRSV)
A number of years ago, a close family member was diagnosed with cancer, and while at the beginning, the prognosis was good, as so often happens, the cancer came back with a vengeance, and she was given less than a year to live.
She was a child of the fifties, raised to believe that we have to pick ourselves up by the bootstraps and soldier on, regardless of the condition of the road in front of us. Her unwillingness to accept defeat was well known within the family, but not all of us shared her optimism. However, we did not want to upset her or dampen her hope.
As her health deteriorated, she was admitted to the hospital, so my wife and I went to visit her. When we entered her room, we could see that the weeks of chemo had taken a toll on her physically, and she was just a shadow of her former self. It was difficult not to express our shock. No amount of mental preparation could have prepared us for this.
On the other hand, her mental state seemed relatively fine, since she believed that with enough willpower, she could conquer any adversary. Throughout the visit, she continued to say that she was going to beat this thing, and we were convinced that in her heart of hearts, she truly believed this. Yet, we were wanting to help make her last days more peaceful by talking about our faith. But we were afraid that broaching the subject would be difficult for her, so we said nothing. A few weeks later, this much-loved family member did pass away. We were left with the regret of what had remained unsaid.
Although the Holy Spirit was present with us in that room, as Jesus promised that He always would be, I was not at a stage of my faith where I was able to listen to Him. I often wonder what would have happened if we had taken the risk and asked her about her understanding of life after death. This question might have broken the awkward silence in the room and started a conversation about Jesus that would have brought her some peace of mind in the last days of her life. What I see now as being important is to be aware of the call of the Holy Spirit acting in us and to understand in what direction He is guiding us. We must be still and listen for God's leading, especially in difficult circumstances.
Today's passage from Jeremiah tells us that we are to listen to the Lord and pay attention to what He says. If we do this, He will guide us through the darkness and into light. If not, we will stumble in the gloom and darkness. We are also told to give glory to the Lord, which means that we are to praise Him openly. We are not to remain silent, but we must be open to praising Him in the presence of others.
Prayer: Heavenly Father, we pray that our hearts may be open to the guidance of the Holy Spirit and that our minds may be illuminated by His Word. Grant us the wisdom and the courage to reach out to others with the good news of the saving grace that only our Saviour, Jesus Christ, can bring to us. Amen.
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