I recently spent time with a dying man. A wonderful Christian man who was wrestling with ‘end-of-life’ issues. As a pastor for a long time, I will tell you that this is not the first conversation I’ve ever had with an individual facing a terminal illness who seemed perplexed by decisions they’ve never had to think about before.
As I sat at the bedside of my friend, he explained part of his dilemma. “The doctor says if I continue with the treatment I’m on, it will compromise my lungs and my breathing. And, if I take medicine that will treat my lung disease, that medicine will probably cause my cancer to grow more rapidly.”
And then, he told me what he thought was the real issue. He said, “Do I take one of those treatments, and leave the results to God? And if so, which one should I take? Or … do I forgo any further treatment, and assume that unless God does something miraculous, I will be gone in a few days or weeks?”
He said his family knew of his condition. And they were good with whatever he decided. Now, he was looking to me for advice, or counsel, or encouragement, or perhaps … permission. Permission to do the ‘right’ thing.
The man is a mighty Christian who loves God and has studied deeply in the Word of God. There is no question about his eternal destiny in the person and work of Jesus Christ. “But,” he said, “There’s still a lot more I’d like to do for the Lord, if I can manage it, healthwise. I don’t want to be in denial about the truth, but I don’t want to give up too soon, either. I’m struggling to know how to solve the issue.”
Sometimes, when I’m having a conversation with someone, while they’re talking … I’m praying. Inside, where no one but God himself can see, I’m asking God what I should say or how I should respond. And as my friend began to earnestly describe the challenging decisions he faced, I asked God to help me know what to say.
As I prayed, a thought came to me. I’d like to think it was the Lord, answering my prayer and giving me a question to ask my friend, since I was hesitant to give him advice or direction. The consequences of his decisions would have profound impact on him, and on his family. The decisions needed come from him, and what he felt God was saying to him. And so, I asked:
“What’s God saying to you?”
He quickly responded with, “That’s just it. I can’t hear what God’s saying.”
I sat in silence with him for several seconds, before I asked my question again, only this time in a slightly different form. I asked him, “What is God saying to your ‘inner man.’
I am convinced that many people have developed what I would call casual conversational skills with God, in addition to conversations that have agendas of a more visceral or inner man focus. The casual conversations I have with God every day are many, varied, and not very intense. “God, watch over my life; God, help me through this day; God, don’t let me run out of gas before I get to the gas station, since I’m running on fumes and I was too negligent to stop sooner.” There are a ton of ways to pray to God in a casual conversation. Not bad. Any conversation with God, in my opinion, is a good conversation.
But, ‘inner man’ conversations involve weightier matters, I think. And my conversation with my friend was certainly a very heavy matter, indeed. So, I asked my friend that ‘inner man’ question: “What is God saying to your inner man?”
He talked, and I listened; I heard a dying man recount what His loving God was really saying to him.
And I was really glad I had asked that “What is God saying to your inner man” question. Paul’s prayer in Eph. 3 says it best:
“For this reason I bow my knees to the Father [f]of our Lord Jesus Christ, 15 from whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, 16 that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man, …”