Thursday, March 20, 2008

Life-and-Death Decision ... Would You Tell A Dying Person About GOD?

I stood outside his hospital room and watched the middle-aged man frantically motion to the nurse for his suction tube. He had no jaw, and across his shoulders were open, oozing sores.

The nurse, noticing his erratic hand movements, quickly suctioned the trachea opening in his throat. Relieved of the clogging mucus, the man eased back on his bed. Fifteen seconds later he repeated the same frantic motions. The nurse left, and his wife took over the suctioning.

His wife placed her hand on his arm and spoke quietly, trying to help and comfort him. Impatient, he grabbed the tube from her hand and suctioned his own trachea. I could see the fear in his eyes, and I felt his desperation to live. As I watched, fear also gripped my heart, Lord, please don't let him be one of my patients today, I prayed.

During the report time with the nursing staff I learned that Mr. Anderson had had radical cancer surgery the year before to remove part of his mouth and all of his lower jaw. In spite of the doctor's best efforts, the cancer had continued to spread with a vengeance. Now death is imminent--and the charge nurse had assigned Mr. Anderson to me. The thought of caring for him terrified me --a 20 year-old nurse's aide. My heart cried out, Lord, help me!

I felt impressed that God wanted me to speak to Mr. Anderson about him, the One who could give him hope and eternal life. Yet my first thought was How can I get out of this? I felt afraid and inadequate for the task.

For the first few hours of my shift, I prayed and made excuses. Lord, I don't have time. Mr. Anderson is a lot older than I am, I'm sure he's not going to listen to me, and he's already heard the gospel.

Then I argued with God, His wife is always there. I can't just barge into his room and start preaching.

Finally I told God. It's too hard, and I just can't do it I'm afraid I'll fail, and I'm afraid to be in his room.

I had no peace in my heart until I gave in to the Spirit's urging and asked God to please make a way for me to talk to Mr. Anderson. I began to pray, Lord, please don't let him die until I have a chance to tell him of Your plan of salvation and eternal life.

Two years earlier I'd asked Jesus to be my Savior. As a young Christian I'd tried to witness to a young man at a youth event. I'd pleaded with him to receive Jesus as Savior. He'd refused, and I'd felt defeated.

Later a youth worker at the event had explained to me, "God is the one saves. Your job is to tell others the good news and to live a godly life. The Holy Spirit will bring them salvation." The youth worker was right; I just didn't want the same thing to happen when I talked to Mr. Anderson, because I knew he might not live through the night.

My opportunity came late that evening.

After all of the other patients were bedded down for the night, I walked in. I noticed that his wife had left, and no one was around to disturb us.

I straightened his bed and fluffed his pillows as he suctioned his trachea. Then I walked to the foot of his bed and looked into his eyes full of fears and despair. My own fears caused my legs to feel weak and shaky. I clasped the end of the bed with my sweaty hands.

"I'm a Christian, Mr. Anderson. May I tell you of God's good news?"

He nodded yes.

I took a breath before I started. "God send His son, Jesus Christ, into the world to die for our sins. The Bible says that we've all sinned, and our sins have separated us from God [Romans 3:23]."

Mr. Anderson looked interested, so I continued. "None of us can live a perfect life, which God requires. The Bible says the wages of sin is death, and death is what separates us forever from God [Romans 6:23]. But Jesus Christ came to this earth to live a perfect sinless life. And He died on a cross, shedding His blood for our sins [Colossians 
1: 19, 20]."

Mr. Anderson sat upright in his bed and leaned forward. He sat very still with his eyes fixed on me.

"The Bible says all our sins were laid on Him ---He took our punishment [Isaiah 53:6] so we could live [John 10:10]. He not only died, but also conquered eternal death [Revelation 1:18]. The Bible says He came back to life three days after His death, proving that He'd overcome sin and death. It also showed that His claims to be God's Son were true [Matthew 28].

Mr. Anderson didn't move at all.

"Now, Mr. Anderson, the good news is that you don't have to pay for your sins. The Lord Jesus Christ did that. The Bible says that 'if you confess with your mouth, "Jesus is Lord," and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved' [Romans 10:9]."

I ended by quoting John 3:16: "For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life."

Then I asked, "Would you like to ask Jesus t be your Lord and Savior, Mr. Anderson?"

Again he nodded yes.

"Would you like me to pray with you?"

Mr. Anderson bent forward, grabbed my hands, and held them tightly. I prayed with him, giving him time to pray too. Though I couldn't hear his words, I knew that God could. After the prayer I opened my eyes and saw tears streaming down his face.

He shook my hands in thanks. Peace filled me.

I tried to assure him, "Mr. Anderson, you are now God's child. He'll never leave or forsake you [Hebrews 13:5]. You will live with Him forever in heaven [John 14:1-3]."

His eyes seem to brighten. I smiled, and I'm sure he did, too. He let go of my hands and eased himself back on his pillow. I walked to the side of his bed and tried to make Him comfortable.

Before leaving his room, I looked over at Mr. Anderson and said through a smile, "Welcome to God's family."

As I went to the nurses' station to complete my charting, joy and happiness filled me. I felt encouraged. I had obeyed the Lord, Mr. Anderson believed, and he would go to heaven at the resurrection.

When I made a final rounds for the night, Mr. Anderson's condition had deteriorated. I probably won't see him again, I realized.

When I came to work next afternoon, I went directly to Mr. Anderson's room. I stood outside the door and looked in. Clean sheets covered the empty bed. The suction machine along with the tubes were gone.

As I stood there I wondered if Mr. Anderson had truly believed in God yesterday. I knew that the Bible said in 2 Corinthians 5:17, "If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!"

When a nurse came by I asked her, "When did Mr. Anderson pass away?"

She answered, "At lunchtime."

I said softly, "Last night he asked Jesus to be his Savior."

"Would you like to know how he died? she asked.

I smiled. "Yes, I would really like to know."

She placed her hand on my arm and smiled as she spoke, "During the morning he was peaceful. At noon he wrote a note to his wife that he wanted to take a nap. When he went to sleep, she decided to go to the cafeteria and eat lunch. When she returned he had 
passed away
peacefully in his sleep."

My eyes watered. "That's wonderful. God is so good."

Yes, He is good. Mr. Anderson died in peace. He's no longer in pain."

The nurse looked at her watch. "It's time for us to go. We're needed in the report room."

As we walked down the hall, I prayed, Thank You, God. Thank you that I'll see Mr. Anderson again. And thank You for giving me a chance to offer a dying man Your gift of life. ●

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