The Hour of Decision

For several weeks, a preacher had been giving lectures in a big city. In these gatherings, a middle-aged woman was a regular attendee. The speaker had already been invited to many home Bible studies by various visitors and had gotten to know many of his listeners personally. This particular woman, though she came to the services, remained silent, listened attentively, made notes of the scripture passages – and left. One day, she approached him and handed him a note. She asked the pastor to visit a patient with her in the hospital. She provided the time and place.

At the appointed hour, he arrived at the hospital with a bouquet of flowers. The woman greeted him warmly and gratefully. They entered the hospital. –

“You probably wonder why I asked you to come here with me. I would like an explanation from you, in the presence of my only daughter, who is suffering terribly, about why such profound suffering exists!” She softly opened the door. The pastor, somewhat apprehensive, entered the room with the deeply afflicted mother.

Once the door closed behind them, a soft, gentle voice from the bed asked, “Mom, is that you there?” “Yes, my child. Do you also know who I have brought with me?” “Perhaps the pastor you’ve told me so much about?” “Yes, I asked him to visit you, and now you can talk to him yourself.”

He approached the bed of the patient. There lay a twenty-year-old woman who had succumbed to complete blindness due to a severe illness. She was not only blind but also unable to walk, and her only hope was that death would bring her relief.

The pastor, deeply moved, quietly placed the flowers on the bed. When the pale hands reached for them and caressed the petals affectionately, with tears rolling down her cheeks from unseeing eyes, he had to turn away, genuinely affected. The mother stood aside from the bed, covered her face with her hands, and wept quietly to herself.

“Mother, why does it have to be this way? Why must I suffer so even though I am still so young?” The words came painfully from her lips. Then the mother wrapped her critically ill daughter in her arms, pressed her to her heart, and remained silent for a long, long time.

After the patient had calmed down, the clergyman bent over and took her hand. After a brief silence, the patient spoke: “Mother often comes to comfort me, trying to dispel my doubts that are consuming my soul. I used to sing and laugh, rejoicing like a child, and was grateful for all the joys of life. Not long ago, I was a nurse in this hospital myself. Then I suddenly fell ill. I fell out of bed in a fever, suffered a severe head injury, and – well, you can see for yourself! I’m just a ruin, unable to do the smallest task, and, it appears, condemned to death. If only I still had my eyesight! But everything is dark around me all the time! I can’t even see my mother. You have no idea how dark it is for me. I even had doubts about God and was ready to let go of Him because my countless prayers went unanswered.

Then one day, my mother came to me. She seemed different than usual. Even though I couldn’t see her, I felt how much she was suffering because of my affliction. She joyfully told me about your lectures; she even claimed that her life had undergone a great change. She was beginning to understand that all things work together for good for those who believe. She also told me about the hope of a glorious world in eternity – where all suffering is supposed to end. Is it really as my mother described?”

The preacher took the Bible, this Book of comfort for all situations of life, this source of strength for all weak people, and read the words of the Master, “What I am doing you do not understand now, but you will know after this” (John 13:7).

And he continued, “All people who come into this world carry the seed of death within them. Some die in tender childhood, others fall victim to death in the midst of carefree youth; still others are torn from diligent work, even though they have not even remotely fulfilled their life’s mission. Only a few die old and sated with life. One thing is certain: we all must go when death knocks. But when a person believing in a better world, claiming the redeeming power of the Son of God in faith, closes their eyes to this world, then God will raise them up on that great Day of Resurrection.”

There was deep silence in the room for a long time. The patient lay still on her bed, and only the twitching corners of her mouth revealed that she was deeply moved. Suddenly, she said, “Please, read some words from the Scriptures that tell me clearly and certainly of such wonderful hope!”

And word by word, the clergyman read: “Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.”i  – “For I will turn their mourning to joy, will comfort them, and make them rejoice rather than sorrow.” ii – “Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord.”iii -“And this is the testimony: that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son.  He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life.” iv – “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live.”v – “He who overcomes shall inherit all things, and I will be his God and he shall be My son.” vi

The girl had listened in silence to the words of the Holy Scriptures. Then she turned to the pastor, extended her hand, and thanked him wordlessly. Often the most dynamic encounters with God do not take place in solemn religious ceremonies, but where people break down under the overwhelming burden of life and reach out for help.

So it happened here as well. A simple hospital room, a terminally ill young woman who could be called into eternity at any moment, a mother bowed down by suffering who wept for her only daughter, and a messenger of God whose own words dwindled on his lips. However, as he read the clear words of the Almighty, they became a source of comfort. Here was a very small congregation – only three people. In such moments, God is near.

This first visit was also the last. Shortly thereafter, death gently released the young woman from her suffering. The mother was not dismayed nor distraught by this outcome. Her joyful anticipation was the hope of greeting her daughter again, drawing her close and embracing her on the day of resurrection, and giving thanks to the One who is the resurrection and the life.

M. Schmidt

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