What do you do when a loved one lies helpless, almost lifeless, despite prayers, fasting, and petitions to God? How are we meant to trust God, who seemingly presides over such an awful, traumatizing, emotionally and financially draining life experience?
Watching my dad’s life ebb away was by far one of the most trying times of my life and faith. For six weeks he lay in a coma in a hospital bed, totally dependent on the family and nurses for his around-the-clock care. Even writing or thinking about it brings tears to my eyes nearly three years later. Like most people, we desperately wanted Dad’s health to be restored. But as days turned into weeks, the likelihood of his recovery seemed to fade.
Meanwhile, the hospital bill escalated, presenting an immediate practical challenge. I began to wrestle with many questions, mostly addressed to God. Dad was a retired Seventh-day Adventist minister. Having earlier retired as an immigration officer, he volunteered 10 years of his life to serve God as an unpaid lay pastor in Zambia, looking after an enormous district with several congregations. In his 60s, he traversed the vast mission district on his bicycle, Sabbath after Sabbath, for a decade.
So to see him in that state, without intervention from an all-powerful God—the same God whom Dad had so faithfully served—was humanly unbearable, a test of faith. Satan tormented me with many questions as doubt and despair threatened to engulf me.
A Welcome Reminder
With each passing week and all the endless, seemingly unanswered prayers, I began to feel forsaken and let down. Like the psalmist, “my feet had almost slipped” (Ps. 73:2),* until I entered the “sanctuary” of God’s Word.
I was impressed to consider the familiar story of the three Hebrew young men, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah. The Lord challenged me with their deep faith in God, as showcased in the book of Daniel. In the face of imminent danger, their response to the king is telling: “If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand. But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up” (Dan. 3:17, 18.) They knew God and trusted Him not to let the end result change their relationship with Him.
By my father’s bedside, in that dark place of despair, discouragement, and spiritual wrestling, God impressed these challenging words in my mind: faith is knowing God enough to trust Him regardless of the outcome. I could learn to trust God despite the outcome of this or any other circumstance in life.
Sadly, my dad did not recover. He died on Sabbath, June 3, 2017. Although it was a huge loss for our family, we thanked God, who had given him to us for more than 74 years. To this day I draw strength and instruction from the lesson I learned through a common Bible story during that dark moment in my life. Our perception of the outcome should never be allowed to ruin our appreciation of God and His faithfulness; He is always faithful. Like Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, we can learn to trust Him regardless of the outcome.
* Bible texts are from the Holy Bible, New International Version. Copyright ã 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
Victor Samwinga is a freelance writer, speaker, educator, and financial well-being enthusiast. He works as a university lecturer and lives in Newcastle upon Tyne in the United Kingdom with his wife and their children.