Rev Susan Johnson, National Bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada writes a regular column for each issue of Canada Lutheran.
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NATIONAL BISHOP'S TURN
Deepening Faith in Times of Trouble
This fall my parents went on a transatlantic tour. On Thanksgiving Sunday they had made it across the ocean and were in Halifax. That night, while they were at sea, my dad became ill and went downhill quickly, so much so that he was airlifted by the Coast Guard off the ship to the closest hospital in Yarmouth, Nova Scotia. I received a call early on Thanksgiving Monday and was able to travel to Yarmouth by late the next evening. We were told that my dad had five systems failing and they did not expect him to live. It was agonizing.
At the same time it was also a gift. As first I and then other siblings kept watch with mom, it was a time for deep conversations. I had more contact with my siblings and with my nieces and nephews than I have ever had. When I was there I read scripture to my dad. My mom and I had daily devotion with my dad, even though he was non-responsive. I sang hymns. We all felt deeply God’s presence with us. It was an amazing comfort. Mom and I returned again and again to Psalm 121. God’s promise of accompaniment in our lives, through our death and into the next life was so reassuring. The Lord will keep your going out and your coming in from this time on and for evermore. Psalm 121:8
Even though we were in deep grief at the thought of losing a much loved husband and father, our faith never wavered. We knew deeply and profoundly that God was with Dad and would be with him no matter what happened. With each passing day we knew it more or at least more deeply.
It was almost funny. Here I am, the National Bishop of our church, and, I think a person of deep faith. I have been calling our church to Spiritual Renewal and I work hard at practising the disciplines of pray, read, worship, study, serve, give and tell. But this experience of journeying through the valley of the shadow of death with my dad, my mom and my siblings, deepened and strengthened my faith yet again.
Then the miracle happened. After the doctor told us nothing else could be done, Dad woke up. Since then, after three weeks, first in the intensive care unit and then the cardiac care unit, he was discharged and is now home again in North Vancouver. For Dad this has been a faith-deepening experience, as well. As my mom and he say morning prayer and evening prayer each day, and as they read scripture, he tells me that many words and phrases jump out at him with new meaning. He is appreciative of the gift of life, having been so close to death. Our time with him and with each other has become more precious. The joy of sharing faith with loved ones has never been sweeter.
I know that not everyone gets to claim a miracle in terms of restoration to health. Many times accident or illness takes the lives of loved ones despite our fervent prayers and our deep faith. I know that my dad’s recovery had nothing to do with who he is or with who I am. None of us deserved this.
“What we call ‘miracle’ is something that catches our attention within our world and makes us look at everything in a different light,” said Peter Ochs, Bronfman Professor of Modern Judaic Studies at the University of Virginia. (Huffington Post, 12/23/2014) The real miracle was that in the midst of trying circumstances, God made God’s presence known to us—a believed faith became an experienced faith. That faith, which is itself a gift from God, can grow and can increase through sharing. My hope and prayer for you is that your faith will continue to grow and stretch as you go through all of the peaks and valleys of this life
Canada Lutheran, Jan/Feb 2015
Rev. Susan C. Johnson, National Bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada writes a regular column for each issue of Canada Lutheran.