On Monday I got a text from my sister, telling me that my Uncle Steven was in the hospital. He was diagnosed with Leukemia. The doctors were getting him on some meds to stabilize him and hoped to begin treatments soon. Last night I got a text from my mom, saying Uncle Steven had been moved to ICU. Things were not good.
This morning I woke up with a heavy sense to pray. Not just a five minute, “God please be with this” kind of prayer. Intercessory, however-long-it-takes-it-takes kind of prayer. I did my normal wake-up routine of warm lemon water and social media checking. While I woke up, I got a text from Mom saying Uncle Steven was on life-support. I gathered my Bible, a blanket, my heating pad (it’s cold in my house today), and chapstick and got down on the floor.
Not knowing where to start, I opened my Bible. I didn’t have anywhere in particular in mind, but it fell open to Psalm 38. Everywhere in that psalm I read of my uncle. Right down to “my bones have no soundness”. I started praying through the psalm, standing in the gap. My uncle is not a believer. After praying through Psalm 38, I continued to petition the Lord for healing and for mercy.
At one point, I felt a strong sense to pray in tongues. I don’t normal practice this, except when I am heavily burdened for something. It usually happens when I feel like I have something to say, but I can’t articulate it in normal words. After getting over my embarrassment, words gushed out of me for about five minutes. Then I started praising God in English.
I wasn’t sure what to pray for next. I started praying for Uncle Steven’s feet, moved up to his ankles, and then started praying for his legs. Two years ago I lost a seven-year old friend to liver cancer, and I remembered how swollen her legs were. Then I started praying for a sign. A sign from God of healing.
At that moment, the phone rang. Mom called me to tell me that there was nothing left the doctors could do for Uncle Steven. Per his wishes made prior to such a thing like this happening, my cousins made the decision to remove him from the machines. They were only waiting for my grandmother to get there before they did so.
I called my husband at work and asked him to keep praying. With a very heavy heart I went back before the Throne of Heaven. I cried for Uncle Titi. I begged the Lord to spare his life. I prayed for every conversation about God and the Lord Jesus to pass through Uncle Steven’s mind. That he would have just one more chance to hear of God’s love for him before he died. I started asking God that if Uncle Steven did die, that he would come back to life and proclaim the Lord’s glory.
A bold prayer, to be sure, but the Lord immediately brought to mind the account of the rich man and Lazarus. “They have Moses and the Prophets. They will not believe even if the dead rise.” I countered with, “That’s not what I wanted to hear, Lord,” and changed my prayer to Uncle Steven at least coming back to bear testimony of his own faith.
I finished that section of my prayer, and for the first time all morning felt like the burden to pray was lifted. I didn’t want to just get up and get on with my day, so I turned back to my Bible. Whereas before, all my eyes could see was Psalm 38, now I all I could see was Psalm 40. The first verse jumped off the page at me: “I waited patiently for the Lord; he turned to me and heard my cry.” Instantly I was flooded with peace. The Lord had heard my prayers. I knew it. But as for the results?
My day went back to its regular programming. I put on my loads of laundry, ate some lunch, hemmed a pair of pants. I was at peace.
Now it’s close to 4pm as I write this. I hadn’t heard anything so I texted Mom around 3pm. My father was in the middle of calling his brother-in-law. My Uncle Steven passed at 2:05 this afternoon.
I’m sad. God didn’t answer my prayers the way I wanted with healing. But I do have peace that my Uncle Steven heard of God’s love for him one last time. Whether my uncle accepted it is a question I won’t have answered until the day I go home to be with Jesus. But I can still say that God is good and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love. And today, that’s the only thing that matters.
Rest in peace, Uncle Titi.