I Prayed have prayed
Lord Jesus, thank you for being born into this broken world so we can be healed from sin and inherit eternal life. As Christmas arrives, many of us are missing loved ones who have passed on before us. Help us to take our focus off the finite and instead look forward to what you have prepared for those who love you.

“It’s the most wonderful time of the year…it’s the hap–happiest season of all.” These familiar lines from a popular Christmas song carry the notion that everyone is bubbling over with joy at the holidays. But for many, this time of year brings a wave of sadness and even depression, as memories of lost loved ones flood their minds.

It will be seven years on December 21, 2021, that my father passed away from pancreatic cancer. I am blessed by the fact that he lived longer than expected. Some patients only live a year with this diagnosis, but my Dad was able to hold on for almost four.

Determined to survive, he endured a grueling surgery, followed by chemo and radiation. The pain and sickness he experienced was beyond what many people could handle. Yet God endowed him with grit, determination, and the will to overcome.

Slowly, Dad regained his strength and began doing all the tasks he did before such as cooking, driving, yard work, and participating in his favorite pastime, golf. Things were definitely looking up and all his doctors were optimistic. Scans were coming back clear and it appeared as if the cancer had vanished. Hope returned and all was well with the world.

Little did anyone know that without warning the cancer would return like a tornado. Spinning out of control, it would leave my family standing in its aftermath of disappointment, confusion, and grief. Hope shattered like the pieces of a broken glass.

For me, I lost hope that my father would survive- at least here on earth.  That’s a temporal expectation though. All of us will leave this finite existence at some point. This is why we cannot place our hope in the life we live on earth. Instead, we place our faith and assurance in the eternal–in the inheritance Jesus promises us when he carries us to our real home.

It’s interesting how God’s grace abounds in tragedy, even when we do not perceive it initially. Such was his grace the night my father passed away. That evening I was scheduled to perform in a live Nativity with a church group, where my role was to play one of the angels. Since it would be a long night of performances, I left my youngest son Jonah with my mother and father. My plan was to pick him up later that evening.

Before leaving for the Nativity, I visited with my father for a few hours. He smiled when I shared that I would be playing one of the angels. Overhearing the conversation, my mother said, “Don’t forget, it was your father who named you Angela because he said you looked like an angel when you were born.” Dad squeezed my hand and I instantly felt comforted. I stayed and talked for a while longer, but something about him that night seemed different. I’m not sure how to describe it, except to say that I sensed a peacefulness about him. As I left for the Nativity, I reminded myself that God was in control no matter what happened.

I performed in several shows that evening, but they took much longer than I had anticipated. I realized it would be well after midnight before I could pick up Jonah from my parents’ house. I called my mother and she suggested that he stay the night. I wasn’t sure if that was a good idea. After all, my father was very sick. What if something happened while Jonah was there? But then I heard that still small voice saying, “Trust me. It will all work out.”

I ended up getting home close to 1:30 a.m. that night. Exhausted, I fell asleep immediately, but a few hours later, I woke up suddenly. As I opened my eyes, I glanced at the clock–it was 4:30 a.m. I kept staring at the numbers, as if I were in a daze. The Holy Spirit prompted me to remember the exact time. I made a mental note of it and then fell back asleep until 10:00 a.m. I awoke to the sound of my phone ringing. It was my mother–I could hear something unsettled in her voice. I already knew what she was going to say, or at least part of it. “Angela, your father passed away last night. Well, actually it was early this morning at 4:30 a.m.” Immediately I remembered seeing 4:30 on the clock when I awoke in the early morning hours.

As I pondered the timing of my father’s death, I realized something astonishing. Several years before my father developed cancer, he had a conversation with me about God. We were sitting in the living room and he said, “Angela, I want you to understand that I know the Lord. Maybe I don’t go to church every Sunday, but I still have my special time with God. At 4:30 a.m. each morning I go outside and sit in my chair where it’s nice and quiet. Then, I talk to the Lord.” In his later years, my father did not attend church and he was letting me know that he still had a relationship with God. How amazing it was that my father would pass away at the very time he talked with the Lord every day! The grace of God is truly overwhelming.

Grace could even be found in the fact that my son was present when Dad passed away. My mother said she was thankful Jonah was there because she wasn’t alone when it happened. He was a source of comfort and helped her keep it together during an emotional time. Interestingly enough, Jonah’s name means peace or dove. Suddenly I knew why the Holy Spirit whispered, “Trust me” when I decided to let him stay.

God’s grace continued flowing because there was another surprise. Christmas rolled around four days after Dad passed away. I opened a gift from my sister and couldn’t believe what I saw. I started crying as I held a beautiful Nativity charm in my hand. “Did you know I performed in the Nativity the night Dad passed away?” I asked her. She looked puzzled. “No, I didn’t know that. I bought the charm all the way back in November and I just thought you would like it.” As I looked at the delicate charm, which featured the place prepared for Jesus’ birth, I knew God was reminding me that Dad was in the place he had prepared for him in heaven.

A few months after Christmas, I started feeling overwhelmed with sadness again. The awful thing about cancer is what it does to the body. For me, it was hard to forget the images of Dad lying in the bed. He lost so much weight and his frame was so fragile. All his life he had been athletic and strong. Seeing him cry in pain occupied the worst of my memories. All these things were running through my mind one lonely night. In that moment I prayed and said, “Lord, I can’t remember what my father looked like before the cancer. I just want to know that he is healthy and strong again. I just want to see that he’s ok.” Then after drying my eyes, I fell asleep.

God answered my prayer. That night I dreamed of my father and what I saw will never leave my memories. In the dream, Dad was sitting in a tall white chair in the midst of a lush, green garden. Surrounding him were friends and family–everyone was laughing and smiling. As I walked toward him, I could see how young he was. He looked to be in his late twenties. His body was no longer emaciated and his athletic form had returned. Behind him was the most extraordinary sight! It was a large banner with the Lion of Judah painted on it. In the dream, I knew the lion represented Jesus. My Dad got out of his chair and walked over to me. He gave me a hug I will never forget. Then, I woke up.

After the dream I knew God’s grace had been poured out once again. There were so many truths to stand upon. Firstly, DEATH HAD NO STING. My Dad had been healed in heaven. He was young, strong, and cancer-free. The second truth was that Jesus, the Lion of Judah who conquered the grave, gave my father life again. His life in heaven far exceeded any earthly existence. Also, seeing the tall white chair in the dream reminded me of what Dad said years ago–he spent time with God at 4:30 a.m. while sitting in his chair outside.

I am sure that many of you reading this have seen or experienced the devastation of cancer, or some other kind of illness/tragedy. But take comfort in these words from 1 Corinthians 15:50-56.

“What I am saying, dear brothers and sisters, is that our physical bodies cannot inherit the Kingdom of God. These dying bodies cannot inherit what will last forever.

But let me reveal to you a wonderful secret. We will not all die, but we will all be transformed! It will happen in a moment, in the blink of an eye, when the last trumpet is blown. For when the trumpet sounds, those who have died will be raised to live forever. And we who are living will also be transformed. For our dying bodies must be transformed into bodies that will never die; our mortal bodies must be transformed into immortal bodies.

Then, when our dying bodies have been transformed into bodies that will never die, this Scripture will be fulfilled: ‘Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting? For sin is the sting that results in death, and the law gives sin its power. But thank God! He gives us victory over sin and death through our Lord Jesus Christ.’”

I don’t know if you’re missing a loved one this Christmas season. Most of us are missing someone. Even though we long to be with our loved ones, if we could just imagine what they are experiencing in heaven, we would only weep tears of joy.  The dream I had of my father in heaven gave me just a glimpse of the glory. But it was enough for me to hold onto until I see him again.

Whatever heartache you have, let Jesus take hold of it. He can carry it until the day arrives when you meet your loved one(s) again. If you know Jesus as your Savior, one day you will live in paradise with him, and you can look forward to a grand reunion with family and friends in Christ who have passed on before you. Hallelujah! As you look at the Nativity this year, remember that Jesus has a place prepared for you and your loved ones.

“However, as it is written: ‘What no eye has seen, what no ear has heard, and what no human mind has conceived’ — the things God has prepared for those who love him.’” (1 Cor 2:9)

This Christmas, pray for people who have lost loved ones, or those who are struggling through a difficult illness or condition. Just like the wise men, who followed the star to find Jesus, pray for those who are hurting to look to the Bright Morning Star (Jesus) for their eternal hope. Pray for them to see grace in the midst of the pain.

 

Do you have any special prayers for people who are hurting this Christmas? What words of encouragement can you offer that will bring life and hope in the midst of difficulty?

 

Angela Rodriguez is an author, blogger and homeschooling Mom who studies the historical and biblical connections between Israel and the United States. You can visit her blogs at 67owls.com and 100trumpets.com. Her latest book, Psalm 91: Under the Wings of Jesus, was released in June 2021. Photo by Walter Chávez on Unsplash.

 

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Nancy from GA
December 26, 2021

Thank you, Angela, for sharing this with us. My husband passed away 22 months ago today from prostate cancer. In Isaiah 54:5 it says “For your husband is your Maker, Whose name is the Lord of Hosts; and your Redeemer is the Holy One of Israel, who is called the God of all the earth.”
I have seen the Lord be a husband to me since my earthly husband died. He has comforted me by His Spirit, sent folks to help me when I needed practical help and just walked with me and guided me. I don’t know how anyone walks through this life without the Lord by their side.
Life is hard but God has truly been there for me and allowed me to also comfort others in our community who have faced loss in this time. What a blessing that has been.

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Michael Guidera
December 25, 2021

A beautiful story Angela. Thank you for sharing it.

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Herb Johnston
December 23, 2021

How glorious to grow up in a familyof peoplethat are actually Christians. It must be so much more prevalent in the midwestern,,South ,and Eastern regions of our country- even in Northern California. I came to Faith at the age of 31 and have struggled to stay on the path ever since. Often I wonder if I am on the path. The dreams that you had are so encouraging and I am grateful that the Lord encourages his children that way -and I do thank you for sharing these glorious moments of your life as sad as they are. Thank you so much for sharing this heartfelt and God inspired moments of your life’s bittersweet inspiration- walking through these challenges with our loved ones. thank you for sharing your story with us- thank you so much..I am so very thankful that you know for sure you will see your father in Heaven Again.-what a glorious picture of his youth in that dream. Play the river of righteousness run through your family Amos 5:24 ,I believe.. but it was in Amos.
Blessings to all and a very merry Christmas!!

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Rosalinda Alegre
December 23, 2021

Thank you for sharing, Gods timing is always so perfect. I lost my father May 28, 2021 of pancreatic cancer. I under stand how you feel because we went though seeing my father go through the excruciating pain and pass 3 weeks after his diagnosis. The last weeks have been hard for my siblings and I. Our first holiday season without our father. He accepted the Lord over 30 years ago and was set free from alcoholism. I know I will see him again in glory and that is what gives me peace. God bless you for being obedient to God and writing your story. There is are many of us who needed to read it,

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Darlene Estlow
December 23, 2021

Thank you for sharing your story. As I have been touched by the loss of my husband, mother, father, brother and dear friends, I have seen Jesus as a wonderful comfort. Knowing I will see them again, brings joy and peace. It is a hard journey, but God is good to sustain us through these losses.

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    Herb Johnston
    December 23, 2021

    Im so sorry Darlene, that is especially jard.
    May the peace of Jesus dwell in you richly..
    In Jesus Mighty Name..Amen

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      Herb Johnston
      December 23, 2021

      I also lost my father to cancer in 1995. He had just accepted Christ five years before,-at least according to his lifelong friend -who almost had the same last name as him. Our family last name is Johnston.
      My dad’s lifelong friends last name was Johnson. The friend was the crazy kid or the strange kid in their group when he was a kid,- that was always was carrying a Bible around-, The one they always made fun of-.. and wound up being the one,- not so coincidentally in God’s economy right?..that led him..back to Jesus- or maybe it was for the first time -my dad always held his cards close to his vest.. never saying anything to me about religion of any type as a child except that he chased the evangelists away from our door… seems to me that our Lord is still a mystery in many ways.

      May you have the Lord’s peace all the days of your life.

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Jenna Hill
December 23, 2021

Thank you so much for your story, Angela. I lost my dad to cancer 2 years ago and Christmas is especially difficult without him, but your story has helped me to feel inspired and encouraged. Have a safe and beautiful Christmas.

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Ellen Politz
December 23, 2021

August 5, 2020 my 40 year old son moved to heaven after a short but fierce battle with carcinoma. Those months of walking with him through his illness were intense and painful. As a mother, it broke my heart to see my strong, capable son reduced to tears in awful pain. Yet now, a year and a half later, what remains foremost in my memory is the amazing inner peace the Lord gave me through the entire experience. To this day, I think of him in heaven with the Lord, and rejoice for the joy he is experiencing. I miss him. All his friends and family miss him. But we rejoice knowing the separation is temporary.
The Lord has an amazing way of walking us through the most trying times when we remember that he is life, and our hope is in him. I am reminded that through Jesus, we are inheritors of eternal life.

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