Perhaps one million prayers have been offered for Joey Martin Feek in her courageous battle to overcome the cancer that is killing her body, but not her soul. I shed tears over the news that our beloved sister in Christ may be losing her battle against a ravaging disease. Her husband Rory closed out his last blog entry, When I’m Gone, with these words …
And now, here I sit beside my dying wife.
I don’t say those words lightly. As a matter-of-fact, I haven’t said them at all. But my beautiful bride has said them to me in these couple of days. Her pain and discomfort has continued to increase daily and so has the morphine to help her be comfortable. The dosage she’s needed to keep the pain away has quadrupled in the last four days.
I’d like to tell you that she’s doing great and is going to beat this thing. But I can’t.
Yesterday with tears in her eyes and mine, Joey held my hand and told me that she has been having serious talks with Jesus. She said she told him that if He’s ready to take her … she’s ready to come home.
Tens of thousands of well-wishers have showered Joey with a caring love that is supernatural. Indeed, it is a very evident fulfillment of our Lord’s command:
A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another (John 13:34-35).
Bill Gaither, a family friend, stood in the bitter cold of Anderson, Indiana to light a bonfire that could be seen from Joey’s bedroom window. You can view the pictures on Rory’s blog post, Seeing the Light.
This is devastating news that is hard to process even for a mature Christian. When I accepted Christ 35 years ago it wasn’t too long before I fell away, and lived the life of a prodigal son. And it was because I didn’t see the power of God working in my life. Outwardly, nothing changed. Life continued to be a struggle. I would pray three hours a day, but none of the challenges in my life could I overcome — health, personal, career, financial — so that my spiritual life became a train wreck.
But … didn’t Jesus promise to give us whatever we asked?
John 14:13-14 … Whatever you ask in My name, that will I do, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask Me anything in My name, I will do it.
Matthew 7:7-8 … Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened.
The promise of receiving every good thing is repeated throughout the New Testament — verse after verse. How, then, do one million prayers for a dying sister go unanswered? And not only for Joey, but her husband and baby girl who will be left without a precious wife and mother? This isn’t what the prosperity gospel teaches.
Joey, in a moment of anger and hurt, said … “I thought I did everything right.”
How do we make sense of it all? My pastor gave a timely sermon last Sunday. He shared the painful story of the birth of his twin sons. During his wife’s pregnancy one of the boys developed kidney problems. The doctor’s advice was to ignore the one child, but this did not sit well with the couple so they sought the opinion of a second doctor who was optimistic that he could perform surgery in the womb to correct the one child’s kidney function. After follow-up examinations the doctor concluded that the boys were too far along to attempt a medical procedure so the wife would have to carry them through until birth. Hopefully, the one boy’s kidneys would resume normal function on their own.
The second doctor asked the pastor and his wife, “Do you take drugs?”
Pastor: “I don’t understand. I mean, no.”
Doctor: “I only ask because most of my patients in your situation would be so distraught they couldn’t think.”
Pastor: “Well, we do something … we pray.”
The pastor said that he prayed harder than he had ever prayed — sometimes all night — for two healthy boys. It was an emotional roller coaster riding out the term of the pregnancy. On the due date two boys were delivered, but the one was only given minutes to live. The pastor, who was at his wife’s bedside, was told he could go down and say goodbye to the child, or the maternity nurse could bring him up to their room. The pastor held his newborn baby in his arms as the child took its final gasps of air. He thought about how hard he had prayed to God that the child be born healthy — spared the pain and suffering of a premature death.
Then … then … in an almost audible sound the pastor heard the voice of God:
HE IS HEALED.
The pastor’s son was in the arms of God where there is no sickness … no suffering … no dying. The LORD answered his prayer, and his son was healed. He was delivered by angels into the presence of Almighty God who is faithful and true … and in His presence the child lives — never to shed a tear.
If by some miracle Joey is healed, or if she goes home to be with the Lord, our prayers will have been answered. When Jesus prayed in the garden He said, thine will not mine (Luke 22:42). To mature in our faith we must understand this precept, and trust in God completely. Jesus had to die on the cross — His cup could not pass.
In context, then, we understand scripture:
1 John 5:14-15 … This is the confidence which we have before Him, that, if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests which we have asked from Him.
That, if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us — This is the proper and the necessary limitation in all prayer. God has not promised to grant anything that shall be contrary to his will, and it could not be right that he should do it. We ought not to wish to receive anything that should be contrary to what he judges to be best. No man could hope for good who should esteem his own wishes to be a better guide than the will of God; and it is one of the most desirable of all arrangements that the promise of any blessing to be obtained by prayer should be limited and bounded by the will of God. 
1. Barnes Notes on the New Testament, Albert Barnes, London, Blackie & Son, 1884.
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