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Lessons From a Friend on Having an Eternal Perspective

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Having an eternal perspective in the temporal present helps us heal from life's pain and heartbreak.

My dear friend Maxine called me several weeks ago to tell me the doctors said she had a short time to live due to her three-year battle with cancer. I hadn’t seen Max for ten months but had no idea that her condition had worsened because she was always so upbeat during our regular telephone conversations.  I cried when she updated me, then quickly made arrangements to travel from Atlanta, Georgia to Colorado Springs, Colorado to visit my precious friend.

As I walked into Max’s room, I was shocked at her appearance. Gaunt and frail, I expected her voice to match her deteriorating body, but it didn’t.  Instead, in her enthusiastic, girl-like tone she said, “Well, hello Sweetheart! You look beautiful!” I bent down and she kissed me on the cheek. The sparkle in her eyes clearly conveyed that her spirit was as bright as ever, shining vibrantly against the dark backdrop of her illness.

She patted the bed next to her. “Sit,” she said, then held my right hand. “Oh, Shan! You would not believe the blessings that have come to me during this time.” She shook her head in disbelief as tears of gratitude puddled in her eyes. “It’s amazing what God has done.”

As Max conversed with me and her closest family members over the next few days between morphine injections and naps, I was blown away. Tears filled my eyes as I told her, “Max, I have always considered you a positive, faith-filled, godly woman, but now your spirit is really shining and you are glorifying God.” “Oh, I want to glorify Him!” she said. “Oh, I do. I do.”

And indeed she did. But Maxine didn’t just glorify God in her death, she glorified Him with her life because she had an eternal perspective.

Here are three additional ways that an eternal perspective influenced Max:

1. It helped her see the lighter side of life: Before she passed away, Max made me laugh numerous times. On one occasion, she enthusiastically described one of her favorite television shows. “Oh, you just have to see it!” After joyfully describing each character she exclaimed, “I have to tell the Lord He can’t take me home yet because I have to see what happens on the show!” Only the one who hopes in what is unseen can have a sense of humor like that during his or her darkest night.

2. It gave her hope for the future: In all of the years that I knew Max, one of the things that struck me most about her was that she was future-minded. She didn’t waste time looking back at the past or fretting over “what ifs?” Instead, she was always making plans for what could be. At her funeral one of her cousins said, “Max lived until the day she died.” How true.  She always had hope for the future.

One afternoon as we chatted she said, “Shan, I have an idea for a book. Maybe I can write down my ideas once I get my strength back. I might be on death’s doorstep, but I keep coming back to one thing, ‘But God!’”

Max didn’t let the obstacles she could see in her eyes stop her from thinking about what could be, because Maxine believed boldly in the unseen God who made her.

3. It gave her a deep love for others:  On my last day in Colorado, it was almost time for me to go, and I knew that unless God performed a miracle  I wouldn’t see my friend again until I got to heaven. I had seen Max show God’s love to her children, her grandchildren, and me over the previous days. I knelt by her bed one last time and started to cry. She said, “Come here, Baby.” She pulled me into her chest and kissed me. “It’s going to be okay.” I sobbed and was amazed once more because she was comforting me!

It’s only when you believe in the eternal and know that God is taking care of you that you can take care of others when you are experiencing heartbreak yourself.

I am so grateful that Maxine was a part of my life. She demonstrated what it means to have an eternal perspective. And I am also very grateful that she is finally home.

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