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My brother Chris took his last breath 15 days ago in a skilled nursing facility and by some shockwave of sheer grace, we were granted bedside access for two full weeks prior as he slipped into semi-consciousness. Grief, as anyone who has lost a loved one knows, is no respecter of persons or time. It can go underground and then come crashing in--a rogue wave, tossing you around like a rag doll in its turbulence. This happened to me this morning as I was reflecting on my Scripture reading.
So then, those who suffer according to God’s will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good. 1 Peter 4:19
Theological disputes about God’s sovereignty and sickness aside, I watched my brother suffer terribly for almost three years after a stroke paralyzed and partially blinded him. In his better moments, he told me he was certain God had him in that place for a purpose, and in his final days, as nurses, doctors, aides, therapists and fellow patients streamed through his room to say goodbye, I understood the power of those four words, continue to do good.
Chris always loved people, but the stroke left him with an unusual brain condition dubbed la belle indifference—the beautiful indifference—that uniquely put this on display. (You can read the story about that here). After the stroke, Chris was brilliant, fun, savvy and sane as ever, with one exception—he could not connect the dots from the present to the future. Like the proverbial Groundhog Day, he woke up most mornings with the sense that he had landed temporarily in the hospital and would get out soon.
So, through multiple illnesses, surgeries and ER visits, while enduring unbearable pain month after month, it seems to me that Chris just continued to do good--connecting personally with the lives of every person who walked through his door, insisting regularly that I take Joe out to dinner on him, sharing his snacks with the staff, and ordering birthday gifts on Amazon for me to give out to the family he loved. Even in his semi-conscious state at the end, he labored to squeeze people’s hands or blink three times for I love you.
So as I grieved and read 1 Peter again this morning, I felt a reset in my soul, a path forward that I think I can follow through the landmines of pandemics and presidential elections and civil unrest and upheaval like I've not seen in my entire life. Continue to do good.
I felt a reset in my soul, a path forward that I can easily follow through the landmines of pandemics and presidential elections and civil unrest and upheaval like never seen in my entire life. Continue to do good.
Such a simple mandate that flows through the pages of Scriptures:
Trust in the Lord and do good…Psalm 37:3
Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you…Luke 6:27
Jesus of Nazareth...went around doing good…Acts 10:38
Let us not become weary in doing good…Galatians 6:9
Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people…Galatians 6:10
Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds…1 Timothy 6:18
Remind the people to be …ready to do whatever is good…Titus 3:1
And do not forget to do good and to share with others…Hebrews 13:16
The reset God had for me this morning was to remember how he treasures every little act of goodness I might extend—in my home, my neighborhood, on the road, in the grocery store or gas station or online. In times when it feels like everything is being shaken and uncertainty is the new normal, this lovely little mandate will anchor my soul and correct my course--continue to do good.
In times when it feels like everything is being shaken and uncertainty is the new normal, this lovely little mandate will anchor my soul and correct my course--continue to do good.
Chris came out of his semi-conscious stupor for a few days at the end, laboring to mouth words or raise his hand or turn his head our way. The last thing he said to me in his garbled, toothless whisper was “I sure do love you.” Like a soothing balm, that moment and the sheer exertion of strength it took for him to speak, has comforted me through the grief. It was his final act of goodness toward me, and one I deeply treasure. Chris’s final years were brutal, and ones I would never wish on anyone. But from him I learned the beauty of that simple command: Continue to do good. It was just the reset I needed today.
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Tricia McCary Rhodes
Author of 7 books and pastor of Global Leadership Development at All Peoples Church in San Diego, Tricia specializes in helping others experience God’s presence through practicing soul-care.