In the Face of Death, God has a Plan

Personal Testimony Written by Katie Finn

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do” James 1:2-8.

Did you know that God always answers prayer? His timing is always perfect and He has a beautiful plan for each person He has ever created.

I was born blue in the face. One doctor tried to give me oxygen but it wasn’t helping me, and another doctor suggested that they check my blood sugar. My blood sugar was extremely low, in the single digits. They found out that the illness I had was rare and only a few children in history had been born with it. The child who survived the longest lived to age 14 and was unable to sit up, walk, talk, or feed them self. The doctors told my parents, in this condition, I would only live to age 21. Throughout my childhood I spent a lot of time in the hospital. My parents and churches from all over the world were praying for me and for the doctors to have wisdom. They prayed that the Lord would work through them.

Mike & Katie Celebrating their Anniversary
Mike & Katie Celebrating their Anniversary

At age 2 the doctors decided to remove half of my pancreas which had been producing too much insulin. I was healthy for about two and a half years and then I started to get very sick again. The doctors discovered that my pancreas had grown back and was producing more insulin than it had before, so at age 5 my pancreas was completely removed. I have been a diabetic ever since. Today I am nearly 30. God answered the prayers of so many people. I have had the experience of graduating high school, college, and am now married! These are three wonderful experiences that my parents didn’t know I would ever have.

God is so good! I thank Him for each day that He blesses me with. Each day is a beautiful gift from God. As I wake up each morning and begin to tear away the paper, I can’t wait to see what He will unfold before me as I open the box. “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future” Jeremiah 29:11.

I’ve had some very hard days which have strengthened my faith in God. I’ve come to realize I don’t have to go through these times alone because I have Jesus! I know that there will never come a day in my life that will present challenges that He can’t handle through me. My goal each day is to stay as close to God as I possibly can.

Through every surgery, hospital stay, and seizure, I’ve never had to face it alone. God is there. I believe that He always has a plan. All I must do is obey if He asks me to do something, and trust Him for the results. I’m so glad my life is in His hands. I know I would not be here today without Him!

No matter what challenges you may be facing, know that you don’t have to go through them alone. God loves you and if you will trust Him and believe that He has a plan, He will be with you through any challenge, any sickness, or any struggle you may ever have to face.

About Katie Finn:

Katie Finn
Katie Finn

I met Katie a year ago, when my husband and I accepted a call to pastor a church where Katie and Mike are members and serve God faithfully. After only a few conversations with Katie, I learned of her life-threatening illness and unshakeable faith in Christ. Her desire to please God in all areas of life is demonstrated by her humble and gentle spirit.

Unable to drive because of her illness and having other limitations with her vision, Katie doesn’t let this deter her from living a life of purpose and joy.

God has gifted Katie with many talents, including the ministry of music. She skillfully plays the piano and the flute, and sings beautifully unto the Lord. Katie also enjoys sewing, making many of her own clothes, and preparing healthy recipes.

Katie serves alongside of her husband, Mike, as Outreach Pastors at our church (St. Paul’s Church of the Nazarene, KC, MO). They both have a tremendous heart for reaching people with the Gospel of Christ. Mike is completing his bachelor’s in biblical studies degree at MidAmerica Nazarene University, as he and Katie prepare for full-time ministry.

One of my favorite quotes from Katie’s testimony: Each day is a beautiful gift from God. As I wake up each morning and begin to tear away the paper, I can’t wait to see what He will unfold before me as I open the box.

Holding His Hand:

Mike and Katie Celebrating Christmas with Katie's family
Mike and Katie Celebrating Christmas with Katie’s Family

When all seems dark and hopeless, Jesus is there. While talking with Katie’s dad, tears filled my eyes as he retold the frightening hours/years following Katie’s birth. He said the doctors gave little to no hope of survival for their precious little girl. Katie’s parents spent endless hours lifting their hearts to God. And while confessing their anguish and fearfulness, they came to an altar of total relinquishment and trust, by praying for God’s will to be accomplished through Katie’s fragile life. The physicians’ non-encouraging consultations continued throughout Katie’s young childhood, and yet, hope and peace came through an ever-present awareness of Christ’s nearness and faithfulness.

Recommended Reading: 1 Kings 17:7-24 – Elijah and the Widow at Zarephath

 

Cast your net on the right side

He (Jesus) said, “Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some.” When they did, they were unable to haul the net in because of the large number of fish. (John 21:6)

When we respond to life’s difficult, and at times, reoccurring situations the same way over and over again, and keep getting the same undesirable results—possibly it’s time to cast our net on the right side.

One evening, following the resurrection of Jesus, Peter decided to go fishing. Several other disciples joined him. The Lord had instructed His disciples to meet Him in Galilee, which helps to explain why they were at the Sea of Galilee.

The Scripture tells us that the seasoned fishermen came up empty after fishing all night. I imagine they were exasperated, not to mention, tired and hungry. Then it happened! A voice from the shoreline shouted out, “Friends, haven’t you any fish?” They replied, “No.” Then He said, “Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some.” “When they did, they were unable to haul the net in because of the large number of fish” (John 21:5-6).

God spoke this same message to me recently. No, He didn’t tell me that I would catch a lot of fish, but He did clearly tell me that I’d been fishing on the wrong side for a very long time and coming up empty.

The parallel to Peter’s fish story:

For quite some time now I’ve been trying to fix some problem areas in my life by using my own strategies. Yes, they were prayed over and well-thought out, of course. But just like Peter, my net kept coming out of the sea of human effort totally empty.

Whatever you may be dealing with, an unsaved loved one, a difficult boss/coworker, financial woes, fear of an uncertain future, or XYZ, you don’t have to end up with an empty net.

John, the beloved follower of Christ, was the first one to recognize his Savior’s voice. “It’s the Lord!” And with this jubilant exclamation, Peter grabbed his garments and jumped in the water to meet Jesus at the water’s edge. (John 21:7)

Sometimes others will recognize the Lord’s tender voice before we do. God places these people in our lives, to give us that little extra support and encouragement…at just the right timing.

Jesus is teaching me to “really” listen to his voice when He speaks to me from His Word, or in the quietness of my spirit during prayer. He then waits for me to respond in obedience. Did I wait long enough, or did I rush off to work or jump right into the next project on my list?

Ways to clearly hear the Savior’s voice:

  • Pray
  • Listen intently – through His Word, in the quietness of your spirit
  • Pray
  • Listen intently – through those God appoints in your life, a pastor, godly spouse, friend, etc.
  • Act upon His command and guidance
  • Pray
  • Wait expectantly for the Big Catch!

Remember, if you keep doing the same thing over and over and over again, and continue getting the same undesirable negative results, maybe it’s time to try God’s way…even if it doesn’t make sense.

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:8-9).

Our greatest weaknesses (either real or perceived) can become our greatest strength, when we fully surrender them to God.

Identify your weaknesses:

  • Fear
  • Insecurities
  • Worry
  • Doubt
  • Lack of education
  • Past Sins
  • Failures
  • Little or no resources
  • Worldly desires
  • Other

When you fully surrender your weaknesses to God, through prayer, He will teach you to cast your net on the right side, and will fill your net with His abundant and gracious provision.

Holding His Hand:

jesus-providesI love the fact that Jesus not only waits patiently for us to follow His instructions, but He blesses our obedience by warmly nourishing our souls.

The rest of the story:

The other disciples followed in the boat, towing the net full of fish, for they were not far from shore, about a hundred yards.[c] When they landed, they saw a fire of burning coals there with fish on it, and some bread.

10 Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish you have just caught.” 11 So Simon Peter climbed back into the boat and dragged the net ashore. It was full of large fish, 153, but even with so many the net was not torn. 12 Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” (John 21:8-12)

For further study: Judges 6-7

Read the story of Gideon, “the weakest in his family.” Going to battle against the numerous Midianites with only 300 men definitely didn’t make sense, but Gideon chose to fish on the right side and defeated the Midianites.

Blinded by a Quack

“For we walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Corinthians 5:7). (NKJV)

Fannie Crosby ContentedBorn in Putnam County, New York, Fanny Crosby became ill within two months. Unfortunately, the family doctor was away, and another man—pretending to be a certified doctor—treated her by prescribing hot mustard poultices to be applied to her eyes. Her illness eventually relented, but the treatment left her blind. When the doctor was revealed to be a quack, he disappeared. A few months later, Crosby’s father died. Her mother was forced to find work as a maid to support the family, and Fanny was mostly raised by her Christian grandmother.

While she enjoyed her poetry, she zealously memorized the Bible. Memorizing five chapters a week, even as a child she could recite the Pentateuch, the Gospels, Proverbs, the Song of Solomon, and many psalms chapter and verse.

Fanny’s love of Scripture was attributed to her grandmother who cared for Fanny while her mother worked, following the death of Fanny’s father, just six months after being blinded. The faithfulness of Fanny’s Christian grandmother laid a strong foundation of faith in Christ.

Her mother’s hard work paid off. Shortly before her fifteenth birthday, Crosby was sent to the recently founded New York Institute for the Blind, which would be her home for 23 years: 12 as a student, 11 as a teacher. She initially indulged in her own poetry and was called upon to pen verses for various occasions. In time the principal asked her to avoid such “distractions” in favor of her general instruction. “We have no right to be vain in the presence of the Owner and Creator of all things,” he said.

Her love of poetry began early—her first verse, written at age 8, echoed her lifelong refusal to feel sorry for herself:

Oh, what a happy soul I am, although I cannot see! I am resolved that in this world Contented I will be.

“How many blessings I enjoy That other people don’t, To weep and sigh because I’m blind I cannot, and I won’t!”

Francis Jane Crosby went on to write more than 9,000 hymns, some of which are among the most popular in every Christian denomination. She wrote so many that she was forced to use pen names lest the hymnals be filled with her name above all others. And, for many people, the most remarkable thing about her was that she had done so in spite of her blindness.

“I think it is a great pity that the Master did not give you sight when he showered so many other gifts upon you,” remarked one well-meaning preacher.

Fanny Crosby responded at once, as she had heard such comments before. “Do you know that if at birth I had been able to make one petition, it would have been that I was born blind?” said the poet, who had been able to see only for her first six weeks of life. “Because when I get to heaven, the first face that shall ever gladden my sight will be that of my Savior.”

Holding His Hand

Rather than feeling sorry for herself, Fannie Crosby chose to walk by faith in Christ, not by sight. When we place our trust in the hands of the Savior, we can rest fully upon His guidance without fail. Yes, there will be times when we stumble and fall because we live in a broken world. Crises come, failure is inevitable, unfair and unkind words wound deeply, and yet, the Saving grace of Jesus tenderly walks us through times of darkness and bewilderment.

Listen to All the Way My Savior Leads Me, Written by Fannie Crosby. Sung by The Haven Quartet: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BEOtFEs0Jos

Philippians 4:11-13, (NIV)

11 I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. 12 I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. 13 I can do all this through him who gives me strength.

Francis Jane Crosby (Fanny Crosby) — Excerpt from Christianity Today (Christian History, People) http://www.christianitytoday.com/history/people/poets/fanny-crosby.html

“Now my wheelchair symbolizes independence.” – Joni Eareckson Tada

Joni w therapist“I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us” (Romans 8:18).

JoniDad-Beach2_2_jpg_500x500_max_q85
Joni at the beach with her dad.

“One hot July afternoon in 1967, I dove into a shallow lake and my life changed forever. I suffered a spinal cord fracture that left me paralyzed from the neck down, without use of my hands and legs. Lying in my hospital bed, I tried desperately to make sense of the horrible turn of events. I begged friends to assist me in suicide. Slit my wrists, dump pills down my throat, anything to end my misery!”

While angry with God and questioning His power, Joni Eareckson Tada’s friend, Steve, pointed Joni to Christ.

Joni believes God’s purpose in her accident was to “turn a stubborn kid into a woman who would reflect patience, endurance and a lively, optimistic hope of the heavenly glories above.”

Joni with friendsIf anyone knows what it’s like to suffer, Joni does. And yet, throughout the fifty plus years she’s lived as a paraplegic, Joni has given God full permission to use her life to help othersjoni painting and to honor Him. Joni is an artist (painting with her teeth), she’s authored over 50 books, and is the Founder and CEO of Joni and Friends International Disability Center, an international advocate for people with disabilities. To learn more about this lovely woman and her ministry, please check out Joni’s website: http://www.joniandfriends.org/

Most of us won’t experience the same type of suffering as Joni, but everyone will eventually face some form of suffering. It could come through a broken relationship, a wayward child, indebtedness, a serious illness, and the list continues. When suffering comes, we too, have a choice to make… to hold God’s hand and allow Him to fill us with His unfailing love, grace, peace, and power to fulfill His purpose in our lives, or remain helpless and hopeless.

Holding His Hand

“My wheelchair used to symbolize alienation and confinement. But God has changed its meaning because I have trusted in Him. Now my wheelchair symbolizes independence. It is a choice I made and one that anyone can make.”  – Joni Eareckson Tada

Recommended Reading: Romans 8:18-39

The words of this song capture the thrilling perspective Joni has come to know in the years since her accident:

I rejoice with him whose pain my Saviour heals. And I weep with him who still his anguish feels. But earthly joys and earthly tears are confined to earthly years, And greater good, the Word of God reveals. In this life we have a cross that we must bear; It’s just a tiny part of Jesus’ death that we can share. And one day we’ll lay it down, ’cause He’s promised us a crown To which our suffering can never be compared.

That’s why Heaven is nearer to me, and at times it is all I can see. Sweet music I hear, coming down to my ear, And I know that it’s playing for me. For I am Christ the Saviour’s own bride, And redeemed I shall stand by His side. He will say, “Shall we dance?” and our endless romance Will be worth all the tears I have cried.

Heaven Your Real Home is one of my favorite books about living for eternity.

Heaven Your Real Home

Another book authored by Joni, Making Sense of Suffering.

suffering

Joni’s Corner: Weekly (Each Monday) encouraging thoughts shared by Joni, and her Diamonds In The Dust video series. See link below.

http://www.joniandfriends.org/jonis-corner/

Holding His Hand story of Joni, and photos are used by permission. Joni and Friends International Disability Center www.joniandfriends.org