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

 

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

Letting go and Holding an Enemy’s Hand

“But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you” (Luke 6:27-28).

While vacationing in Michigan with my husband Jeff, we purposely arranged to meet and talk with two amazing men. What makes these men so amazing is their unlikely friendship following some major turn of events in their lives. Here’s their story, as reported by Steve Hartman, CBS News April 15, 2016*.

Andrew CollinsAndrew Collins, a former Benton Harbor, Michigan police officer falsely arrested Jameel Mcgee in 2005 for dealing drugs. Jameel was sentenced to prison.

*”It was all made up,” said McGee. Of course, a lot of accused men make that claim, but not many arresting officers agree.

Andrew Collins served time for a number of crimes, including framing Jameel McGee for selling drugs

“I falsified the report,” former Benton Harbor police officer Andrew Collins admitted.

“Basically, at the start of that day, I was going to make sure I had another drug arrest.” And in the end, he put an innocent guy in jail.

“I lost everything,” McGeee said. “My only goal was to seek him when I got home and to hurt him.”

Eventually, that crooked cop was caught, and served a year and a half for falsifying many police reports, planting drugs and stealing. Of course McGee was exonerated, but he still spent four years in prison for a crime he didn’t commit.

Today both men are back in Benton Harbor, which is a small town. Maybe a little too small.

Andrew and JameelLast year, by sheer coincidence, they both ended up at faith-based employment agency Mosaic, where they now work side by side in the same café. And it was in those cramped quarters that the bad cop and the wrongfully accused had no choice but to have it out.

After they both served time, Jameel and Andrew now work side by side in a cafe

“I said, ‘Honestly, I have no explanation, all I can do is say I’m sorry,'” Collins explained.

McGee says that was all it took. “That was pretty much what I needed to hear.”

Today they’re not only cordial, they’re friends. Such close friends, not long ago McGee actually told Collins he loved him.

Jameel and Andrew“And I just started weeping because he doesn’t owe me that. I don’t deserve that,” Collins said.

But he didn’t forgive just for his sake, even for Collins’. “For our sake,” McGee said. “Not just us, but for our sake.”

McGee went on to CBS News about his Christian faith, and his hope for a kinder mankind. He wants to be an example — so now he and Collins give speeches together about the importance of forgiveness and redemption.

And clearly, if these two guys from the coffee shop can set aside their bitter grounds, what’s our excuse?

Our Meeting

Us with Andrew and JameelJeff and I sat across from Andrew and Jameel in the Mosaic Café as they reiterated their story of forgiveness and redemption.

Andrew shared he had been raised as a Christian but he had not fully trusted his life to Christ until he came to the end of himself through this journey.

Jameel clearly identified the need to “hold onto the hand of Jesus” during his four years behind bars, and now testifies to the power of God’s grace and forgiveness in his own life which ultimately led him to forgive Andrew.

Andrew told us that the Mosaic Café ministry gave him a place to not only earn a paycheck, but more importantly has allowed him to give back to the community where his corrupt lifestyle hurt so many people.

“So how did you two reconcile?” I asked.

Jameel told us that although he was extremely sad that he had missed out on four years of his son’s life while imprisoned, he was sincerely grateful for God’s intervention in his life, which had been heading down a one-way street to destruction.

After returning to Benton Harbor, Jameel was referred to the Mosaic Café ministry and was told that he would be mentored by Andrew Collins. His initial reaction: “What? No way am I going to hook up with this dude…he’s the one who sent me to prison.” But after meeting Andrew face to face, he felt God’s forgiveness fill his heart as they shook hands. Andrew admitted, he hadn’t recognized Jameel’s name when given his new mentorship assignment, but quickly realized this was the man he falsely accused and sent to prison.

Andrew told us that at first he didn’t think this would work out, and wouldn’t blame Jameel for refusing to be paired up with him. I (Charmé) believe the Holy Spirit began His work by softening Jameel’s heart when Andrew asked him “What can I do to make this up to you? I’m so sorry for everything I put you through.” Jameel said “That’s all I need!”

The two men now serve together in the Christian Mosaic Café and bring the light and the love of Jesus to others who walk through the doors of this little town café.

While waiting for Andrew to join us at our table, I overheard Andrew sharing words of hope and encouragement to a man who had just sat down at the counter to order some coffee.

Andrew and Jameel Mosaic CafeGod is opening new doors for Jameel and Andrew to tell their story of forgiveness and redemption to schools, churches, and other organizations across the country.

Holding His Hand

It’s easier said than done…to love our enemies and pray for them. And it’s nearly impossible without first holding the hand of Jesus. Whenever I think of people who have hurt me, and those I have hurt, it helps me to let go of past wounds by recalling these last words of Jesus spoken from the cross, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34).

When we hold onto bitterness toward another person (who was created in the image of God), we soon become imprisoned to our own sin. We forfeit true inner peace with God and with the person we refuse to forgive.

I am thankful to have met Andrew and Jameel, who truly live out the love, mercy, grace, and forgiveness of Jesus.

You can make your own choices, but you can’t choose your consequences.

“The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” (Psalm 34:18)

This is a true story of an unshakable faith in the midst of great sorrow, grief, and suffering.

After returning from a week’s vacation with my husband, Jeff, I wrote the following in my journal.

“I can’t even imagine the grief, sorrow, pain, and hurt they are going through, and yet, their faith in Christ is secure.”

SAM_1280Jeff and I had the opportunity to attend a pastors and wives retreat in Buchanan, Michigan, at a beautiful facility called The Lodge. We spent four nights and five days with three other pastoral couples and our host couple, Ed and Gayle, who facilitated our sharing sessions.

Prior to beginning our sessions, we sensed a spirit of love and grace within the lodge. We are thankful for our prayer team who were praying for us, along with others. I know now that these prayers were not only meant for us, but also for our host couple.

We quickly learned that Ed and Gayle lost their precious adult son six months prior, through a tragic death. I don’t feel led to share any details, for they seem inconsequential in relation to the deep loss this dear couple has experienced. I will say that I’ve never been with anyone who has demonstrated such grace and faith in the midst of severe suffering. I didn’t mention the second part to their faith journey. Ed learned he had a large cancerous tumor in his bladder just a few months following his son’s death.

Ironically, I heard the following statement twice during our vacation/retreat week, “You can make your own choices, but you can’t choose your consequences.” This was spoken first by our retreat host and the second time by my sister-in-law. Both were restating what they had originally spoken to their adult sons.

I think this statement grabbed me to my core, as I thought of how God allows us to freely make our own choices in life and how these choices will either result in pleasing God or the folly of our own flesh. When we choose to go our own way, apart from God’s direction and leading in our lives, we really are saying to God, “I know what’s best for my life and I really don’t need your guidance or authority to rule over me.” Sounds familiar doesn’t it…the first sin in the garden.

Fletcher 2My thoughts quickly race back to our retreat hosts. Although they feel that their son made some wrong choices toward the end of his life, they also know and testify to the unmerited favor of God in their lives. Throughout our week together, they shared how in the midst of heartache over the loss of their son, they are choosing to hold God’s hand as they continue to serve faithfully in the ministry God has called them to. Their unwavering faith and commitment to Christ brings hope, healing, and encouragement to pastors and wives through Life Action Ministries https://lifeaction.org/. For more information about The Lodge, please go to: http://www.retreatatthelodge.org/.

Holding His Hand

In the deepest despairs of life, God is near. His promises are true. If you are overtaken with grief and sorrow over the loss of a loved one, I encourage you to cry out to Jesus. The Psalmist declares: “The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears them; he delivers them from all their troubles. The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit” (Psalm 34:17-18).

For those wrestling with decisions, please consider the words of the Apostle Paul.

Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. Whoever sows to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction; whoever sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers” (Galatians 6:7-10).

“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