It happened in 1829 to a young girl by the name of Susanna Foster. She had a younger sister by the name of Elisa who lived to be very old. She also had some brothers, one of which was Steven Foster, a famous song writer from the last century. Susanna was a very promising musician and singer, but while she was still young, she contracted tuberculosis, a disease of the lungs. She was seriously ill and was expected to die. Some of her friends stayed up all night with her, not knowing at the time that it would be her last. At 4:30 in the morning, she awoke and sang a song. Her voice was clear and crisp; however, a short time after, she died, never to sing again.
Her family mourned her loss. Steven Foster was so young when she died that he never really got to know his sister personally, but the memory of her song on the night she died lived on.
There are often discouraging experiences in life that we simply do not understand. Some years ago, another young woman with two young daughters and a little baby boy died. After having a surgery for cancer, she went through a course of chemotherapy followed by some other treatments in an effort to help her get better. However, she did not get better; she got worse. When you are only 29 years old and you have two beautiful daughters and a beautiful baby boy, the last thing you want to do is die.
In the Bible, there is a story about a man who was told that he was going to die. The prophet Isaiah came to Hezekiah and told him to get his house in order, thus he was given forewarning. Hezekiah did not want to die right then so he turned his face towards the wall and he said, “Lord, I do not want to die.”
Hezekiah pleaded with the Lord that he would live a little longer and the Lord answered his prayer telling him that he would lengthen his life another fifteen years. However, a very sad thing happened during that time. Hezekiah fathered a child by the name of Manasseh who was one of the most wicked kings that ever ruled Judah. It was Manasseh who was responsible for martyring Isaiah the prophet and it was because of his influence that the children of Israel were taken into captivity.
This was the terrible consequence that resulted because Hezekiah did not die at the right time, at God’s appointed time.
Sometimes it is hard to accept God’s will when we do not understand the big picture. This young lady, only 29 years old, did not want to die either, but her condition worsened. The last time I saw her at church she was so sick that she was in a wheelchair and on oxygen. Her husband, standing beside her, too sad for words, just gave a nod of recognition. No words were exchanged; it was just too sad to say anything. Unknown to me then, it was the last time I would see her alive; a few days later she died. I visited her husband with his three children and felt the emptiness and the hollowness inside their home. The light of that house was no longer there; this man’s crown of rejoicing was no longer with them.
Jesus said, “Do not marvel at this; for the hour is coming in which all who are in the graves will hear his voice and come forth—those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation” (John 5:28, 29, literal translation).
This young lady had deteriorated so much that she had to be taken to a hospital. The family all knew she was dying, but still every effort was made to try and save her life and help her to stay a little longer. As the evening grew on, her husband decided to stay there with her all that night. In the afternoon she had asked him, “Who are all these people in my room?” He looked around and said, “I don’t see anybody; there’s nobody here.” She was insistent that there was, that the room was full of bright shining beings who were all around her bed, but he did not see anybody.
Pretty soon it was supper time. Surprisingly, for being in her condition, she ate a good supper and after supper they had a wonderful conversation together. They did not know then, but it would be their last conversation together, and then she went to sleep.
This lady had prayed, “Lord, if I have to die, because this is so distasteful to me leaving my children, please let me die in my sleep.” The Lord that night answered her prayer, and she went to sleep. About 5:00 o’clock in the morning, her husband who was sleeping in a chair by her bed, woke up with a start. He felt her and saw that she was not breathing. Ten minutes before, the nurse had checked on her and had seen that everything was fine. The doctors tried to resuscitate her, but it was too late; she was gone. She was only 29 years old, leaving two beautiful girls, a two-year-old baby boy, and a loving husband. Who can understand?
Life is so uncertain. At every opportunity show the members of your family the affection that you ought, so that if something should happen and they are taken suddenly from you, you will have some pleasant memories of the way you talked to them, and the way you treated them.
A physician was working in his office when his wife stopped by on her way to do some business downtown. She had wanted some time with him but was brushed off because he was “too busy.” A few minutes later he received the telephone call that everyone dreads. A policeman was on the other end of the line informing him that his wife had been involved in a serious car accident. A few minutes before, he had been impatient and “too busy.” Would those words be the last he would ever speak to her, words of impatience?
What if something happened to somebody you love? Would the last words you spoke be words that you would want to remember? Always make sure that your parting words are a pleasant exchange and never impatient or fretful. Life is uncertain and none of us know how long we have our loved ones with us. We need to take advantage of every opportunity to show love, sympathy and affection to those we love.
“Home should be made all that the name implies. It should be a little heaven upon the earth, a place where the affections are cultivated instead of being studiously repressed. Our happiness depends upon this cultivation of love, sympathy, and polite courtesy to one another. The reason why there are so many hard-hearted men and women in our world, is because true affection has been regarded as weakness, and has been discouraged and repressed. The better part of the nature of those of this class was perverted and dwarfed in childhood; and unless rays of divine light can melt away their coldness and hard-hearted selfishness, the happiness of such is buried forever. If we would have tender hearts, such as Jesus had when He was upon the earth, and sanctified sympathy, such as angels have for sinful mortals, we must cultivate the sympathies of childhood, which are simplicity itself. Then we shall be refined, elevated, and directed by heavenly principles.” The Review and Herald, June 22, 1886.
We need to express love and affection in our homes so that our children don’t grow up to be hard-hearted. What kinds of words do you speak with your spouse and with your children, with your brothers, and with your sisters?
That Sunday morning, I was on the way to the prison and needed to get all the sadness from my mind for the prisoners needed to be encouraged. I had been going to this jail for some time and I knew there would be between 15–25 inmates who would be there to sing songs and hear the gospel. Out of that jail ministry there were people who had accepted Christ, some who had become Seventh-day Adventists, and I was going there to be an encouragement to them and cheer them up. Jesus said, “Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also” (John 14:1–3).
Promises like this we would share with the people in the prison and tell them that there are no jails in heaven. Neither will there be hospitals or any other trouble at all in heaven. The prisoners loved to hear about heaven and they loved to sing the song, “Power in the Blood.”
As Jesus comforted His disciples when they were in trouble, He left us an example. In the first chapter of 2 Corinthians you can read how Paul also comforted those who found themselves in all kinds of trouble. While behind bars many inmates reach out for hope of a better life. This can be a very fruitful field for evangelism for Christians who are able to comfort prisoners and give them hope.
As I was on my way to the jail, I was preoccupied with thoughts about these children who had just lost their mother from cancer. I just could not shake it out of my mind as I went up into the cell block that morning. One of the prisoners, whom I knew quite well, recognized a different expression on my face at once and asked, “What’s the matter with you, preacher?”
My purpose for being there that day was to encourage these people and not to tell them my troubles. He had asked a direct question, so not to tell a lie, I told him about my friend whose wife had just died from cancer, that she was only 29 years old with three children, two older girls and a little baby boy, two years old, and that when he grows up he will not even be able to remember his mother.
That whole cell block went quiet. Though I was only talking to this man who had asked me the question, everybody else was listening. I came right up to the bar that divided us and he did the same, and looking up into my face he began to tell me the story of his life.
He said, I have two older sisters, and when I was two years old my mother died from cancer. She was only 29 years old. When my mother died, my father could not cope and as a result became an alcoholic. There was nobody to take care of the children, so we were separated. My two sisters were raised somewhere else and I was taken to an orphanage.
This man had heard the Gospel presented a number of times with never a response, but now, all of a sudden, I understood what had happened to this boy, what had happened to this man. He had grown up deprived of a mother to love him, without the special tender love of a family, and no one to express that love and sympathy and affection that is so needed. With his mother, whom he never knew, and his father an alcoholic as a result, he had become hard-hearted, and as he became a man he had gotten into trouble with the law and ended up in jail.
Never before had this man responded after hearing the Gospel, but this time his heart was touched. I had been given the key to his heart as he had told me the story of his life, and he was now ready to respond and receive hope and comfort.
“The Lord has done great things for us, and we are glad. Bring back our captivity, O Lord, as the streams in the South. They who sow in tears shall reap in joy. He who continually goes forth weeping, bearing seed for sowing, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him” (Psalm 126:3–6).
With all the prisoners still listening, even though I was just talking to this one man, I asked him if his mother was a Christian. He said that his sisters had told him that she had been a Bible believing Christian. Then I asked him if he would like to see his mother again some day, and he said, “Yes.” I commenced to tell him how that could happen. Someday Jesus is going to come back to this world; He is going to come back from heaven. The Bible says that every eye is going to see Him and when He returns, He is going to look down on this world, and He is going to say, “Awake and sing, you who dwell in dust” (Isaiah 26:19).
I told him that when Jesus comes in the clouds and says, “Awake, awake, awake, ye that sleep in the dust and arise” (Ephesians 5:14), your mother is going to awake and come out of the grave, and she is going to look for you. If you surrender your heart and life to Jesus, you are going to be there. Your mother is going to look for you when she wakes up when Jesus returns.
By the way friend, when Jesus comes, is there anyone who is going to wake up and look for you? Are you going to be there? If you are there, then they are going to sing.
I believe one of the persons who will awake in the first resurrection and will look for me, is my father. My father died as a result of being hit by a car in April 2000. I remember when I was a small boy at home, over and over again I heard my father pray during family worship. He would ask the Lord that our family might be saved, without the loss of one. My father did not want anybody in his family to be lost. He continually worked for all people wherever he lived in the world to share the Gospel with them, but he always prayed that all his family would be saved.
Who is going to look for you? Are they going to sing? Are they going to have a song in the night for you because you are there?
In Isaiah 30:29 the Lord says that you are going to have a song in the night.
Isaiah 21 talks about the watchmen: “Watchman, what of the night? … The watchman said, ‘The morning comes, and also the night. If you will inquire, inquire; Return! Come back’ ” (Isaiah 21:11, 12)!
The night of sin, friends, is almost over and the eternal morning is going to break very soon for the righteous. It will be eternal night for the wicked. So, because the night of sin is about over and the morning is going to come soon, the watchman says, “If you return, inquire and come.”
The context of the verses in Isaiah 21 is the fall of Babylon. In Revelation 18, when Babylon falls, the morning is coming. That is one of the reasons why people are going to sing, because the night is over. They will have a song in the night because the eternal morning is coming. With it, however, is also the night; eternal night for the wicked.
“Before the final visitation of God’s judgments upon the earth there will be among the people of the Lord such a revival of primitive godliness as has not been witnessed since apostolic times.” The Great Controversy, 464.
In order for the night of sin to end there must be a return to primitive godliness. As Jeremiah puts it, “ask for the old paths” (Jeremiah 6:16).
“Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things” (Philippians 4:8).
Come out from among them and be separate. God wants a peculiar people who reflect His image, a people who will return to primitive godliness, a people who will reject worldly ways and its entertainments, adornments, and lifestyles. God wants people who are not afraid to be known as Christians and turn away from harmful substances like alcohol, and delight in the Sabbath, the special day that God gave to man for rest and worship.
The worldly ways that have been allowed to fester in the church have caused confusion and strife. Proverbs 13:10 says, “By pride comes nothing but strife.”
The Lord is coming! He is going to end this night of sin and we are going to have a song. But the people who have the song are going to be the people who beforehand had an experience in primitive godliness.
Make sure you are among that group of people, the ones who have a song, and are ready to meet their Lord and Savior when He returns (Isaiah 30:29, 30).
Pastor John Grosboll is Director of Steps to Life and pastors the Prairie Meadows Church in Wichita, Kansas. He may be contacted by e-mail at: firstname.lastname@example.org, or by telephone at: 316-788-5559.