When Hard Questions Have Eternal Answers
“But He knows the way I take; When He has tried me, I shall come forth as gold.” Job 23:10
My father was a humble, quiet man, strong and principled. He was a good father who deeply loved my mother and their four children. He was not an outwardly religious man. He did what was expected of men in his generation: he took his kids to church every Sunday and he said the blessing at meals.
One summer my father was diagnosed with a cancer so rare that none of his doctors had ever treated it. His condition deteriorated rapidly, requiring hospitalization. Nothing was effective against the cancer’s rapid progression. But even as his overall condition worsened, my father’s spirit amazed everyone. He was his wonderful self, joking with the nurses even when he could barely breathe.
Once we realized that my father’s condition was terminal, I prayed that God would open up an opportunity to speak openly about faith and the salvation of Jesus Christ. I knew that I might be the only person who would ask the hard question: “Dad, do you know Jesus as your Lord and Savior?”
One quiet night, God answered my prayers. My father asked me to be his “spiritual mentor” during his final journey, to help him seek God’s face and presence in his life. It took a great deal for him to ask me, and his request overwhelmed me. But he wanted peace so earnestly; he wanted so deeply not to be terrified of the journey ahead—what could I say but yes?
I remembered a verse that my heavenly Father had given me a few weeks earlier:
“But He knows the way that I take; when He has tried me, I shall come forth as gold.” (Job 23:10 NASB)
I knew the words were about my earthly father, but I didn’t understand their meaning. Now I understood. God knew “the way that I take.” I had spent years studying and teaching God’s Word- that was my way. The next part said “and when He has tried me.” This implied a test of some sort, and so perhaps my father’s request to mentor him to the end of his life was this test. The Lord had opened the door for me to apply and to pass on His Word in the most personal and critical moment of my father’s life. But there was a promise in the verse too: I would come forth as gold.
God enabled me to walk with my father in small but meaningful ways each day. We started to pray together. My father talked about his funeral with me. We planned it out. He gave me the hymns he wanted played (“You and mother pick out the verses, and don’t let them monkey with the tunes. There’s a new organist at the church, you know…..”)
One late night as I was leaving the hospital I was overwhelmed with fear that I might not see my father again. I told him that he had been a wonderful father, and that I had been blessed to have him as my father. I prayed with him, and over him. Then he asked me how I came to know Jesus Christ. I told him my salvation story.
And then I asked the hard question point blank: had there ever been a time when he had consciously accepted Jesus Christ as his savior? He said that he wasn’t entirely sure. I told him that we needed to be sure, that I needed to be sure that he was born again, and that I would see him again in heaven. So there, holding my hand he accepted Jesus as his Savior. I told him that now I KNEW that I would see him again in heaven, and that heaven was a place so much better than this that when he got there he would wonder why he was holding on so hard. I told him that I didn’t want him to be afraid, and that if he was tired of the fight it was okay.
Then my father told me that he was a terrible sinner, that he had made so many mistakes, and that he had so much for which he needed to be forgiven. This broke my heart, because he was THE BEST father. But I knew his words were the Holy Spirit convicting him of sin, and were the evidence of genuine salvation. I told him that since he had accepted Christ his sins were forgiven, although it’s always okay to ask God for forgiveness and to ask others for forgiveness. We talked for a long time.
Then he asked me to get my mother. He told her “I love you more than anything. Thank you for making such a good life for me for 51 years. When I married you, you had a stronger faith than I did. I allowed you to be the spiritual head of our household. I am sorry about that. I should have done that myself.” Mom listened intently. Then Dad said, “If I had never met you, I would still be a Baptist!” And we all broke out laughing! That was my earthly father.
Eleven days later, my Daddy went to be with his Lord and Savior.
I knew that Job 23:10 was about my father, but I thought that it was about spiritually supporting him during his last days. Later I realized that the time of “trying” was to see if I would ask the hard question when it was time. The test was to ask about my father’s salvation, and then to speak the truth of God. God gave me the strength and the love to do that.
The answer to the hard question has eternal impact. Ask the hard question.
Briane P. Kearns is a Jesus loving first born who celebrates being a daughter, wife, mother, grandmother and breast cancer survivor. She loves teaching others how the Bible is relevant for today, her family, laughing with friends, encouraging women in their faith walk and being a southerner. At age 52, after 25+ years in corporate sales, the Lord called her to attend seminary. She completed a Master of Arts in Biblical Studies in May 2017. She lives, writes, teaches and avoids cooking as much as possible in central North Carolina.