Thank God It Doesn’t Depend on Us
It all began with an e-mail message from Karen, who wanted me to pray for a Jewish woman in her town. The woman, whom I will just call Lois,” was in the terminal stage of cancer. Karen’s pastor and his wife were already involved with Lois and her family; still, Karen thought a Jews for Jesus missionary might be helpful at this point. Since God delivered me from cancer 16 years ago, I have a special feeling for those who are fighting that disease.
I e-mailed that I would not only pray for Lois but, if it was agreeable, I’d phone her. It was agreeable. Karen explained that Lois was in her thirties with a six-year-old son. Her husband had died a week and a half earlier of heart valve complications. I couldn’t imagine what Lois must have been going through—grieving the loss of her husband, knowing she, too, was dying—and would soon leave her son an orphan.
I made the call, introduced myself and offered my condolences for the loss of Lois’ husband. Lois was amazingly alert and wanting answers to the difficult questions of her blighted existence. We talked for about a half an hour. She let me open up the Scriptures, especially the Psalms where David’s lament to God focused on the seeming unfairness of this life. I was able to offer Lois God’s promise of a time of healing and restoration if she would turn to Him as her provision. She was not ready to make Jesus her Messiah and Lord. Yet God impressed her on my heart that day, and I couldn’t stop praying for her salvation.
I found myself frustrated that I lived 2,000 miles away from this woman. If I could just talk with her face to face, it might make all the difference. Then I thought about Glenn, a Jewish brother in Jesus and former staff member who now works with another Jewish ministry. I knew he could minister to her very capably. Thank God for Glenn, who was more than willing to call on Lois though she lived an hour and a half away from him.
I called Lois several times in the following weeks. And when I wasn’t talking to her about God, I was talking to God about her. Then one day I called and found that she had been moved to a hospice. I knew her time was short. I asked others to pray, yet I was not hopeful. I found myself mourning her passing though she was still alive.
Shortly after this, Glenn and I were exchanging online messages and I asked if he’d called Lois that day. He told me he was planning to do so that afternoon. At that moment I had a strong sense that she had died, and I told Glenn as much. He said he would try calling her right away. Soon Glenn called me back to confirm that Lois had indeed died less than 24 hours earlier. “But…” he added, “…she’s with the Lord.” Oh me of little faith.
It seems that Karen’s pastor and his wife were with her as she lay in the hospice bed, and they faithfully prayed the sinner’s prayer with her. I called the pastor’s wife and she told me the story firsthand. She and her husband had asked Lois if she understood what she had prayed, that she had asked Jesus to forgive her sins and come into her life. She clearly answered, “Yes, I understand what I just prayed.” She went into a coma shortly after, and now she’s with Yeshua (Jesus).
I also learned that the pastor had prayed with Lois’ husband to come to faith shortly before his death. As I heard the whole story, I cried tears of joy and thankfulness at how great our God is. I realized that I had been carrying a lot of needless guilt that I had not done enough, had not prayed enough. I had not flown out to see Lois myself. Yet, God had graciously shown what I should have known all along—that Lois’ eternal destiny did not depend on me. She was in His hands. It was God’s business to seek and save this Jewish woman. And He did.
Do you sometimes think that things depend on you when they don’t? Yes, we can have a part in God’s work. An important part. But thanks be to God that His salvation does not depend on us—but rather, He welcomes our obedient dependence on Him.
Director of Communications, Missionary
Susan Perlman is one of the co-founders of Jews for Jesus. Susan is the associate executive director of Jews for Jesus and also director of communications for the organization. She also serves as the editor in chief of ISSUES, their evangelistic publication for Jewish seekers. She left a career track in New York City to help launch Jews for Jesus in San Francisco in the early 1970s. See more here.