Saturday, July 24, 2010

Earthly Life

Bob Rakestraw

Years ago a Canadian singer, Anne Murray, sang these words in one of her numbers: “Sure could use a little good news today.” Well, I want to give out some good news today: attitude-wise, I am doing much better than I have in many months, perhaps years. I am reluctant to call this a strictly psychological change or a strictly spiritual change. I don’t think the two can be neatly separated, because mind-body-soul-spirit-emotions are all intertwined and overlapping. We are instructed in the scriptures to “love God with all of our heart, soul, mind and strength,” meaning with all of our being, everything in us and everything we have. We are unified selves.

It is evident, however, that one (or more) of these aspects (functions) of our single self may predominate in certain situations more than in others. A person trying to push a car out of a ditch uses brute strength, spurred on by a strong will, to get the job done. But, even then, the total self is engaged. It cannot be otherwise.

In my situation, as some of you know, I have struggled in an unusual way. Because my health has been poor since my heart transplant of 2003 (and for years before that) I have had a strong desire to leave this earthly life and be taken into God’s heavenly presence. Since March, 2007, after two doctors said I likely had no more than six months to live, this longing has intensified. It became so strong near the end of 2008 that I suffered a lot from depression and anxiety. I believe the cause, or a big part of the cause, was that, although my health continued to decline, God was not taking me home. My longing for heaven—normally a healthy thing for the children of God—had become unhealthy. I did not want to go on living. I asked God numerous times to end my life.

After a crisis experience on January 1, 2009, I called for the elders of the church to come and pray for me, according to James 5. Then I went to a doctor who provided me with some helpful medications. During 2009 I improved gradually in my overall attitude toward life and death, but it has not been until the last month or so that I’ve come to realize that a major change has come over me. I can’t say just when this happened or point to anything different in my prayer life or daily routine. I just know that God has done a very good work in me, for which I am thankful.

Before this major turn in my life I had no desire to live, whereas since the God-wrought change, I am now willing to live to be 90, if God so wills. I hope I don’t, and I still long to go home sooner rather than later, but this new acceptance of life has improved my attitude and sense of daily well-being. Before this change, I wasn’t conscious of having a bad attitude toward God. After all, I wanted to go be with him forever. But I had a negative attitude toward the earthly life God had assigned for me. Part of this was, no doubt, due to depression, and part was due to feelings of uselessness. I was wondering whether I was doing any good here on earth. I had to admit that if God still had me here, and if my attitude is one of joyful (yes!) acceptance of God’s will, then I am being useful for his eternal purposes. It was not enough to resign myself to living, but I needed to gladly, positively accept my state in life (James 1:2-4).

My physical health continues to decline noticeably, but my daily consciousness of God’s good pleasure and will have increased noticeably. I desire to spend the rest of my days simply living for God’s glory. I serve him as best I know how each day, but I can’t delve much into how I may be actually useful to others. More and more I seek to live moment-by-moment according to the Great Commandment: “Love the Lord your God with all of your heart, soul, mind and strength, and your neighbor as yourself.”

May God encourage and lead you continually according to your own life-experience in this earthly existence. I trust that my testimony will be helpful to many of you, my readers.


Dan Larson said...


Mere words cannot encompass the meaning your life has been to others. While you may have been feeling less than fully useful, God has been using your life to shout deep truths to the rest of us. You may have felt that your voice didn't have enough breath to preach nor had physical stamina enough to write each day, but who you are and who God continues to conform and transform in you has communicated louder, better and broader than any treatise ever could. I cannot count the times while struggling before the throne, God's simple response was to point me to you and what He was doing in and through you, even without your knowledge. The profound truth exhibited by you in this way reached deeper than any theological tome ever could. Please know that your very life and how you have lived it in your difficult circumstances is an example used by God in ways, and times and places that would never been possible otherwise. The body of Christ is stronger and closer to His image through you and your example. Thank you for who you have been to all of us - even those you've never met.

Rosemary said...

Thank you for posting this and for your honesty, Bob. I am so thankful for this peace for you. You have truly walked the talk about being transparent. May God bless this next phase of your life as you embrace your days and daily ministry of simply living for Christ.

Rosemary said...

Thank you, Bob for sharing your heart and for being transpart. May God bless the next phase of your life as you go about your days living for Him. You are ministering to all who know you!

Roy Danielson said...

Your post on "Earthly Life" was soul soothing, and so I shared it with my aging mom, soon to be 86. She told me that she kept reading and re-reading what you wrote. She said that she battles with depression and the feeling of uselessness as she ages and your words helped her. She also said that she has had arthritic back and neck pains, she has had nothing so drastic as you have endured, and she hoped she could persevere as well as you. Mom longs to leave this earth, but she now seems to have submitted in a similar way as you have--to living as long as He wants.

Another odd thing for me has been the desire to live has become really strong. I had a heart stent put in and was diagnosted with prostate cancer within a week of each other. Not being able to exercise for two months while I had tests and procedures, I realized some new things. It made me realize that my walking and exercises are not really a chore, but a something good and vital. Now I frequently smell the butterfly bush and the lilacs as I walk, and I am consciously living and focusing on the present moment instead of re-thinking the past (guilt) nor stewing over the unknown future (fear/worry). All this reminds me of Matthew 6:34"Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own."

I am taking cardiac rehab now, and will get treatment for localized prostate cancer probably next year. Seems like all should be okay, though who can tell?

I suppose as I age, I too have shared my mom's feelings of uselessness, but now I am not discouraged as I have been so much of my life. In fact, because the cancer was caught in time, as was the heart 80% blockage I feel like I am the one protected and blessed while you are the Christian neighbor who struggles with your heart problems. I know each of us struggle through things and His blessing fall unevenly in this life.

Similarly as you and mom have submitted to the idea of His having you live long life, I have submitted to living in His joy--in the present worrying less and quenching the contant "feelings of worthless." I am His and He is the One whom I trust to lead me through the present.

Your namesake, my son and his wife, are expecting their first child in October, and I will be a grandpa for the first time. You are a grandpa many times over, methinks.

Bless you and Judy as you pursue our Savior and Shepherd. I really appreciate your honesty and sincere words you share here.

Roy Danielson
Seattle, Washington

PeaceLady said...

Thank you for sharing, your testimony IS helpful.

Anonymous said...

Thank you, Bob, for attempting to quantify the change that you've noticed within you. Thanks, also, for being obedient like Jesus, and to Jesus, for as long as you remain here on earth....I'm so glad you're still here.

Rev. Timothy Shumer said...

Good to see your mental acuity is as sharp as ever.