Father’s Day Tribute: The Harvest Time

In our part of the country, crops are planted in the spring and harvested in the fall. I used to expect God to work the same way, on a set timetable that I could comprehend. But I found that, through my dad’s illness, God had his own timetable. It took me a while to come to terms with it. Here is my Dad’s story:

In 1986, my dad was diagnosed with cancer. Multiple myeloma to be exact. I was sitting in his hospital room, beside my mother, when the doctor gave his diagnosis. It was a shock. My strong, healthy father had gone into the hospital just a couple of weeks before with severe back pain. I don’t remember much of what the doctor said that day, but I do remember that he told my parents that some of his patients lived as few as two years with that type of cancer, while others lived several years. I left the room to find a quiet place to cry while my parents listened to treatment options.

Our church prayed for Dad, and I believed with my whole heart that God was going to heal him of cancer. There would surely be a miracle for my father, who was a strong, yet humble, Christian.

After several weeks of radiation that left a burnt feeling in his chest, Dad began to undergo chemotherapy. He was off work for several months. Over time, it became evident that God hadn’t chosen to do an instant healing in my dad, but we saw evidence of many miracles in the years following the diagnosis.

The chemo was not pleasant, but it didn’t bring Dad down like we had seen with other people. He never really got sick from it. Nor did he lose all of his hair. (In a later treatment, he did, but it grew back, black instead of gray.)

He was able to return to work without restrictions.  

At the time of his diagnosis, he had only one grandchild, with a second one on the way. He lived to see all fourteen of his grandchildren.

For almost 20 years, he continued chemotherapy treatments. Many people thought he had recovered fully from the cancer, since he didn’t seem sick. And that was the way my father wanted it. He didn’t like to have people make a fuss over him. A quiet, humble man, he lived out his faith day-by-day, and never pushed his values onto other people. The cancer made him more aware of the needs of others, and he valued the time with his family.

Over time, I ceased asking God why He chose not to heal my dad of cancer. While I do not understand why or how things happen, God sees, and knows, and understands. The painful questioning stilled to a quiet wondering. A peace that God is in control, no matter what the circumstances are.

I still believe that we should pray for healing. The Bible says to pray for those who are sick. I often join with others in prayer and faith for healing for their loved ones who become ill or hurt, with full faith that God will heal them. How God chooses to answer those prayers is something over which I have no control.

Sometimes, prayer changes the circumstances. Sometimes, prayer changes someone’s heart. And sometimes, it changes me.

Shortly after Dad’s diagnosis, God gave me the words of this poem, which has a melody in my head:

The Promise of Harvest

They that mourn receive comfort

Sow in tears and reap in joy

Seek first His holy kingdom

Which nothing can destroy

Yes, the harvest time is coming

His promise shall come true

Trust in Him; await the harvest

Peace and joy He’ll bring to you.

If you wait upon the Lord

He shall indeed make you strong

In your heart so full of sadness

He shall put a joyous song

Yes, the harvest time is coming

His promise shall come true

His Word is never failing

And His promise is for you.

Child of God, lift your hands

Lift your voice and sing His praise

There awaits for you a harvest

In the abundance of His grace

Yes, the harvest time is coming

There will be a bright new day

His joy shall be your strength

As He lights your holy way.

Originally, I thought the words, “The harvest time is coming,” meant that God would heal my dad fully from cancer. That didn’t happen. Dad lived for almost 20 years after his diagnosis, but he took chemotherapy and other treatments for all of those years. God didn’t heal him instantly, but he gave Dad a healed life.

I still believe in the message of this song, but I no longer see it as an absolute message about divine healing. God has many promises: salvation through faith in Jesus Christ; everlasting life in heaven when our time on earth has ended; as well as the promise of healing.

I’ve come to recognize that God is the Gardener. He will work in His own way, and in His own time. His promises are true, and one day we will reap the harvest of those promises.

I believe that some will be healed instantly, others will receive healing through medication and treatments, and still others will see their healing fulfilled in heaven.

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