Week of March 18, 2012
So what do people get in this life for all their hard work and anxiety? - Ecclesiastes 2:22
I once knew a woman who literally worked herself to death. Katie worked seven days a week, starting on the job at 6:30 a.m. most days. I have no idea how she managed to squeeze in household chores or church activities, even though she was responsible only for herself, as Katie lived alone; she was divorced, in her sixties and wanting to retire. But there she was every Sunday morning in church with her hands lifted high, praising the Lord. She loved God.
One day, at a Christian gathering, Katie did not show. This was a weekly event that Kathie hated to miss, so people asked about her. But no one knew where Katie was. Her “spiritual daughter” consistently looked after Katie, picking her up for weekly events, dropping her off, taking her to dinner, etc. But this particular week, Katie’s spiritual daughter was out of town, a rarity.
A couple of days after our gathering, the phone calls began. “Have you heard about Katie?” friends asked.
Katie’s spiritual daughter grew suspicious that something wasn’t quite right when she called Katie’s home a day after the weekly gathering and received no answer. Another day passed and, still out of town, Katie’s spiritual daughter grew increasingly alarmed and soon called the police.
When the authorities found Katie, she was slumped over on her bedroom floor. One report said she looked as though she had slid off her bed. She barely had a pulse. Her Bible was open on her bed. And praise music could be heard from the stereo playing in the living room.
An ambulance took Katie to the local hospital, St. Joseph’s. That’s when I heard the news. A mutual church friend said to me one morning at church, “If you want to see her, you’d better go soon.” I was shocked. I headed out the church door, and I thought I had better calm down first. So I bypassed the hospital on my way home, praying the whole way.
The next day, my husband and I headed out to the hospital. When we arrived, we headed straight to the floor and room that was given to me by my friend. But when we entered, the room was empty, and the bed looked as though it had been freshly made. I walked over to the nurse’s station and inquired about Katie. The nurse stared at me for a moment before verifying the patient roster. She put the clipboard down, and looked up at me and simply said, “I’m sorry.”
Katie died knowing her Jesus.
I cannot even begin to express the deep emotion that welled up in my heart for this poor woman. It all seemed so unfair. I knew that Katie was the eldest of 16 children and that she had been born into poverty in Appalachia. She was in the process of waiting for her reverse mortgage to be approved, an answer to prayer, so she said. It appeared as though she was about to receive her breakthrough. And in a sense, she did.
After talking with more friends, I learned that, right before her death, Katie had begun having physical issues. But she delayed visiting the doctor. And then it was too late.
I wept and wept at this women’s sad, sad life and her death. It touched me deeply. I knew that God was speaking to me somehow. In time, I realized that He purposed this experience to remind me to take care of myself along my journey here on earth. Our bodies are living temples, and overwork brings dis-ease.
Overwork is not only imbalance, it is neglect of God’s temple. A person can only take so much stress. I am reminded of this whenever I feel overwhelmed, especially with new projects. Only two remedies help me: Coming away with God, and accomplishing the workload systematically. I find that if I come away with God first, the workload doesn’t seem so ominous. The Holy Spirit is always there to help us, to show us the way, to forewarn us, to give us breakthrough. And sometimes, He waits for us to sit and sup with Him.
How much harder is our work, because we do not spend enough dedicated time with Him? Are we hearing His strategies and keeping first things first? Is He truly our first priority?
Katie passed into eternity years ago, but recently, I was reminded of this lesson as another friend of mine recently fell off her office chair semi-conscious. She was rushed to a local hospital, where she remained for four days while tests were run. She survived and learned that she had been diagnosed with diabetes.
God loves us so much that He desires that we take time to take care of ourselves physically, emotionally and spiritually. May we live the life and do the purposed work God has called us to do in balance and in obedience to His ways so that we do not cut our lives short here on earth.
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