[Ask a high school-age boy to present this first-person report.]
Three years ago I learned that my mother had breast cancer. I was confused and devastated. How could God let this happen to her? Would she die and leave us alone? My friends didn’t understand, and I felt that I had no one to talk to.
One day I saw her crying in her room. When she saw me, she called me into her room. “It’s OK,” she said, seeing the terror in my eyes. “God is with us and will protect us.” She urged me to read her favorite psalms. “David’s words bring me comfort,” she said. “They’ll help you, too.”
I nodded numbly. How could I tell her that I wasn’t sure that God cared about me or what happened to our family?
Mother’s surgery was successful, and eventually life felt normal again. But I still wondered if God really cared about me, just a kid.
One night I pulled my Bible from the shelf and let it fall open. It opened to the story of Job. As I read Job’s story, I began to realize that if Job could have that kind of faith, I could, too.
I started reading the Bible again, and I felt God working in my life. The more I read, the more I learned, and the more I felt God’s love in my life. I realized that God was using my mother’s illness to teach me how much He loves me. What I didn’t know was that God was strengthening my faith for what was to come next.
My grandfather was a traditional Greek man, strong and stubborn. My family is Adventist, and Grandpa picked at our faith whenever he could, accusing us and making us defend our faith. We began avoiding the subject of religion. My parents despaired that we would never convince Grandpa that God loved him.
Then we learned that Grandpa had pancreatic cancer. It had spread, and the doctors said he wouldn’t live long. In his usual stubborn manner, my grandfather began planning his funeral. But I knew that he was angry and discouraged.
He was hospitalized in great pain, but he refused visitors. He didn’t want us to watch him die. But I went to see him anyway, to my surprise, he began asking me questions about God.
“Why do you think God made the Ten Commandments?” he asked.
Carefully I formed my response. “God gave us the commandments to guide us through life,” I said. “He didn’t make them to condemn us, but to draw us to Him.”
My grandfather thought about that for a while. Then he asked, “How do you know Jesus loves you?”
As I struggled to find words to answer my grandfather’s questions, I realized that God had been preparing me for this moment ever since my mother had become sick. Humbled and encouraged, I pressed forward to answer my grandfather’s questions with the Bible texts God had given me when I had doubted.
My grandfather and I had several conversations about God over the next few weeks. My parents were afraid to talk to Grandfather about religion because they did not want to make him angry. But God had opened the door for me to speak to him and give him hope in Jesus before he died. I was honored and amazed that God was able to use me, a teenager.
Toward the end of his life Grandfather wasn’t able to talk anymore. But I could see a calm in his eyes that I had never seen before. I am sure God used my experience to help my grandfather understand that Jesus had always loved him. I know that I will see my grandfather again when Jesus comes. And when we meet, we’ll have eternity to talk.
I often think about Revelation 3:20: “I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in” (NIV).
My mother’s illness helped me to realize that God was knocking on the door of my heart. And my grandfather’s illness helped me to share God’s love and open the door of his heart.
Our church in Greece is small. We have just a few hundred members in the entire country. But God has big plans for us, plans to lead us and teach us how to share His love with millions who, like my grandfather, haven’t opened their heart’s door to God’s unlimited love. This quarter part of the Thirteenth Sabbath Offering will help us reach out to millions in Greece who still need to hear that Jesus loves them.