If you grew up in church singing the old hymns, you undoubtedly came across many songs written by Fanny J. Crosby. Undoubtedly, because Ms. Crosby wrote more than 8,000 hymns and spiritual songs during her long career spanning the second half of the 19th century, including such standards as Jesus Is Tenderly Calling You Home, Praise Him, Praise Him, Rescue the Perishing, and To God Be the Glory. One of her most popular songs was Blessed Assurance. Ms. Crosby was visiting the home of her friend Phoebe Knapp who played a melody she had written, and she asked Fanny what she thought the melody was saying. On the spot, Fanny answered, “Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine.”
About nine years ago, B and I joined a few other couples here at Fellowship on a weekend camping trip with our Youth. It was a beautiful fall weekend, perfect for the event. I had been feeling kind of lousy for a few weeks, but not so bad that I could not enjoy camping with the kids and our other friends. As the weekend unfolded, however, I began to feel worse and worse, and turned in to my sleeping bag early Saturday night while the rest of the group enjoyed good conversation around the firepit. Sunday morning found me almost too weak to function, but I got around and helped B and the others fix a big breakfast and was feeling some better by the time I was to teach a Sunday-morning lesson for the Youth. Following that, however, my strength greatly diminished, and while we were packing up to go home, many times I just had to stop and lie down on the ground, wherever I was. Some friends had their camper trailer there, and I retired to their couch while my Hunny B worked to gather up all the camping and cooking gear for the large group. With encouragement from my wife and friends, I agreed to go to the hospital where they told me I had experienced a heart attack. I was scheduled to have a stint inserted into my heart the following morning.
Monday morning was rather routine for someone in my condition. They wheeled me back to the cath-lab and they inserted a stint to clear the blockage in my left anterior descending artery, the one known as the “Widow Maker”. A short time later I was back in my hospital room, not feeling that great but assuming that was what one should feel like after all my heart had gone through. B walked her dad out to his car (he had come to sit with her during the procedure), when I suddenly felt worse than I had ever felt in my life. I even pressed that little button on the remote that summons help. About that same time, the nurse who had been monitoring my condition from another part of the hospital came running into my room. I vaguely remember the room being filled with people and have a brief recollection of B returning, and finally the cardiologist being there and the decision to return me to the cath-lab. Something about the way my stint was inserted had caused a second blockage to form at the location of the first, requiring another procedure. Having gotten it right the second time, I was returned to my hospital room feeling like a new man.
And, that is exactly what I was – a new man. During the weeks where my health gradually eroded, I did not realize how bad I felt. I was like the frog in boiling water. But, that episode in the hospital room was sudden and dramatic. I cannot remember much of what was going on around me, other than I was flailing around and the nurses were trying to hold me still. I remember thinking I was probably going to die right there, and I wanted my Hunny B to come back and be with me. When she appeared, I had the realization that it was OK. I was going to die, and I was OK with that. I knew B was strong and resourceful, that the life insurance was in place, and that our kids were as fine as we could help to make them. I was going to die, but all was fine.
A different form of peace settled into my soul than I had ever experienced. I became that new man, having received a second chance at life on this earth. I knew then that my life was not about living here on earth. It was not about my physical life. Our physical life is merely a gestational period preparing us for our eternal life – our true life. When I was experiencing that second heart attack, I was surprised by how easily I was giving up my physical life. I was surprised by how expectant I was of entering my eternal spiritual life. At 57 years old, I was still relatively young to die, but I had few regrets. I remember thinking I wanted another ten years with my Hunny B. I remember I wanted more time to know our grandkids, and I wanted to live long enough to see RaeBelle (our oldest granddaughter) married. But, those regrets were few and small. I was going away to live forever with my Savior, and I was more than good with that. He had given me a priceless gift: Not more time in this life, but the knowledge and assurance of how I would react when faced with death.
In Philippians 1:21, Paul writes, “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.” I feel that I now understand fully what this short verse is saying. It is not my life to which I must cling. My Lord God has given me a life, and as much as I enjoy the beauty, the relationships, and the fruits of this life, it is not my mortal life that truly matters. He is preparing me for the real life yet to come. I am to live now for the One who has given me life, for He has more – much more than I can imagine – to give me in the new life yet to come. That is the new man I became in that hospital room when I believed I was leaving this world. I knew at that time I would never have anything to fear or doubt again. I had blessed assurance.
Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine! O what a foretaste of glory divine! Heir of salvation, purchase of God, Born of His Spirit, washed in His blood. This is my story, this is my song, Praising my Savior all the day long; This is my story, this is my song, Praising my Savior all the day long.