Recently I met with an elderly man. He is 93 years old, frail in body; in fact, wracked with pain, but sharp and alert in his mind. His parents were believers and passed on to him a deep love for God. He told me the following story which touched me deeply. I thought you might like it too.
He told me that he was captured in WWII and was held a prisoner in dire conditions. His guards would taunt him, feeding him spoiled food, and even then, only every several days. His water was dirty but he had no choice but to drink it. He had dysentery but was not allowed to use a toilet. He wasn’t even given a pot or bowl, not that having one would have really made much difference. He lay in his own waste for days, not knowing what the end would be like for him. The stench gagged him. He vomited often and had to lay in that, too. His cell was so small that he could not get away from the filth.
I listened and watched his expressions as he told me the story. Then, after pausing, perhaps reflecting more on the severity of what he lived through, I saw a glimmer of a twinkle appear in his eyes. I waited, intrigued at what I might hear next. How could these memories provide a smile for him?
“There are people,” he began, “who know God, but when something uncomfortable happens to them, they cry and ask, ‘why me?'” He paused again and I waited, not wanting to interfere with this moment.
“Once,” he continued with his story, “when I was so hungry and feeling myself grow weaker, I remembered a song.” He stared at the ceiling as if trying to recall the words. He hummed a bit but I didn’t recognize it. “It was a favorite of my parents. I learned it as a boy. It tells of God’s unfailing love and of His faithfulness. So, I started to hum and even to sing the song in my prison cell.”
I leaned forward, straining to make certain I didn’t miss a word. I sensed something of great value coming. I was not to be disappointed.
“I could have cried like many and asked God,” why have you let this happen to me? Why am I sleeping in my own waste? Why am I hungry and drinking dirty water?” He paused again, letting a great smile form on his lips, reaching his already twinkling eyes. “But as I sang and hummed the song, its truth took hold of me. I could feel God’s presence in my prison cell. His love was greater than the filth around me. His light shone peace into my weary soul. Yes, His peace can reach anywhere, but we have to take hold of it.”
Once more he rested before continuing his narrative. I wanted to say something, but I could feel this was a precious, and yes, a holy moment, so I just smiled with him, enjoying God’s presence that filled the room. Suddenly, as if someone had pushed a button, he sat up straighter, looked at me and said with the most tender smile, “when I think of all God has done for me, saving me from myself and from my enemies, promising me life eternal no matter what I have done that has been wrong and sinful; well, it is then that I, too, have to ask the question, “Why me?” He chuckled before adding, “and I know the answer; it is because He is my Father and a good father will always tend to the needs of his children.”
I left this man with a feeling that I was walking on air. The poignancy of his story and the wisdom of his words has stayed with me. No matter outward circumstances, no matter how hard Satan tries to make us fall, the truth still stands; God is greater than anything and will be our everything.
“But the Lord is good; He has cut the cords used by the ungodly to bind me.” Psalm 129:4