At the end of an earthly life, we like to list the achievements of the man or woman. These may consist of business or social accomplishments, progeny, or athletic and military feats. We try to say something good about that person, but for some few just living the life to the end is accomplishment enough.
For these few, the list of their suffering is sufficient to make one wonder how he or she made it to the end. An accumulation of injuries, a debilitating disease or condition, or what the world calls just plain bad luck leaves a person suffering more than the normal lot of most humans. Fortitude for these is not in running a marathon, but just getting up and walking. A victory of endurance is not a lifetime of work, but each day worked successfully. Of course, the man himself may not see it that way. Often the man we see as especially given over to suffering considers himself blest with an unusual outpouring of God's grace as he lives each day.
Hearing the story of Mark's health issues for the first time left me wondering once if God was not teasing the poor man with the promise of his 'this day'. The day I am referring to comes from Luke 23:43, when Jesus promised the believing thief that 'this day' he would be with his new Lord in Paradise. Exaggeration of Mark's story is hardly necessary, so I will not attempt to list the near-death and other serious health crises that Mark suffered and I heard about second hand. Once I imagined Mark and I walking away from each other up at the Cabela's headquarters building each praying to God that the other might gain some relief in this life. You can imagine the little thought balloons over our heads as we cried out, "Lord, that fellow has suffered enough!"
Of course, God decides when the day of relief from this world will come. As I'm sure Mark did, I do not consider myself particularly unfortunate in suffering when compared to those who have died as martyrs for Christ. Even now, those who might be considered blessed with extra suffering can point to another that we consider worse off than us. We are not judging that person, only praying for them with a little extra care and attention. I know that Mark prayed for me, as I did for him. Perhaps one of the reasons God blessed us with Mark was for the express purpose of reminding me and you to pray for others. The love of Christ in us shows through best in our prayers for one another.
Mark invariably asked after my health concerns or pain level when we met. He did not fail to give the glory to God even as we compared notes on where to get shoes built up on one side. As Mark stood out in my mind as a noteworthy sufferer, I'm sure that many such unacknowledged prayer partnerships existed between him and another that he considered more in need of prayer than himself. Paul acknowledged that he suffered much, but also exhorted us to place others ahead of ourselves in prayer. Giving up was not an option for the great apostle, and it was not for Mark.
The courage to endure to the end may be bolstered by the suffering of another. Certainly watching God lead Mark through enduring another major medical this or a minor medical that for months and years, and yet have the strength to testify of God's love while enduring another biblical contest with the JW's, gave me hope to carry on to the end. Mark read and lived the Word while giving up his body to medical invasions seemingly without end or rest. We too have the responsibility to testify of God's goodness in situations that look so very bad.
For Mark loved and trusted God, the One True God who has now fulfilled Mark's promise of his 'this day'. The day the Lord Jesus promised to a certain thief who took a moment to believe at the very end of his mortal journey, has come for one of our own. We give Mark up to God for a brief time while our time of testing and trial continues. I need not envy Mark his 'this day', nor do you, for our 'this day' will arrive one day - not in our will, but in God's will - at the perfect time to honor and glorify our Lord and Father in Heaven.
Mark's great hope is now fulfilled in Christ, but his greater hope is that one day all of us will visit him in his new home for a worship celebration of the One who died to bring us all together in His heavenly home.God bless you all,