“The Miracle of a Mended Heart”
Christmas is known as a time of celebration, joy and good tidings. Yet for some, it can be the most difficult time of the year. Doc resided, later worked and then died as a part of the Topeka Rescue Mission family. He endured much pain throughout his life but in the end he discovered the true joy of living that comes through a relationship with Jesus Christ. In turn, Christmas ended up becoming his favorite holiday. As you read of his life, our prayer is that regardless of what you might be facing this season, you also would receive of the abundant life which is available to you through the One we celebrate – Jesus Christ. He is not only the reason for the season, but the hope for our tomorrows. May you sense His presence, love and encouragement as you read…
Doc spent over ten years of his life homeless on the streets. Over time his heart became extremely hard. He was suspicious of everyone, had a strong addiction to alcohol, and did not have any interest in God. When he finally reached his breaking point, he knew it was time for a change. Though his expectations were low, he came to the Mission searching for help. At the age of sixty-two, Doc joined our long-term recovery program. It was there that the shift began. Not only did he find a new home through the Servants In Training (S.I.T.) program, but also a new family and new life.
In time, Doc handed his life over to the Lord and by the conclusion of his year in the program, he was truly a new man. The Lord had not only transformed his heart, but also transformed his mind and given him a new chance at life.
Just prior to his graduation from the S.I.T. program, Doc was offered a full-time position at the Mission’s Distribution Center (DC). His strong work ethic and amiable nature were evident and we were blessed to receive him onto the team.
Two years went by quickly and Doc continued to excel in life. He was living on his own in the community, continuing to grow in his walk with the Lord, and doing a phenomenal job in his role at the DC. His heart towards people was expanding with each passing day and he always had a word of encouragement or smile to share. Doc’s warm countenance and witty sense of humor won the hearts of many. He was loved by all who crossed his path.
Over time, Doc began developing health problems and it wasn’t long before a doctor shared the dreaded news… Doc was suffering from a severe case of throat cancer. His treatments began and produced more pain than can adequately be described. Numerous other physical complications also came forth. Yet, in spite of the many challenges he faced, Doc continued to amaze us all. Even when coworkers and friends encouraged him to slow down, he consistently pushed forward and never wavered in his desire to give his all. Instead of receiving sympathy, he wanted to continue to live his life as an encouragement to others and as a testimony of Jesus.
I had an office at the DC and was working late one evening after everyone else had gone. Consumed in my work, I was surprised to hear the door unlock and see Doc walk down the hall. Before checking on the receiving area to make sure everything was in place for the next morning, he stuck his head in my office to say hello. It was then a conversation took place that will forever remain embedded in my heart.
When Doc walked into the warehouse that night he was experiencing an even higher level of excruciating pain than usual. In order for the long-term cancer treatments to begin, all of his teeth had to be extracted due
to the high risk of treatment related complications if they remained. It was just hours before he came to the DC that night that the procedure had taken place.
I hadn’t had much opportunity to talk with Doc before this night, but knew of his struggles. I asked him the current status of his health and shared how very sorry I was to hear of his pain. His response to my words left me startled and taken back. I listened intently to some of the most profound and heart-piercing statements I’ve ever heard someone say.
Standing in my office with a body ravished with pain, Doc raised his eyebrows, nodded his head and admitted that he was hurting. “But,” he went on to say, “You can take a pill to make this pain better.” He gave a slight smile as he continued, “There’s a pain that you can’t take a pill for that is much worse than this… that’s the pain of a broken heart.”
His words gripped me. I could only imagine the intensity of the physical pain he was experiencing as he spoke. I looked at the man who stood before me. Though his body and face were worn, the sparkle in his eyes spoke deeply to my soul and the emotion from his words hit me like a cannonball. I began to feel unsteady and actually had to take two steps back to grab hold of the wall because of the impact of the truth I felt. I swallowed hard as Doc began to share and allow me the privilege of seeing a glimpse into his heart.
His heart had been broken many years ago. A relationship that had become his life went the wrong direction and left him wounded and alone. The brokenness was so deep that he lost all ambition and hope for life. As a result, he became homeless and found his solace in the streets for over a decade.
Tears filled his eyes as he cleared his raw, dry throat and then continued to say, “That’s the kind of pain you can’t take a pill for. You can drink it or drug it, but it never gets better.” Tears were now in my eyes as I felt the sincerity and truth in the words he shared.
While his words were simple, they radiated a truth I had seen so evident in countless people’s lives. Before my eyes flashed images of thousands of individuals I had worked with in my life and I realized that all too often we miss and overlook the greatest pain of all… the pain within their broken hearts; the root cause behind why their lives began spiraling downward in the first place.
Doc told me that when he found the Mission, he began to see his heart heal. Choking back tears, he shared about the love he had found from so many. He said their love healed what he never believed could be; and, because of their love and the love of God, he could face whatever was before him with confidence. He had already experienced the worst of pain and knew now if God could heal that kind of pain, “whether I live or die, I will be healed from all pain in the future.”
I fought back the tears that filled my eyes but inside I wanted to weep like a child. There was so much brokenness and hardship this man had experienced in his life, but yet he remained confident in God and displayed a faith rarely seen in this world today. I was speechless and in awe.
I watched as Doc walked out of my office and back through the warehouse to work on his task. Still choking back tears, the Holy Spirit spoke to my heart. He showed me that the words spoken were everything He had been trying to teach me, all wrapped into one. Once again, I was reminded of the clear reason why God had placed me at the Mission over twenty-five years ago. It wasn’t just about providing food and shelter, it was about helping people receive the love of Jesus Christ so they could find healing for their broken hearts and receive a new chance and hope for their lives.
Doc lived many years of his life hopeless, broken and bitter. He distrusted people and had no belief in God. It wasn’t until he was able to see the love of Christ manifested through man, that he was drawn to the Lord and willing to surrender his life. As he did, not only was his life changed but the lives of countless others who he influenced as well.
The days leading up to Doc’s death were filled with some of the most profound demonstrations of love I have ever encountered. His desire was to live until Christmas, his favorite holiday. Sadly, we knew apart from a miracle this would not occur. On his 65th birthday, instead of just a celebration of life, the DC was decorated for Christmas and joy was exchanged as many came to share their greetings and love. It was later that day, while enjoying fellowship with a brother he had not seen in years, Doc began having difficulty breathing and was admitted into hospice care. During his four day stay, there was not a single moment when he was there alone. Not only was the sweet Presence of God in his room, floods of people came through his door to pray, fellowship and share of their appreciation and love for the man God had used to touch their lives. This man, once so broken, angry and alone was now restored in spirit, joyful and surrounded by more friends than most people have the privilege of experiencing in a lifetime. Even when fading in and out of consciousness, Doc had a smile to share, an innocent joke to tell, or the faint whisper of “Jesus” on his lips. In time, the healing he was confident of came forth as he peacefully entered into eternal rest with his Savior. Doc left a legacy through his life and I’m not sure that anyone who had the privilege of knowing him will ever forget his warm smile or familiar embrace.
Everyone I have ever met has experienced some type of heartbreak at least once in their lives. Regardless of where it comes from, scars can build up from the trauma and are often left as permanent damage to our hearts. While our physical bodies can experience suffering, what often hurts greater is the pain on the inside that no one sees. When God sent His Son, Jesus Christ, into this world as a babe so many years ago, it was because He never intended for us to walk alone. He came as a gift to you and me so that we would no longer have to carry the pain and burdens we often face.
Doc was an ordinary man who God was able to use in extraordinary ways to touch the lives of others around him. All because he simply embraced the Savior he found and chose to hold onto His promises above the trials he faced. He knew with all confidence that his circumstances would not last forever and, regardless of the outcome, God was still worthy to be praised. It was because of his unwavering faith that multitudes of lives have been touched and transformed for the glory of Christ.
Regardless of what you are facing, what pain consumes you or what trials surround you, God is with you. He is ready to release the gifts of peace and hope this Christmas if only, like Doc, you would look with confidence to Him and trust Him no matter how challenging your circumstances might be. Your pain may be great and overwhelming at this moment in time, but I promise if you would receive of this great gift and put your trust in Him, the anguish will not consume you forever.
Christ came to give you life, heal your wounds and fill you with love. Let Him take the heaviness, pain, loneliness and fear and replace it with hope for all your tomorrows. It’s the greatest gift our Father could give and the greatest gift you could ever receive. Merry Christmas… may God’s blessings be upon you as you receive of His Son this season and throughout the new year.