Marti Wibbels, MS, LMHC
Have you ever thought you were headed in the right direction, only to discover you were going the wrong way? That’s what happened to my husband Alan and me during a trip to Southern California. Using frequent flyer miles, we were traveling the circuitous route—through San Francisco. Because our inbound flight from Denver to San Francisco arrived later than scheduled, we had to sprint across the terminal to reach our next gate in time. With no time to spare, we boarded the plane for the final leg of our trip. Reaching to put luggage in the overhead bin, I suddenly realized I’d left my favorite coat in the overhead bin of our previous plane. I turned to ask a flight attendant, “How do I report the loss of something on our last flight? Do I wait until we land in Burbank or is there somewhere I can report the loss now?”
She didn’t answer my question. Instead, she looked up sharply and said, “This plane is not going to Burbank.” A large group of people was still in the process of boarding the plane, walking past a gate where an agent had announced a flight to Burbank. After walking down a corridor under a sign that said Burbank, I was quite confident I knew where we were going. “No, we’re going to Burbank,” I said, kindly but firmly. “No, you’re not,” she said decisively. People around us joined the conversation. “No, we’re going to Burbank,” a chorus of voices insisted. Glaring around the group of indignant passengers, the flight attendant reached into her pocket and pulled out a flight manifest. “Look,” she said, jabbing her finger at the document to prove her point. “This flight goes to LA. It has always gone to LA. It only goes to LA. You are not going to Burbank if you stay on this plane.”
At her command, everyone rapidly exited the plane. We waited with bewildered gate agents until they discovered a miscommunication on the runway sent the wrong plane to “our” gate. My unrelated question redirected a planeload of people. (And, no, I never did recover the lost coat!) Although no one consciously led us astray, misinformation almost sent us to the wrong destination.
In life, it’s easy to end up where we don’t want to be. Maintaining a biblical perspective can keep us on track. But we need to remember where we’re going. The word “remember” is found over 150 times in the Old Testament. What do we need to remember?
- We need to remember truth, or we’ll be misled by lies.
- We need to remember God’s benefits, or we’ll be satisfied with the world’s crumbs.
- We need to remember to maintain an eternal perspective. Therefore if you have been raised with Christ [to a new life, sharing in His resurrection from the dead], keep seeking the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind and keep focused habitually on the things above [the heavenly things], not on things that are on the earth [which have only temporal value]. For you died [to this world], and your [new, real] life is hidden with Christ in God (Colossians 3:1-3, AMP).
I haven't met Justin Halbgewachs, but I feel like I know him. After friends shared Justin's story with me, I joined “Team Halbie” to pray for the 49-year-old father diagnosed with glioblastoma whose wife had recently died of breast cancer and for their three kids under age 19. Whenever Justin posted medical updates, his focus was the hope we have in Christ. Throughout his cancer journey, Justin rejoiced in God’s provision for his and his family's needs. During his ongoing battle with brain cancer, he gratefully married his second wife, Cherie, whose first husband had also died of cancer. Justin, Cherie, and their children persevered through his repeated surgeries and treatment, applying Justin's dad's reminder: “Focus on the character of God and not your circumstances.”
Expected to live 17 months, God extended Justin's life nearly three years. From hospital lobbies to his home, he played the piano, his music exquisitely demonstrating steadfast hope in God. When unable to play piano with his left hand, Justin continued playing with his right, thanking God he'd prerecorded the left-hand part.
Justin applied Psalm 23: “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I can have peace—you can have peace—the King of peace is with you..you don't have to wait until you get to the other side of the valley to have hope." The Covid pandemic raged during his cancer treatment, and Justin kept a biblical perspective. “There isn’t a ‘normal’ or ‘familiar’ to go back to except for Jesus. He’s as close as my next whispered prayer…my next groan. I can walk in peace and comfort in the middle of darkness, in the middle of storms.” Although Justin acknowledged the real challenges of his battle with brain cancer, he urged his Facebook followers to “Keep on coming to Jesus. Take heart. Stay with God. Don’t quit.”
When Justin was in hospice care, he encouraged people to look at hospice as a bridge to life, a good thing. He urged people not to tell people on hospice, “…if I never see you again…” He prayed, “Nevertheless, Lord, not my will but Yours be done.”
I’m thinking of the Halbgewachs family now, praying for comfort after last week's one-year anniversary of Justin’s Homegoing to Heaven. His wife Cherie echoes Justin’s perspective of hope in the Lord. Last week she wrote the following (which I share with her permission):
Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits, who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases (Psalm 103:2-3).
“The fact that Justin was fighting terminal brain cancer would have led anyone to think his favorite part of this bible verse was ‘who heals all your diseases.’ But that wasn't him. His focus was on ‘forget not all His benefits.’ He said it many times and lived his life like this, pointing always to the Lord's Amazing Grace. So while I remember my husband, Justin Halbgewachs daily, on this one year anniversary of his homegoing I'm thinking especially on all the benefits of his love for his Savior. Jesus is why, as he now lives in heaven, Justin's iniquities are forgiven and why all of his diseases have been healed! What benefits there are when we first seek the Kingdom of God and His righteousness! Matthew 6:33… We are good because God is so good! He is faithful!”
What is your struggle today? “Bless the Lord…and forget not all His benefits…”
He is with you, and He loves YOU! YOU matter to God.
Thanks for joining me today.