If you were lucky enough to survive the Bataan death march, then you would have found yourself a prisoner of war at Cabanatuan, the most brutal prison camp in the Philippians during World War II. Thirty percent of Allied prisoners held in Japanese camps did not survive that hellish experience.
On January 28, 1941, inmates of Cabanatuan Army Rangers were liberated by 121 U.S. Army Rangers. On the 25-mile trek toward the relative safety of the American line, a newly freed POW wearing nothing but a pair of tattered trousers hanging on his emaciated frame drew alongside a chaplain, “You know, Chaplain,” he began, “I lost everything back there in that…prison camp, every earthly thing, including my health – but I didn’t lose God.” (Serving God & Country, Lyle W. Dorsett, Berkely Caliber)
The Apostle Paul also knew something about enduring hardship. He recounted his sufferings to the Christians at Corinth. On five occasions, he received 39 lashes. Three times he was beaten with rods. Once he was pummeled with stones. In danger from rivers, robbers, Jews, and Gentiles, he endured toil and hardship, hunger and thirst, cold and exposure. (II Corinthians 11) In spite of all this, or, perhaps because of all this, Paul was able to proclaim, “For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:38-39)
Paul lost every earthly thing, but he didn’t lose God.
Throughout 45 years of ministry, my life and my faith have been enriched by people whom I have known. Frieda was one of those who added something positive to my life. She was committed to her church, helpful to her neighbors, and concerned about others more than herself. Even at her advanced age, Frieda had a sparkling sense of humor and inclination toward mischief. Following any conversation with her, even a brief one, I would walk away with a smile on my face and a warm feeling in my heart. Undergirding her positive outlook on life was a deep faith in Christ.
Frieda spent the last several months of her life residing at the Maple Grove Home. With a twinkle in her eye, she would always ask me, “How are things in the outside world?” as though she were in prison. And then she would laugh.
She was a joy to be around although she had outlived a daughter who had died from diphtheria as a child and two sons who each passed away when they were around 50 years of age. Her husband had also died in late middle age. In the nursing home, she felt as though she had lost everything; but she hadn’t lost God.
We can lose everything yet still possess the most important thing in the world. We can still have a relationship with God through Jesus Christ. Nothing can destroy that unless we allow that to happen.
God does not save us from suffering, but sometimes He saves us through suffering.
Thanks be to God!
— Ken Tubbesing