Years ago, I was changing channels on the television one lazy afternoon, when I came across a man singing a song I had never heard before.
“I can only imagine when that day comes
When I find myself standing in the Son
I can only imagine when all I would do is forever
Forever worship You
I can only imagine.
I can only imagine.”
By now, you are probably envisioning Bart Millard of MercyMe singing these beautiful lyrics. But I had never heard of the group MercyMe at that time. I had never heard Bart Millard sing. Since then I’ve heard the song many times, and I recently saw the movie by the same title. The movie is based on the story of Bart Millard, who wrote “I Can Only Imagine,” as a tribute to his father after his death. After receiving Jesus Christ as his Savior, Bart’s father had gone from a monstrous bully whom Bart hated to the loving father he had always longed for. The song sprang from Bart’s heart as he imagined what it was like when his father went to heaven.
“Surrounded by Your glory
What will my heart feel
Will I dance for you Jesus
Or in awe of You be still
Will I stand in your presence
Or to my knees will I fall
Will I sing hallelujah
Will I be able to speak at all
I can only imagine
I can only imagine.”
I’m glad that it was the first time I heard the song. The man singing was severely disabled from an extremely painful disease that was gradually turning his muscle into bone. He was in a wheelchair, his body twisted. He was able to keep in tune to the music, but his voice was feeble with no power behind it. Yet it was so beautiful! The man, Garwin Dobbins, was singing from his heart, and he was anointed by the Holy Spirit. I was so moved, I was in tears within seconds . . . joyful tears. I was thinking about Mr. Dobbins envisioning how awesome it will be when he sees Jesus, and he is able to walk and run and speak clearly and praise God for his wholeness.
I guess I related to him so much because of my own struggles with mobility and pain. Through the years, when I’ve heard that beautiful song, I’ve thought about the man from time to time; wondered if he is still with us, imagining a pain-free, whole body . . . or if he has made it Home and is now able to dance and bow and kneel before the Lord.
That is what I imagine for myself when I hear the song now. I was around forty-two, feeling the best I had felt in all my adult years, when an accident caused me to have bone-on-bone arthritis within a year. My pain-free, active days were over. I still went about my life as usual; working, raising my children, being active in ministry for my Lord and my church, enjoying my life with my husband. But I was never without pain. Eventually, I went from hobbling on my own to walking with a cane, then to using a wheelchair and handicap scooter. The pain steadily increased as my mobility steadily decreased.
After one knee replacement, a hip replacement, and another surgery due to complications, I’m still on a walker and need my other knee replaced. I thought I’d be able to “dance before the Lord” by now. Not yet.
I believe in Divine healing. I’ve seen God heal people of major illnesses, which left doctors shaking their heads and saying the word “miracle.” God healed me of two major physical illnesses that doctors could not help. But when I prayed for Him to heal my “broken” bones, He whispered to my heart, “My grace is sufficient for you. My strength is made perfect in weakness.” For some reason, and His ways are far above our ways, God chose to give me strength in my weakness instead of healing. Much like He did with the Apostle Paul when he had an infirmity:
“For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me. And he said unto me, ‘My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness.’ Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me” (2 Corinthians 12:8-9).
God is sovereign. He can do what He wants to do. It’s my job to trust Him, whether the answer is yes, no, or wait; whether it’s divine healing or healing through a doctor’s ministrations; or even if the answer will only come when I’m in Heaven.
God is faithful. He has given me strength to do things way beyond my own abilities. He has carried me by His grace through pain and discouragement. And He will be with me until I am with Him in heaven. So, it may take one more knee surgery before I can kneel and dance before Him on this earth. But I tell you truly, if it doesn’t happen in my earthly lifetime, I know I will stand and dance and bow and kneel before my God for eternity.
I can only imagine!