“The LORD has chastened me sore,
but He has not given me over to death.”
When I came to visit my cancer-ridden mother in her hospital room, she asked me to read that scripture. A family member told me that he heard my mother’s physician say that he had never seen a larger tumor in a patient’s lung and that he had never met a person with a sweeter spirit. She would be dead in a couple of weeks, but the Lord had comforted her while she was reading Psalm 118 shortly before I arrived. If she had ever been touched so deeply by a single verse, I don’t know it. It felt as if she was clinging to that verse with all her heart and faith.
She knew that she had displeased God and that the cancer was the “sore chastisement” with which God had now afflicted her, but when I came into her room, I could see that her spirit had been touched in a special way by Psalm 118:18. She was feeling, deep in her soul, the great relief of knowing that her heavenly Father had not turned her over to death. She may have been entertaining the idea that she would be healed, as God had once healed her brother of cancer when he was given no more than ninety days to live, but that was not what He was saying to her. He was telling her that although her body would die, she herself would be saved and live with Him.
This is reminiscent of the situation in 1Corinthians 11:27–30. In those verses, Paul says that some saints in Corinth were suffering sickness because of their disobedience. Others had even died because of it. However, Paul went on to say that God had sent those sicknesses and had taken some home to be with Him “so that they might not be condemned with the world.” In other words, God “chastened them sore, but He did not give them over to death.” That was the encouragement Jesus gave my mother in her last days on earth. She was one of the many dear children of God who, though often chastised, just cannot seem to overcome a serious fault, and so, for them to continue to live in this world would not be good. In those cases, Paul revealed to us, their loving heavenly Father may choose to bless them by taking them home before their appointed time.