It is still unbelievable to me that my special friend Cliff has died from a brain tumor that was diagnosed just seventeen days before his death. This same Cliff who lived such a healthy physical and spiritual life and who even hiked the Oregon/California crest with such strength and vigor was seized by such an aggressive tumor that his body never stood a chance. I am now preparing to travel to Portland, Oregon; there I will join the huge crowd that I believe will be present to pay their last respects to the person that I feel was the most humble person I have known.
I met Cliff and his wife Phyllis in church after moving to Portland, Oregon in 1998. After a short while I learnt that Cliff had the same passion for Ministry that I did; these will be my most cherished memories of him, us sharing in ministry together as we went door to door sharing God’s Word with anyone who would stop and listen. One of the hilarious moments to remember was the night we pulled up outside of someones home for an appointment, and as we got out of the car and I stepped onto the sidewalk, my skirt dropped to my feet (will tell you that story later)
Cliff loved his wife and family and was a man of great integrity and with a very Christlike character. I had never seen him angry, nor did he contribute to negativity. As a church leader he realized his responsibility to stand tall for truth from God’s Word, but he always did so in mercy and with an amazingly loving attitude. While I lived in Portland this wonderful couple also took me on some of the most beautiful hiking trails and up until his illness had taken many others to enjoy the same. Cliff really believed in “The Great Commission” of Matthew 28:19-20, which is why year after year he took groups of people on mission trips to build churches and whatever else he was inspired to do to help others to know that Jesus loves them. Both Cliff and Phyllis valued our friendship, and even after my move to California in 2001 we stayed in touch, and one time even delighted my husband and I with a visit to California.
So why did Cliff have to die? When I saw him in Portland three weeks ago, I could tell he was not well but I never knew I would not see him on this earth again. By trusting the wisdom of God we can accept life under all circumstances, for we know that a loving heavenly father will not lead or allow us to go otherwise than we would choose to go could we see all the implications of life as He sees them. Even God’s “No” becomes bearable under such a relationship of implicit faith. So as I cry about my great personal loss of my very precious friend and as I cry for his family, I am reminded of a Scripture that I have had the opportunity to share multiple times: Isaiah 57:1 “The righteous perisheth, and no man layeth it to heart: and merciful men are taken away, none considering that the righteous is taken away from the evil to come.” KJV.
The Bible speaks of the apostle Paul having a very grievous affliction. Paul himself speaks of it as “a thorn in the flesh.” So painful was this “thorn” that Paul prayed to the Lord three times “that it might depart” from him. He speaks of it as “the messenger of Satan,” dogging his steps wherever he went. But three times God said “No.” Did God’s answer discourage Paul? No. Rather he saw the purpose of this affliction: 2 Corinthians 12:7.Then in triumph Paul exclaimed “Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” 2 Corinthians 12:9.
Jesus also knew the sting of His Father’s “No.” Like Paul, He, too, prayed three times, “Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass.” And three times the reply was negative. Ungrudgingly yielded to the will of His father, Jesus entered the darkness where it was thickest. But with the Father’s “No” there came enabling strength for the ordeal.
My friend Cliff has entered the darkness of death, but I believe that on that great day when Jesus returns he will join the crowd who will be a part of the first resurrection; and Cliff would “not have you be ignorant, concerning them which are asleep…” he would want us to “comfort one another with these words.” 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18. (Revelation 21:1-5)
Thank you heavenly father for blessing my life with such a friend and brother in Christ. Amen.