A Report on Africa Arise Conference & AU's Prayer Breakfast for African Heads of State (January 24-30, 2017). By Samuel Koranteng-Pipim, PhD Just in case you miss the thrust of my report, this is what I want to say: “Success without a successor is failure. True leaders train others to succeed the...
|One Wounded Eagle: The Woman Who Became Sick & Died||| Print ||
(Dr. Pipim's Funeral Tribute To the Late Mother Josephine, June 6, 2013)
Though I’m a Ghanaian living in the USA, and though she was a Nigerian, the late Madam Josephine was my mother. This is why I deem it a privilege to be asked by the immediate family to represent all the people to whom Madam Josephine was a mother.
Before I share my tribute, I’ll briefly explain (i) why Mother Josephine was my mother and (ii) how I got to know her. Then I’ll proceed to share (iii) lessons I’ve learned from her sickness and death.
1. WHY SHE WAS MY MOTHER
Giving birth doesn’t necessarily make a person a mother. Nor does loving and caring alone (as does a step-mother, adoptive mother, guardian, grandmother, aunt, nurse, teacher, or social worker). Motherhood is more than biology (nature) and sociology (nurture); it’s also theology (Scripture). Jesus explains: “Whoever does the will of My Father in heaven is My … mother” (Matthew 12:50).
Correctly understood, a true mother is any woman who caringly leads others to usefulness to humanity AND God. She leads them to a saving relationship with Christ and a loving obedience to God’s will.
Thus, a true mother ought also to be a spiritual mother. This explains why one of the final acts of our Lord Jesus Christ while dying on Calvary’s cross was to entrust the care of his biological mother (Mary) to one of His beloved disciples (the apostle John). Pointing to His mother, Jesus said to John: Behold thy mother! (John 19:27). In other words, motherhood goes beyond genetic or blood ties. It is also a spiritual relationship.
At the risk of over-repeating myself, let me emphasize again: A true mother is a spiritual mother. She is one who leads us to a better understanding of the ways of God and to the doing of His will. These responsibilities necessarily include caring for the physical wellbeing and other needs of the children entrusted to their care, whether those children are biological or not. The world is most indebted to such “mothers-in-Israel”—and is in dire need of such “mothers of thousands of ten thousands” (cf. Judges 5:7; cf. Genesis 24:60).
Madam Josephine Olubisi Akobi was such a mother to me. And I’m greatly honored that I’ve been invited to pay a tribute to her—on behalf of her many spiritual children.
2. HOW I GOT TO KNOW HER
I got to know her exactly 2 years ago, when I suffered a major spiritual failure in life. In fact, it was from this very town of Ile-Ife, Nigeria, that I formally announced my failure to the world on Sunday, May 29, 2011. Shortly afterwards, on that same day, I flew out of this country to the USA to face the inevitable fallouts from my announcement.
Upon my arrival in the United States the next day, I received a long letter of encouragement from one of the biological children of Mother Josephine. It was in that letter that Mother Josephine was formally introduced to me. The letter spoke of her as “Wounded Eagle #1”—an expression that was used to describe her life—from childhood till that time. Hers was a life that was characterized by the intense trial of suffering and pain.
Since the reception of that letter on May 30, 2011, I’ve gotten to know our mother a lot more through her daughter, son-in-law, and others. On one occasion, during one of her regular admissions to the hospital, I actually got to see her via skype and even tried communicating with her—though she couldn’t respond.
I had always wanted to come down to Nigeria and pay her a personal visit. Thus, when the opportunity arrived for me to give a series of “Africa Must Think” lectures in Lagos from May 27-June 3 this year (2013), I notified her daughter and son-in-law that after my lectures in Lagos, I’ll travel to this town of Ife and spend 2 days with mother Josephine. It’s rather unfortunate that the planned meeting couldn’t take place. For, less than a week before I left the USA to Nigeria, I was roused from sleep and informed about her death on May 20.
Though I never got to meet her in person, as planned, I’m thankful to the Lord that I can be here at her funeral to pay tribute to a real “Mother in Israel.”
My tribute will take the form of a biblical reflection on our Mother’s life of suffering and pain. I will attempt to answer the question, “Why does God sometimes permit His beloved children to suffer sickness and death?”
For me, the answer to this question is the most valuable lesson I have learned through the trial of our dear Mother Josephine. She was “One Wounded Eagle.” (I employ the eagle metaphor for all who seek to live to their highest God-given potential and, thus, soar above the “chicken” predicaments of the day).
3. LESSONS I HAVE LEARNED FROM HER
From her daughter, son-in-law, and some of the people who knew her intimately, I got to learn that Mother Josephine was a very unassuming and kind woman. She had a gentle, pleasant smile, a generous and selfless spirit, a passion for doing God’s work, and an indomitable courage and uncomplaining spirit in the face of trials.
But for me, the one lesson that I’ll always cherish is her life as a “Wounded Eagle”—her life of suffering and pain.
When I was first informed about the death of Mother Josephine—and even before that time—several questions flooded my mind: Why did God allow her to suffer so much pain—from her childhood to her death? Why did He permit her to battle for a long time (over twenty years) with illness? Why did the Lord allow her health to slowly wilt away, reducing her to total dependence, and endless bouts with unconsciousness? In short, why Does God sometimes allow His children to become sick and die?
In the context of Mother Josephine’s experience, I found some answers to my question in three remarkable examples in the Bible. Three faithful believers (“Eagles” of God) who also became “sick and died.” We shall look at the experiences of Lazarus, Elisha, and Dorcas.
1. Lazarus’s Sudden Illness and Death: John 11
We read the following in the first four verses of the eleventh chapter of the Gospel of John:
“Now a certain man was sick, Lazarus of Bethany, the town of Mary and her sister Martha.2 It was that Mary who anointed the Lord with fragrant oil and wiped His feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was sick. 3 Therefore the sisters sent to Him, saying, “Lord, behold, he whom You love is sick.”4 When Jesus heard that, He said, “This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God may be glorified through it.” (John 11:1-4)
Two lessons are worth emphasizing from the above verses:
(i) The sickness of a child of God is never unto death. We’re not talking here about physical death, for Lazarus did die. But rather Christ is ultimately referring to the second death—the death for which there’s no resurrection. The worst thing that can happen to a person is not the first death (which most of us will inevitably experience)—but the second death (the death without Christ—which is eternal death). A believer’s sickness and death “is not unto death” (v.4a) because there is going to be a resurrection.
(ii) The sickness of the Child of God is to the glory of God. Though hard to believe, according to Christ, Lazarus was sick “for the glory of God, that the Son of God may be glorified through it” (v.4b). Thus, by faith, we have to believe that the sickness of our mother Josephine was to glorify God. Only in eternity shall we fully understand this fact.
Subsequent verses in John 11 chapter provide us with additional reasons for why God’s people often suffer sickness and death.
(iii) God’s apparent delay in answering His children’s request for healing is evidence of His love! We find this in verses 5 and 6:
“5 Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. 6 So, when He heard that he was sick, He stayed two more days in the place where He was.”
Notice the connection between the two verses: “Now Jesus loved [the three siblings]…so… He stayed two more days.” He stayed two more days before responding to the call. In essence, the Bible says, because Jesus loved His children, He delayed. What a thought! Apparent delays by our Lord is an expression of His love for us. May this thought help us to trust in Him, no matter what and no matter how long.
(iv) The sickness and death of a child of God is for the sake of other believers. Not only was Lazarus’ sickness (and death) an expression of Christ’s love to the immediate family (Mary and Martha), but it was also permitted for the sake of other believers (including, the disciples of Christ). We find this thought in Christ words after Lazarus died. Jesus said to His disciples:
“’Our friend Lazarus sleeps, but I go that I may wake him up.’ 12 Then His disciples said, “Lord, if he sleeps he will get well.” 13 However, Jesus spoke of his death, but they thought that He was speaking about taking rest in sleep. 14 Then Jesus said to them plainly, ‘Lazarus is dead. 15 And I am glad for your sakes that I was not there, that you may believe. Nevertheless let us go to him.’” (vv. 11-14).
The important point is found in verse 15: “I’m glad for your sakes that I was not there that you may believe.” While we complain when we don’t seem to sense the presence of God during our trials, Jesus rejoices! For, one purpose of sickness and death is so God’s children will “believe.” In other words, though the sickness of our loved ones may break their bodies and cause us some anguish, their painful ordeal should NOT break our faith. It should rather cause us to believe in Him more.
When, through illness, our faith is strengthened, it makes Christ glad. On the other hand, it makes Christ sad and he “groans in the spirit” when we don’t fully believe (see verses 33 and 38).
(v). The sickness and death of a child of God is for the sake of NON-believers. Besides the immediate family and believers, God often permits tragedies to befall His children for the sake of unbelievers. This fact is stated clearly in verses 42 to 44, when Jesus stood at the tomb of Lazarus and prayed to the Father:
42 And I know that You always hear Me, but because of the people who are standing by I said this, that they may believe that You sent Me.” 43 Now when He had said these things, He cried with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come forth!” 44 And he who had died came out bound hand and foot with graveclothes, and his face was wrapped with a cloth.
Notice verse 42, where Christ stated that it was for the sake of those who stood by “that they may believe…” It must become evident that, when God permits illness and death to befall His children, it is for a reason. Besides the glory of God, it is (a) for the sake of the immediate family (it’s an expression of His love for them); (b) for the sake wider family of believers (so their faith might be strengthened); (c) for the sake of non-believers—so they might believe:
I’m sure there are other reasons why God permits His children to be sick and die.Though painful and inexplicable to us, one day we shall fully understand the seemingly hopeless situation.
(vi) When a believer’s sickness results in death, there’s always a resurrection. To the child of God, no situation is hopeless. Our Lord can transform the most helpless situation for our good and to His glory—i.e., if we believe. Here’s how God did it in the sickness and death of Lazarus.
38 Then Jesus, again groaning in Himself, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone lay against it. 39 Jesus said, “Take away the stone.” Martha, the sister of him who was dead, said to Him, “Lord, by this time there is a stench, for he has been dead four days.”40 Jesus said to her, “Did I not say to you that if you would believe you would see the glory of God?” 41 Then they took away the stone from the place where the dead man was lying. And Jesus lifted up His eyes and said, “Father, I thank You that You have heard Me. 42 And I know that You always hear Me, but because of the people who are standing by I said this, that they may believe that You sent Me.” 43 Now when He had said these things, He cried with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come forth!” 44 And he who had died came out bound hand and foot with graveclothes, and his face was wrapped with a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Loose him, and let him go.” (John 11:38-44).
At the command of the Lord, Lazarus did come forth from the grave! Christ does have power over death. He Himself once declared: “I am He who lives, and was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore. Amen. And I have the keys of Hades and of Death” (Revelation 1:18).
Our Lord is ultimately in control over all the things that happen to us. This is why, to those who believe in Him, sickness and death have no power. Since this is the case, we can trust that He has power over all the issues often associated with sickness and death—including, the loss of income, huge hospital and funeral bills, severe family disruptions, etc.
From the experience of Lazarus who became “sick and died,” we learn that we must not question God for the long illness and death of our own Mother Josephine. As in the case of Lazarus, God will ultimately be glorified in what appears to us now as a puzzle. By faith, we must also believe that God permitted the sickness and death out of love. And one day, when His voice commands again, death will have no choice but to let go its captives. That day is coming soon!
2. Elisha’s Lingering Illness and Death: 2 Kings 13
Mother Josephine battled with illness for over twenty years. In the latter years of her life, she was often in and out of consciousness. What was God’s specific purpose for our Mother, when He allowed this long lingering illness? Was there anything God was trying to do in the life of Mother Josephine?
Inspired writings provide us with some answers. From the second book of Kings, we read:
“Elisha had become sick with the illness of which he would die. Then Joash the king of Israel came down to him, and wept over his face, and said, ‘O my father, my father, the chariots of Israel and their horsemen!’” (2 Kings 13:14).
Why did God permit His faithful and selfless servant Elisha to be “sick and die”? Why didn’t God cause the beloved prophet to rise from his sickbed or even take him to heaven without seeing death—as, for example, God did in the case of the prophet Elijah, when He took him up in a chariot of fire?
From a pregnant paragraph in the writings of E. G. White, we learn that God was doing a mysterious thing in the life of His faithful servant—a lesson we may also apply to our Mother Josephine. We read the following from the book Prophets & Kings, p. 263:
It was not given Elisha to follow his master in a fiery chariot. Upon him the Lord permitted to come a lingering illness. During the long hours of human weakness and suffering his faith laid fast hold on the promises of God, and he beheld ever about him heavenly messengers of comfort and peace. As on the heights of Dothan he had seen the encircling hosts of heaven, the fiery chariots of Israel and the horsemen thereof, so now he was conscious of the presence of sympathizing angels, and he was sustained. Throughout his life he had exercised strong faith, and as he had advanced in a knowledge of God's providences and of His merciful kindness, faith had ripened into an abiding trust in his God, and when death called him he was ready to rest from his labors. . . . (Prophets & Kings, p. 263.3; cf. Conflict & Courage, p. 229.2).
Like Elisha, it was the Lord who allowed Mother Josephine’s to have the “lingering illness” called diabetes. In the course of that sickness, God’s angels were present to give comfort, peace, and sustenance. She “advanced in her knowledge of God’s providences or ways, and of His merciful kindness.” That experience “ripened her faith into an abiding trust in God, and when death called her, she was ready.”
What a comforting thought to know that by the time our mother became totally unconscious of any of her decision-making abilities, her faith had ripened into a whole-hearted trust in her Savior and that “she was ready”!
The question is are we also ready—just as our Mother Josephine was?
3. Tabitha’s Unexplainable Sickness & Death: Acts 9
In an attempt to understand why our Lord allowed our Mother to suffer for 20 long years before being called to rest, we’ve talked about the sudden sickness and death of Lazarus, and of the lingering illness and death of Elisha. But, perhaps, the best way to sum up why God permitted our beautiful Mother Josephine to suffer illness and die, is to look at the life of another beautiful woman who became “sick and died”.
Her name was Dorcas (or Tabitha). Her illness and death is all the more remarkable in that she was the first person to be raised from the dead by the apostles after the departure of Christ.
Observe also that not a single one of the twelve disciples was ever brought back from the dead—yet Tabitha was. Not Peter, not James, not Stephen, not Paul, but Dorcas. Why? Could it be that the story of Dorcas—a woman who had become “sick and died”—is intended to speak to us in situations such as we faced in the case of Mother Josephine?
Who was Dorcas and why did God allow this remarkable woman who “was full of good works and charitable deeds” to be “sick and to die”? In answering these questions, we shall also catch a glimpse of the measure of our Mother Josephine and why God permitted her to suffer for so long before being called to her rest.
“A certain disciple named Tabitha, which is translated Dorcas. This woman was full of good works and charitable deeds which she did.37 But it happened in those days that she became sick and died” (Acts 9:36, 37).
Let’s briefly explore some parallels in the lives of our Mother Josephine and Dorcas:
(i) An Ordinary Woman. Like our mother, Dorcas or Tabitha was not an eloquent preacher or theologian. She was not an elder or pastor of her church (in fact, she couldn’t have been, because the Bible didn’t allow it). She never wrote any books, wasn’t a musician with many record albums, she wasn’t wealthy as to make major financial donations to the church. She wasn’t out in the forefront or in the limelight where all her actions could be seen and admired.
Instead, Dorcas was just an ordinary woman who sewed simple clothes for the poor. A vocation that was seemingly insignificant. If God showed such an interest in an ordinary woman as Dorcas, we must take comfort in the fact that He also cared for our ordinary Mother.
(ii) A Beautiful Woman. The name of the woman who “became sick and died” indicates that she was beautiful. Tabitha (in Aramaic) and Dorcas (in Greek) both mean gazelle or female deer, often praised for its beauty and neatness. The name suggests that everything about her was attractive. From her physical features, speech, deeds, and generosity to others, she was beautiful.
She lived in a city called “Beautiful” (for Joppa means beautiful). Observe, however, that Dorcas wasn’t beautiful because she lived in Joppa. Instead, Joppa was beautiful because Dorcas lived there. It was she who added value to the city.
The woman who “became sick and died” had a beautiful name, lived in a beautiful city, and had a beautiful relationship with God. How do we know? Because she is described as “a certain disciple named Tabitha, which is translated Dorcas” (v. 36). Although every believer is a disciple (a “learner” or “follower”), Dorcas is the only woman who is called a disciple in the Bible. She totally surrendered her life to the lordship of Christ, and because Christ lived in her heart, she was beautiful.
What is said about Dorcas is equally true of the ordinary woman in Ife who became sick and died. Our Mother was also a beautiful woman. The Hebrew meaning of the name “Josephine” is “May Jehovah add.” It is the feminine form of Joseph. Our Mother lived up to her name Josephine by allowing herself to be used by God in adding value to lives of people. It is in this sense that she was a beautiful woman. And not even the ravages of sickness could erase the beauty of her character.
(iii) A Woman Engaged In A Beautiful Work. The actions of Dorcas spoke louder than her words. We read in verses 36 and 39 of Acts 9:
"This woman was full of good works and charitable deeds which she did…And all the widows stood by him weeping, showing the tunics and garments which Dorcas had made while she was with them" (Acts 9:36, 39).
Dorcas was not a talker, but a doer. And not just a one-time doer. She "was always doing good and helping the poor," making robes and other clothing for widows "while she was still with them" (NIV). Doesn't this describe the generous life of our Mother? She was always there for people in need.
For those of us who are tempted to despise certain labors or ministries as unimportant, the beautiful character of Dorcas—and our Mother—is a rebuke to us. Her “needle-work” ministry of sewing and helping the poor was as important as any other spiritual gift. Sewing, cooking, cleaning, taking care of her children, doing all the other “little” chores at home, work and church was as valuable as preaching, teaching, administration, pastoring, etc.
In God’s estimation a great work or ministry is not defined by position, power, accolade, etc. Rather, it is defined by faithfulness in the little things entrusted to us.
“Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” (James 1:27; NIV)
She cared for the needs of others. But observe carefully that Dorcas’ work was not just another humanitarian, philanthropic, or community service work. It was work that was motivated by and done for Christ. And it was this love for Christ that enabled her to do her work selflessly and sacrificially.
Observe also that she lived at a time of a major crisis and need in the apostolic church. The previous chapter of the book of Acts tells us what happened after the death of Stephen:
“At that time a great persecution arose against the church which was at Jerusalem; and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles. 2 And devout men carried Stephen to his burial, and made great lamentation over him.3 As for Saul, he made havoc of the church, entering every house, and dragging off men and women, committing them to prison” (Acts 8:1-3).
As a result of the persecution there were many orphans and widows; there were many poor people. And Dorcas, the beautiful woman who became sick and died, was always there to offer a helping hand. She labored selflessly and sacrificially. She didn’t wait to be told what to do. She understood that taking care of the needy—feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, visiting the sick, etc.— was actually ministering to Christ Himself (cf. Matthew 25:31-46).
In many respects, Dorcas reminds me of the generous life of our Mother Josephine. She was just an ordinary woman who lived in Ife. She didn’t preach before thousands. She didn’t stand before governors and kings. She didn’t earn a doctorate degree or write some best-selling books. Rather, she did ordinary everyday things, for ordinary everyday people. She served those who were in need in the community, church, and work.
Even more, she did what needed to be done because she recognized that to be for the advancement of the cause of Christ. Thus, her work was a ministry. She correctly understood that anything done to advance the work of God is ministry. So, was Mother Josephine. Though a nurse by profession, her whole heart was in God’s work. And her profession was used to advance the work of God. Her time, means, her energy, etc.
(iv) A Woman Who Couldn’t Be Stopped By Death. One of the mysteries of life is that, often, those who are very kind have their lives cut short my illness and death. But why?
One answer is that even in death, their ministry continues! Sometimes the miracles God performs at the death or funerals of His beloved children can have a far greater impact than what they could have done had they been alive.
In the case of Dorcas, God worked a miracle by raising her from the dead. The result was that the miraculous act had the effect of spreading the Gospel to a far greater extent than the work she could have done in life. Now let’s read the entire passage:
36 At Joppa there was a certain disciple named Tabitha, which is translated Dorcas. This woman was full of good works and charitable deeds which she did.37 But it happened in those days that she became sick and died. When they had washed her, they laid her in an upper room. 38 And since Lydda was near Joppa, and the disciples had heard that Peter was there, they sent two men to him, imploring him not to delay in coming to them. 39 Then Peter arose and went with them. When he had come, they brought him to the upper room. And all the widows stood by him weeping, showing the tunics and garments which Dorcas had made while she was with them. 40 But Peter put them all out, and knelt down and prayed. And turning to the body he said, “Tabitha, arise.” And she opened her eyes, and when she saw Peter she sat up. 41 Then he gave her his hand and lifted her up; and when he had called the saints and widows, he presented her alive. 42 And it became known throughout all Joppa, and many believed on the Lord. 43 So it was that he stayed many days in Joppa with Simon, a tanner (Acts 16:36-43).
In our fallible human judgment, God shouldn’t have allowed Dorcas to be sick or die. She was of such good to society and church. But, like every seeming misfortune that comes the way of God’s children, whatever God permits will glorify His name.
Lest we should lose a salient point in the passage above, note that the miracle performed in the raising up of Dorcas spread the Gospel farther than anything else—resulting in many believing in the Lord: “And it became known throughout all Joppa, and many believed on the Lord” (v. 42).
The sickness and death of Dorcas brought about an evangelistic explosion! In other words, death could not stop the work of God from spreading—beginning in Joppa and spreading beyond the regions. Indeed, the Dorcas spirit has continued to this very day, giving birth to many charitable societies or Dorcas societies around the world. Only God could foresee the full result of the sickness and death of His child.
This thought should help us put into perspective the mystery of the sickness and death of our own Mother Josephine. Only eternity can fully measure the impact of her sickness and death.
For me personally, I can say that through her long years of sickness and death, I have gained a greater insight into why God often allows His soaring Eagles to be wounded by tragedy and adversity. And I intend sharing this discovery far and near—another legacy from the life of our mother Josephine.
4. WE MAY NEVER FULLY UNDERSTAND
It is a biblical fact that God’s faithful children DO get sick and die. It is also true that God sometimes allows His soaring Eagles to be wounded by painful tragedies and adversities. Until Jesus comes again to take us home, we shall never fully understand why.
But in the context of Mother Josephine’s illness and death, we have discovered some insightful reasons—from the experiences of Lazarus, Elisha, and Dorcas. The simple answer is this: When God so permits sickness and death, it is not because He doesn’t care about us. Nor should our trials and afflictions be interpreted as an indication of God’s abandonment or curse upon us. On the contrary, we must understand that
--He loves us—whether believers or unbelievers
--It’s to the glory of God
--It will ripen our faith and make us ready
--Reveal the power of the life of an ordinary beautiful woman
These facts suggest that we must develop a different attitude when faced with sickness and death. If or when the Lord permits prolonged suffering and trials in our lives, we should not complain or be bitter. We should cheerfully accept our infirmities. Paul wrote:
“Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ's sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong” (2 Corinthians 12:9-10).
The apostle Peter also writes:
“Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you: But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ's sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy. . . . Yet if any man suffer as a Christian, let him not be ashamed; but let him glorify God on this behalf” (1 Peter 4:12, 13, 16).
And James encourages us:
“My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience.” (James 1:2, 3).4
The above passages of Scripture from the pens of Paul, Peter, and James, indicate that Christians must in faith receive their trials cheerfully. We must not fuss, question, be bitter, nor complain. We must not murmur nor curse. Neither should we be impatient and discouraged. Our attitude must be the same as the apostle Paul when he wrote:
“We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; Persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed” (2 Corinthians 4:8, 9).
I find the above thought beautifully displayed in the life of E.G. White. You see, Sister White, like Mother Josephine, was no stranger to suffering, pain, and even death—although she lived a full life to age 87.
As a young girl she suffered serious health problems which threatened her life. She experienced the death of a teenage son and an infant child and, later, the death of her husband. She knew loneliness, hurt, and rejection. In her later years she was bitterly afflicted with debilitating pain from what appears to be rheumatoid arthritis. During this time, while serving as a missionary in Australia, she wrote this in her 1892 diary:
“I will not murmur or complain. I am comforted every day; for the Lord understands my suffering. Even if He does not remove it, He will give me grace to endure the pain. I am comforted, and I praise the Lord with heart and soul and voice.”
In July 1892, amid the agony of pain, she began writing her classic on the life of Christ--The Desire of Ages. Her suffering drew her closer to Jesus in a way that prepared her for writing this inspiring book--a work that is adjudged by many as the best devotional commentary ever written on the life of Christ.
So, whether on the mountain top or in the valley, let God’s Eagles trust the Lord and keep growing in their faith relationship with Him. For, as Jane Eggleston has explained in her beautiful poem, “It’s In the Valleys I Grow”:
It’s In the Valleys That I Grow
Sometimes life seems hard to bear,
Full of sorrow, trouble and woe
It's then I have to remember
That it's in the valleys I grow.
If I always stayed on the mountain top
And never experienced pain,
I would never appreciate God's love
And would be living in vain.
I have so much to learn
And my growth is very slow,
Sometimes I need the mountain tops,
But it's in the valleys I grow.
I do not always understand
Why things happen as they do,
But I am very sure of one thing.
My Lord will see me through.
Forgive me Lord, for complaining
When I'm feeling so very low.
Just give me a gentle reminder
That it's in the valleys I grow.
The above poem aptly illustrates the fact that, no matter what happens to us in life, our faith in Christ compels us to say, “It will be well—even in the well.” This is the most valuable lesson I have learned from the trial of our dear Mother Josephine, the woman who became sick and died. For we know that, there’s coming a day when
“God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.”(Revelation 21:4).
There'll be no sorrow there,
No more burdens to bear,
No more sickness, no pain,
No more parting over there;
And forever I will be,
With the One who died for me,
What a day, glorious day that will be.
© 2013 Samuel Koranteng-Pipim, PhD, currently directs two Centers for Leadership Development known as EAGLES (Empowerment & Advisory Group for Leadership, Excellence, & Service) and ANANSE (African Network & Advisory for Needed Services & Excellence). www.EAGLESonline.org. He also serves as a special consultant on Bible Projects for Remnant Publications.
1. I was in Nigeria on a three-day “Back to Basics” Bible Lecture series when I made my public announcement to the world on May 29, 2011. In the last lecture I gave that Sunday morning (titled “Soar Like An Eagle”), I urged my audience to be “super-eagles instead of super-chickens,” pursuing excellence, instead of mediocrity. The “eagle” metaphor will later surface in a letter I received the following day, describing the experiences of “three wounded eagles”—i.e., the stories of three individuals who had suffered different kinds of adversities (see next note).
2. The letter was written by Mrs. Tomi Daniel, the only daughter of Mother Josephine. She described her mother as Eagle #1, her father-in-law (Eld. Luka Daniel) as Eagle #2, and myself as Eagle #3. The letter prefaced the experiences of each of the three named individuals thus: “Thank you for coming and sharing with us so freely of the good, the bad and the ugly. I’m still struggling to find the right words to express my thoughts ... Tongue-tied, tearful, hurt, angry, sad, scared… I’m still a basket case and can’t seem to stop crying when I think about how the devil maintains constant vigilance over us. You are the third eagle I know to have recently suffered a deadly blow from our archenemy, the devil, inflicting lingering pain far worse than death, the theme of the great controversy becomes more vivid and I long more for heaven. Two previously wounded eagles have caused me grief… and now a third one???” The letter proceeded to offer some encouraging words to me. The entire letter was made available on my website two years ago, as an attachment to the public announcement I made to my friends and colleagues in ministry. See, http://drpipim.org/resignation/147-resignation-letter.html. That encouraging letter of May 30, 2011 letter had a huge impact on my life--especially in the aftermath of my resignation. It contributed immensely towards my spiritual healing. For this reason, it will be incorporated as a chapter in one of my forthcoming books titled "The Wounded Eagle: Lessons from Failure."
3. In my lectures to youth and professionals around the world, I’m well-known for my use of the eagle as a symbol of excellence—academic, professional, and spiritual. Thus, I have promoted the ideal that we must all be eagles—God’s eagles. The eagle metaphor is employed to challenge all to live to their highest God-given potential and soar above the “chicken” predicaments of the day. Mother Josephine embraced this “eagle” ideal, and like several of my friends around the world, she sought to “soar.”
4. Because the King James Version translates the first part as: “My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations,” a brief comment is in order. The word “temptation” here does not mean sinful temptations, as commonly understood. It is not temptation as in the motivation or desire to sin that comes from within the depraved heart (see James 1:13). The word "temptations" (peirasmos) here means "testings" or "trials” (cf. Matthew 6:13, where Jesus teaches us to pray, “Lead us not into temptations”). These testings or trials are the difficult situations or circumstances in life that afflict us from without. This is why the New KJV translation is more accurate: “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials.”
5. For Jane Eggleston’s poem in its entirety, see my Patience in the Midst of Trials & Afflictions, pp. 103-104.