In the Land of the Living

One day each year, we celebrate the twenty-four hours that literally saved my life. On August 8, 2001, I received the precious gift of an organ transplant. In transplant groups, they call me a “survivor” according to the number of years, but I prefer to say, like everyone else who takes a breath every morning, “It’s great to be alive.” No life expectancy frames, but also no grandiose expectations of immortality either. As they say, “One day at a time.”

As I opened my Bible one morning, I noticed several scriptures I had penned on the back inside pages. Some had dates, leaving me wondering why I had noted it at that particular time. Other scriptures had comments in parentheses reminding me of their distinction. Two, however, earned a position of merit in the upper corner rather than the random placement of the others.

Psalm 118:17 and Psalm 27:13 are scriptures of the realization of looming death while holding on to the hope of life, placing our trust and confidence in the will and work of God.

Psalm 118:17 says, “I shall not die, but live, and tell of the works of the Lord.” Originally, I had noted and claimed this for our cancer-stricken pastor in 1994. I gained strength in observing how his sermons grew more powerful as his body grew weaker.

Little did I know I would be claiming it yet again a few years later when, in 1997, I was diagnosed with a disease giving me less than five years to live. Blood drawn during a routine physical eventually led the doctors to the discovery of an autoimmune disorder that had been silently destroying my liver, as well as other smaller organs, for years. We would learn later that the five-year life expectancy would only be four.

In February of 2001, I awoke from a dream with the most ominous presence around me. In the dream, I heard a voice shrouded by darkness speak the date of August 19. Puzzled, I wanted to believe it to be my coming transplant date, but I could not shake the feeling of darkness and gloom that had so engulfed me. So I rose and returned to the Scriptures.

I turned to Psalm 27, a psalm of David of trusting in the Lord without fear. The psalm begins with “The Lord is my light and my salvation, whom shall I fear?” I continued to read, trying to shake the menacing feeling. Then my eyes fell upon verses 13 and 14, and I wept.

“I would have despaired unless I had believed I would see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living. Wait for the LORD; be strong and let your heart take courage; yes, wait for the LORD.”

“Yes!” I shouted to the darkness. “Did you hear that? It says, ‘In the land of the living!’”

My eternal soul was secure, but I wanted to believe the Lord for the here and now, in this life—the land of the living! Though not my will, but His, I knew He was moving me into a place where He would show me that indeed I needed to “be still, and know that He was God” while learning to trust Him with my life—literally.

The ominous feeling, however, did not leave. Perhaps it is a feeling only those who are gravely ill can understand. Nevertheless, August was rapidly approaching, and I was getting weaker. Though I attempted to hide it from family and friends, I knew I could not survive to see my October birthday.

Then the call came late evening on August 7, 2001. After hours of preparation, followed by seven hours in transplant surgery, the doctor finally consulted with my anxious family. My surgeon spoke in amazement at how it appeared that tiny veins were miraculously melding together during the reconstruction. Then he informed them of the news I would learn a while later—that I would not have survived even two more weeks without the transplant. What would have been the month of my funeral became the month of celebration!

So, was August 19 to be the date of my death or perhaps my funeral? I will never know this side of heaven. I do know that the thief, the prince of darkness, “comes to kill, steal, and destroy; but Jesus came that I may have life, and might have it abundantly” (John 10:10). For now, though, August 19 no longer matters. What mattered in those crucial moments was that my faith and my hope rested in the word of God.

Death was defeated that day as we beheld the “goodness of the Lord in the land of the living” through His perfect timing and His hand in the surgery, as well as in the many days and months that followed. I have never ceased to stand amazed at the mighty works of our heavenly Father.

Whatever struggle, illness, or loss you may be going through; I encourage you to turn to the word of God for your strength, your peace, and your comfort. Allow the Lord to wash over your fears, your darkness, and your pain with the water of His Word. May your heart take courage today; be strong and wait for the Lord. For through we may not always understand, His timing is always perfect.


We thank you, Father, that in our darkest hours, we find our strength, our peace, and our comfort in Your Word. Though we may never fully understand, we know that Your ways and Your timing are always perfect, and we will spend the rest of our days telling of Your goodness in the land of the living! All glory, power, and honor are Yours, Almighty God and Eternal Lord. Hallelujah to our King!


  1. Though we may never fully understand, we know that Your ways and Your timing is always perfect, and we will spend the rest of our days telling of Your goodness in the land of the living! All glory, power, and honor are Yours,

    I stand firm in this as we carry the loss of our beautiful, precious daughter, Suzette, knowing that HIS ways are perfect and we will one day understand the full picture and purpose.

    We stand and rejoice with you as you celebrate another year. One thing we know for sure for ALL of us....HE is sufficient for us!!!!!

  2. Thank you Susan. And what a joy it is when we can stand securely and confidently in that All Sufficient Grace! You are an incredibly strong woman of God, Susan, and have endured deep personal suffering with great grace, evidenced in your beautiful writing. God bless you as we continue this journey together in service to our Lord.