Friends Forever

Terrie Chappell

On November 21, our family received word that our oldest son, Larry, was diagnosed with cancer. A mother never wants to hear such news regarding her child, but reality sets in quickly. Yet through many long days in the hospital God showed us “What a friend we have in Jesus.”

Looking back, we are so thankful to the Lord for bringing Larry through two successful surgeries and many long nights in recovery at the hospital. We also thank the Lord for the grace that has been so evidently displayed in Larry’s life and in the life of our daughter-in-law, Ashley.

Larry began his first round of chemotherapy treatments in January. During the first morning of treatment, the pharmacist assigned to his case stopped by to explain the details regarding his various medications and dosages. After talking to him for awhile, my husband invited the kind pharmacist, Frances, to our church and briefly shared the Gospel with him. The conversation was pleasant, and after a short time, the pharmacist slipped away to tend to other patients.

The next morning began very early as we drove down to Los Angeles to begin the second day of treatment. This day, another pharmacist named John stopped in to see Larry—but he wasn’t checking on his medication. When he walked in the room, he explained that he and Frances were chatting before their work day began. In passing, John told Frances that he didn’t want to meet any new patients that week since it was his last week at this particular hospital. He explained that it was too hard for him to say goodbye to his patients after spending time with them in chemotherapy. Then, he went on to say, “But, Frances told me that there was a 25-year-old youth pastor who had been admitted just yesterday, and that he and his family were Christians. I am a Christian, too! So, I wanted to stop by and pray with you.” His visit was a pleasant surprise, and after enjoying a sweet time of fellowship and prayer, John prepared to leave. Just as he was walking out the door, he turned around and made a statement I will always remember. He said, “Don’t forget, Larry, I’m your friend, and not just for today. I’m your eternal friend.”

In a moment of sincere expression, this pharmacist was letting Larry know that he was not just a medical professional offering him a human solution to cure his cancer. He was a brother in Christ—a friend who would uphold Larry in prayer long after they parted ways. And while they may not meet again on this earth, he will be his friend even in eternity.

Long after the pharmacist left the hospital room, his words kept ringing in my ears, “your eternal friend.” I could not help but think of our loving Heavenly Father who promises to never leave us or forsake us. Truly, He is our eternal Friend. Though we may not understand the challenges and trials of this life, we can find comfort in the love and provision of our faithful God.

I think back to how God brought John to Larry when he needed some encouragement, and I remember some of the promises God gives to us.

God uses people to encourage and strengthen us. “Ointment and perfume rejoice the heart: so doth the sweetness of a man’s friend by hearty counsel” (Proverbs 27:9). So many people have prayed for our family, and good friends have put their lives on hold to support us through this trial.

Christ has born the same pain we have and understands us completely. “For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:15–16). He is the friend we can always go to when it seems no one else understands.

While cancer has been a new trial for us, pain is no stranger to anyone. Perhaps you, too, are going through a time of sorrow. For some, it may be the death of a loved one or financial hardship. For others, the sorrow may come from a wayward child or great disappointment. No matter what the situation may be, I’d like to remind you that you have an eternal Friend! Though we can find comfort in the presence of earthly companionship, may we always look to our Best Friend for the strength we need to carry on. For, it is not by human might or power that we can overcome our trials—but by His Spirit.

By the way, thank you for your prayers for Larry and Ashley. The doctors have given him a good prognosis, and we eagerly anticipate how the Lord will use them and this time in our lives for His honor and glory!