Transforming Diagnosis

Two photos of John Ed Mathison and his father, one taken when John Ed was a child, one more recently.


The COVID-19 pandemic reminded me of a story my dad told me about a man who went to the doctor for a battery of tests. The tests revealed the diagnosis of a terminal disease. The doctor was candid with him and told him that he would probably not live more than a few months.

The man was shocked. He immediately went to his pastor, who listened carefully and empathically. The man confessed that he did not have a real relationship with Jesus Christ. He had been a church member, but only to the extent of being noticed by his peers. The pastor led him in making a genuine commitment of his life to Christ.

The man then confessed that he had made a lot of money, but he had worshipped money. He now wanted to give to causes that were making a real difference in life. He started giving to his local church and some ministries. The man also discovered that he hadn’t treated his employees well. He started complimenting his employees and going the extra mile to do things for them. He inquired about their families, and he started paying them more in proportion to their value.

Because he was so busy making money, he hadn’t spent time with his family. He called his kids and asked them to forgive him. The man told them that he loved them – which was the first time he’d told them that in many years.

He was at odds with some people in the community. He made an appointment with each of them and asked for their forgiveness. It was a liberating experience for him. He started living to make each day count in a way that God would be pleased. He became a changed man, and he couldn’t believe how good life could be.

The man received a call from the doctor to come back to his office. The doctor explained that there had been a mistake in the evaluation of the tests. He did not have a terminal disease, and his problem was something that could easily be corrected. The doctor apologized profusely.

The man was surprised, but he reflected on the new reality. He then told the doctor not to apologize. He thanked him for giving that diagnosis, even if it was wrong. It changed his life. He testified that he had been happier in the last few weeks than he had ever been. In getting ready to die, he had discovered how to live!

I’ve had people share with me that COVID-19 has been a way in which God has confronted them about their values. They have a new appreciation of life, of family and friends, of the church, and of the way they do business. Here’s the real question – as we hopefully see more and more progress to containing COVID-19, will we live as changed people or will we go back to the way we used to be? The coronavirus diagnosis could be transforming for us.

How many days we live is not as important as how we live each day. We should make each day the kind of day we would not be ashamed to finish on!

If you knew how many days you had left to live, how would you live today?

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