In times of suffering, you flee from what brings pain and run to what brings comfort. Suffering, in a way, shows us the core of who we are, where our hope is, and where we find security.
This past Wednesday, February 27th, marked the 1-year anniversary of my brother, Samuel Ray Sinclair, being diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL). I remember exactly where I was when I received the news. My heart sank and my thoughts immediately went to how I could best love and support my brother in this moment. I quickly called him and tried to be the supporting and loving brother that I know he needed, wishing I could be next to him in Houston. I remember affirming him in our shared hoped in the Lord and that God would only bring this upon Sam to lead others to come to know him. Sam agreed, as tears streamed down his face in fear of the unknown. Little did I know how much God would do in the next 72 hours in order to bring glory to His name.
Sam was quickly rushed to M.D. Anderson in Houston, where they administered chemotherapy and a multitude of tests to determine the best treatment plan. It wasn’t long after, that literally hundreds of people started to arrive at the hospital. Sam was one of the most well-connected people. His passion for relationships and loving on people is far more than I can or will ever know. They were there to be present with him during this time of suffering. I remember calling him again the next day and laughter and joy were in his speech. He was loved on so much by his friends and my parents who were constantly there with him.
Thursday morning, March 1st, Sam complained of a severe headache and was quickly rushed to receive a CAT scan of his brain. Shortly thereafter, he slipped into a coma, induced by a brain bleed. Mom and Dad rushed to the hospital and soon called with the news.
I was stricken with fear of the unknown. “This can’t be happening,” I thought to myself. Immediately, I pleaded with the Lord to work a miracle. I got on the first plane out of Nashville and my siblings, Chris, Macy and JT, also got on the first plane to Houston from their respective cities.
While traveling to Houston, my mind was racing with numerous thoughts. In the midst of this, a beautiful sunset appeared outside the window of the plane. This was God’s way of telling me, “Charlie, I’ve been with you every step of the way. And I’m still here now. Don’t worry about Sam, I’m taking care of him.”
After arriving at the hospital, we quickly realized that Sam’s condition was irreversible. He was going to die. We gathered around his bed, sang hymns, shared memories, talked to him, wept in anguish, and prayed. I’ve never experienced such pain in my life. It didn’t feel real. I held his warm, strong hand and pleaded with him to get up. We all did.
At 11:10pm on Thursday, March 1st, 2012, Sam, age 31, passed away. The Lord had kept Sam stable just long enough for us all to be together as a family and have a few hours together. After Sam’s passing, the Lord whispered to me, “Death, where is your victory? Death, where is your sting?” Oh, how sweet the Lord is. Even in those moments of despair, I could see God’s grace.
God was gracious to give us time together as a family. He was gracious to allow my parents to be with Sam for the last 48 hours of his life. He was gracious to surround Sam with hundreds of friends. He was gracious enough to save my brother from his sins!
As we left the hospital that night and in the days after, I remember repeating to myself over and over, “God is in control. God is in control. He is my only hope.” I just couldn’t wrap my mind around what was happening or going on, but I had one hope to cling to: Christ has died. Christ has risen. Christ will come again.
This past year has been one of much heartache and joy. I never knew how much I needed my family, my church, my friends, and my colleagues. They have surrounded me, poured love out on me, been present with me, and prayed for me. They have prayed for the peace, which surpasses all understanding, to guard my heart and mind in Christ Jesus. It has.
The pain still surfaces every now and then, and at times, Sam’s death doesn’t feel real. But when this happens, God quietly says, “Charlie, I know what your suffering feels like. To make you my own, it cost me everything.”
But we also rejoice in our afflictions, because we know that affliction produces endurance, endurance produces proven character, and proven character produces hope. This hope will not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us. (Rom 5:3-5)
Christ has died. Christ has risen. Christ will come again.