Note: This post is by my father-in-law, Rev. Bartel Elshout, translator of Wilhelmus à Brakel’s The Christian’s Reasonable Service.
May 7, 2013,
Dear Family and Friends,
Let me begin by expressing my deep gratitude to you for the many wonderful and touching e-mails I have received from you in response to the announcement that it pleased the Lord to translate my beloved Joan into His blessed presence. As has been the case earlier, I would love to respond individually to every one of these messages. You will understand, however, that I presently do not have the time to do so.
Before I share with you some of the remarkable details of Joan’s final days, let me first give you the details regarding the arrangements that have been made for Joan’s funeral—all the Lord willing:
- Date: Saturday, May 11
- Time: 2:00 – 4:00 pm, and 7:00 – 9:00 pm.
- Location: VanderPlaat/Vermeulen Funeral Home, 530 High Mountain Road, Franklin Lakes, NJ.
- Date: Monday, May 13
- Time: 10:00 am
- Location: Free Reformed Church of Pompton Plains, 160 West Parkway, Pompton Plains, NJ.
- Officiating minister: Dr. Joel R. Beeke
This information and other details can also be accessed via the website of the VanderPlaat/Vermeulen Funeral Home. The link to Joan’s special page is as follows: http://www.vpmemorial.com/book-of-memories/1580627/Elshout-Joan/service-details.php
Those who will not be able to attend the funeral service, will have the opportunity to listen to the service via a live internet connection. The link for this connection is as follows: http://www.sermonaudio.com/source_detail.asp?sourceid=frcpomptonplains. (Clicking on the “Live Webcast” button will establish that connection.)
These details remind us of the stark reality that our beloved Joan has departed from us—a fact that fills our hearts with sorrow. And yet we may and must say that by the grace of God she has departed to be with Christ, which is far better than anything she possessed and enjoyed during her short stay in this sin-stained world. For me to say anything less than that would be dishonoring to the God who dealt so remarkably with my dear Joan, especially during the final weeks, days, and hours of her life. It is my desire to honor the God who also confirmed for Joan that He is a God who, for Christ’s sake, will never forsake the work of His hands.
When I reflect on how remarkably Joan’s journey ended yesterday, two things stand out for me: 1) the Lord confirmed the words whereby He so frequently strengthened the fragile faith of Joan, namely, “Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee” (Isa. 41:10); and 2) He confirmed the promise whereby He so greatly encouraged us that He would save her soul when death would draw nigh (in Dutch: Hij kan, en wil, en zal in nood, zelfs bij het nad’ren van de dood, volkomen uitkomst geven.)
When I consider how often Joan’s soul was assaulted by the prince of darkness, especially during the dark hours of the night, how she is one of those persons of whom the apostle writes that “through fear of death [they] were all their lifetime subject to bondage” (Heb. 2:15), and how fearful she was of deceiving herself, I am simply overwhelmed by how the Lord delivered her from all this during the final weeks of her life. Though there were moments of strife, it was with remarkable calmness that she was able to face the reality of her impending death—a calmness that amazed and humbled her. Especially during the past two weeks of her life, the prince of darkness was simply not permitted to touch her—not even during the final hours of her life.
The God who promised her that He would be with her, kept His Word until Joan’s very last breath. This was also evident in that the final death struggle that she so feared never occurred. As you know, it had been her fervent prayer that the Lord would carry her gently across the Jordan of death, and the Lord answered that prayer. He confirmed for her that He truly hears the needy when they cry. Though Joan had been declining rapidly during the last week of her life, that decline was dramatic during the last hour of her life. For a brief moment she struggled with breathing, and then her breathing became stable but shallow. Gradually her breathing decreased until very quietly and peacefully she breathed her last breath. The Lord kept His Word! As He promised, He was with her, and He was with her until her very last breath, carrying His fearful Joan gently across the Jordan of death.
And yet there was another way in which the Lord confirmed His own work and His promise that He would give her full deliverance when death would draw nigh. Shortly before this final stage, when her body and organs were breaking down rapidly, she moaned several times, “Lord, help me.” And then she suddenly lifted both of her arms heavenward—arms that had become so very weak—and she cried out, “Lord Jesus…..please come quickly!” Only my sister-in-law Beth and her friend of more than 40 years, Jackie Mol, were present, and both of them were deeply touched and impressed by what they witnessed. (I had briefly stepped out to get her final medications.) I was overjoyed when I heard this, for it confirmed for me that the Lord has set her free at last. Finally she could believe that this God was also her God, and she had the liberty to ask the Savior to take her to Himself.
And so the Lord Jesus Christ confirmed for Joan the precious truth of the words of Luke 15:2, “This man receiveth sinners, and eateth with them.” It was by means of these words that it pleased the Lord to open up the gospel for my dear wife, and these words continued to encourage her during the final days and hours of her life. To this precious Christ be therefore all the glory who confirmed also for Joan that “him [or her] that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out” (John 6:37b), and that “a bruised reed shall he not break, and smoking flax shall he not quench” (Mat. 12:20).
May this account of God’s gracious dealings with my doubtful, fearful, and struggling Joan be to His glory and to the encouragement of all who cry out with the Psalmist, “Say unto my soul, I am thy salvation” (Psalm 35:3). For Christ’s sake, God will continue to answer that petition—as He did for my dear Joan! Soli Deo Gloria!
With deep gratitude for all the love you have expressed to us, and on behalf of my children,
Pastor Bartel Elshout