Oct 30, 2021 08:00am
A Life-Saving Transplant

Helpless. That is the word that comes to mind when I think of the days I spent next to my mother’s bedside at the Mayo Clinic this time ten years ago.

I remember sitting there with my mom, holding her hand, watching the monitors, and listening to the hum of the machines and oxygen because her own lungs could no longer keep her alive. I recounted the day only weeks before when we were told she would need a double lung transplant to live. It was her only hope. Then as her health rapidly deteriorated she was put in the hospital. And we waited.

There was nothing to do but wait. 

We waited for the perfect set of lungs to come available because not just any would do. They had to be perfect: perfectly healthy, her perfect blood type, the perfect size for her frail body, and within just a few hours of the hospital because time was of the essence. 

The roller coaster of emotions of those waiting for a transplant was enough to send anyone into a tailspin. 

Should you grieve because these are your last days with your loved one? 

Should you remain hopeful each time the doctor walks in that there would be good news that a donor has been found? 

And how should you bear the thought of the donor and the donor’s family? 

I wondered a lot if that person might be a mother or a daughter and how horrible the loss would be for the family. What a gift for our family, a gift of life that could never be repaid! 

As much as we as her family loved her, there was nothing we could do.

As amazing as the doctors, nurses, and hospital were, there was nothing they could do.

As much as my mom desperately wanted to live, there was nothing she could do. 

We were helpless. We needed a transplant. We were totally dependent on a lung donor coming available. 

She needed healthy lungs in the place of her diseased ones; she needed the perfect match. And as horrible and inexplicable as it was, she needed someone to die so that she could gain hers.

In the middle of that horrible reality, I was reminded that this is how the gospel depicts me—helpless and desperate without Jesus. The beauty of the gospel stood steady in the midst of it all as I recalled this verse: “For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly,”(Romans 5:6).

She was helpless. We in our sins are helpless and cannot save ourselves.

She only had sick, diseased lungs. We have sick, sinful hearts. 

She needed new, perfect lungs to save her. We need a new heart and perfect righteousness from Jesus to make us right with God.

She needed a perfect match. We need Jesus who became like us so he could die in our place.

She needed someone close by. We need Jesus who not only left the glories of heaven to come near to us but to bring us near to our God.

Someone would have to die so that she could live. Someone has to die to pay for our sins, and Jesus has done that, taking our place and giving us his righteousness so that we can live eternally.

As wonderful and exciting and joyful as it would have been if my mother had been given new lungs in this life, it fails to compare to the glorious realities of the gospel.

With the gospel there is no waiting in a hospital room fighting for your life, helpless and just praying you might live. 

No. We have a ready Savior. Jesus has paid it all and is ever ready to save those who call out to him in faith (Hebrews 10:11-14; Romans 10:13). 

With the gospel, there is no anonymous donor whose accidental death brings life. 

No. We have a willing, loving, sacrificial Savior. Jesus went to the cross willingly, with love in his heart and a mission in his mind, and saved us to the uttermost (John 10:14-15, 18; Hebrews 7:25).

With the gospel, there is no five-year life expectancy that comes with a lung transplant. 
No, no, no. We are given ETERNAL life in our Savior who loves us more than we will ever know.

That call never came for my mom, and ten years ago she stepped into eternity. This day would overwhelm me were it not for the transplant that happened almost a year and a half before her diagnosis. 

One day she called me and said, “I want you to know that if I ever die that I am in heaven.” After many talks over the years with her, I had been unsure of where her faith lay. With a deep breath, I began to prayerfully walk through the gospel with her again—how we are all sinners who need Jesus to die for our sins in our place so that we can be forgiven and live eternally in heaven. 

In the end, there were no disputes or assertions as before of how she was a good person. She simply said, “I believe that.” 

And a transplant happened that day that nothing on earth could ever undo, no disease or death could ever touch.  

My mom was a quiet person, and though I saw her begin to openly talk about the Lord, I am not sure she ever shared this with many people. So today I tell you her story as a way of honoring her and remembering her. I am certain she would proclaim it from the rooftops herself were it possible.

If you do not know the Lord, I pray that he would open your eyes to how helpless you are in your sin. But also I pray that he would show you himself—that he is the perfect, loving Savior who came and laid down his life to save you in your helplessness because you cannot save yourself. Won’t you trust him today and ask him to do that?

Copyright © 2021 @ No part of this article may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from