Our research implies that we have more to say about our earthly lives than most people suspect. During surgery in 1988, 37-year-old DeLynn died. His spirit rose from his body and returned to our heavenly home. When he asked about his chronic illness, to his astonishment, he was shown that he had actually chosen the very trial that plagued him most on earth. DeLynn was born with cystic fibrosis:
There was a room that I was viewing from above and to the side, but at the same time I was sitting in it. In a sense I was both an observer and a participant. About thirty people were present, both men and women, and we were all dressed in a white jumpsuit type of garment.
An instructor was in the front of the room, and he was teaching about accountability and responsibility: and about pain. He was instructing us about things we had to know in order to come to earth and get our bodies. Then he said, and I’ll never forget this: “You can learn lessons one of two ways. You can move through life slowly and have certain experiences, or there are ways that you can learn the lessons very quickly through pain and disease.” He wrote on the board the words: “Cystic Fibrosis,” and he turned and asked for volunteers. I was a volunteer; I saw me raise my hand and offer to take the challenge.
The instructor looked at me and agreed to accept me. That was the end of the scene and it changed forever my perspective of the disease that I previously felt was a plague on my life. No longer did I consider myself a victim. Rather, I was a privileged participant, by choice, in an eternal plan. That plan, if I measure up to the potential of my choice, would allow me to advance in mortal life in the fastest way possible. True, I would not be able to control the inevitable slow deterioration of my mortal body, but I could control how I chose to handle my illness emotionally and psychologically. The specific choice of cystic fibrosis was to help me learn dignity in suffering. My understanding in the eternal sense was complete: I know that I was a powerful, spiritual being that chose to have a short but marvelous mortal existence.10
Volunteering for a difficult disease during our time on earth may seem foolish . . . until we realize that DeLynn understood the eternal potential of his trial. It is noteworthy that his choice to suffer by disease had to be “approved” in heaven before it could be implemented on earth.
De Lynn returned from his NDE to live another decade before he was taken Home permanently. During his remaining years here, he never again referred to cystic fibrosis as a curse. (We have heard him speak.)
Of course his life was not easy, but he spoke of his disease reverently, more as a mission than an illness. For DeLynn, and those who served him, it became an opportunity for personal growth towards eternity.
Just as knowledge strengthened DeLynn to cope, we have observed that all trials are better managed with eternal perspective. When we recognize that there is indeed a plan for our lives, and for the lives of our children, born and unborn, our trials make more sense and take on a higher purpose. With eternal perspective we find greater strength to be patient, to learn, to cope, to maintain hope, and to look for the good we can give and receive, in spite of pain or loss.