Yesterday I started down a path of wondering what would happen if I tried taking some of the really familiar Bible verses that I’ve known most of my life literally. Tried considering them as direct instructions from Almighty God as to how to cope, how to get through this crisis, instead of just nice Christian sayings that we quote to each other and try to follow as much as is comfortable or easy.
For instance, yesterday I looked at not worrying about anything but praying about everything (not so easy for me – Sam will tell you that I worry about everything!). But that verse didn’t just stop there, it had a promise – that if I did that, God would give me peace that I wouldn’t even understand. And I have already been experiencing that peace as we have gone through these early stages of testing and waiting and diagnosis – we have prayed much and often, because there was nothing else to hold on to, nowhere else to go for help. And through this time, over and over, God has given both of us peace that is absolutely something that can’t be explained, or even understood. Sure, this is very scary, but underneath everything is a bedrock knowledge that God is in control, he knows exactly what is happening and why, and I really can trust him with my life.
Here’s another scripture that is easy to quote, not so easy to live – but I think it could be so life-changing if I really did live it. Always be joyful. Never stop praying. Whatever happens, give thanks, because it is God’s will in Christ Jesus that you do this. II Thessalonians 5:16-18
How many times have I prayed asking God to show me his will? Here it is in black and white. Stay joyful. Keep praying. And give thanks whatever happens.
Well – I’ve just found out I have cancer. Yesterday they put a port into my chest, which hurts quite a bit today and I’m on pain meds round the clock. Tuesday I have to have a bone marow biopsy, and that doesn’t sound like it will be much fun at all. Friday I start chemo, with the attendant possibilities of extreme nausea, hair loss and other unpleasantries. So what do I have to be joyful about?
Well…. a quick list…First, I am a child of God. He has called me and forgiven me and loves me unconditionally and allowes me to serve him. That’s enough to be joyful about right there! Second, I have lymphoma, a very treatable cancer. It is localized. It was caught early. It was caught because I had unexplained pain (which stopped as soon as the testing started – it was just there long enough to make us find the cancer). Third, I have an amazing support system. I have the best husband in the world. My family is second to none, and my friends and church family are holding me up in prayer all the time. Plenty to rejoice about!
But “whatever happens, give thanks”? Am I supposed to be thankful for having cancer? Honestly, I can’t tell you an answer to that. But I am truly thankful for the outpouring of support. I am incredibly thankful for the closeness that this crisis has brought about in my family. I will never forget how my dad held me in his arms the night we told my parents about my illness. That memory is so precious to me. I am thankful, so thankful, for the way I am learning to hold onto God so tightly and follow him step by step, and for the fact that he spent the last few years preparing me for such a time as this. I didn’t get it then but I sure do now. I am awed and thankful that my prayers to be used of God to minister into needy lives are being answered in such a powerful way – that I will be around so many people who are hurting, scared, looking at their mortality, needing someone to listen and care and pray, and who may be ready to hear that there is Good News for them.
OK, I can be joyful and thankful whatever happens. I just have to look at it the way God wants me to. And isn’t that true of life in general? Too bad it took cancer for me to figure it out.