Anyone who meets a testing challenge head-on and manages to stick it out is mighty fortunate. For such persons loyally in love with God, the reward is life and more life. James 1:12
For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us. Romans 8:18
A thief is only there to steal and kill and destroy. I came so they can have real and eternal life, more and better life than they ever dreamed of. John 10:10
I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.” John 16:33
God knows that we are going to have problems and struggles. He doesn’t expect us to pretend otherwise. So many times we put on our “church faces” and smile and act like everything is just fine, because we don’t dare be transparent and open and say that we hurt and have needs. What a shame! Where else should we be able to be truly ourselves, truly sharing our needs and inner pain, if not the body of Christ? I can say this – I have been amazed, humbled and incredibly blessed by the way that the body, my church and others, have come through for us since my diagnosis. Over and over, whether it is prayer support or physical needs, God’s people have shown up.
God also doesn’t promise we won’t have trials. Sometimes people get the idea that “since I’m a Christian, God should take care of me and protect me”, and consider any struggles in their lives to be God letting them down. But the Bible makes it clear over and over that we will have struggles and trials, maybe even more because we are Christians. God does not promise us rescue or protection. He promises us strength and his presence – “do not fear, I am holding your right hand!”
I have friends who are mad at God for letting me have cancer. They think I don’t deserve it. Well, the fact is, I deserve much worse. I deserve hell. I have, many times, deliberately chosen to do what I knew was wrong. I have known what God’s law was and broken it. I have ignored him and disobeyed him. I have chosen not to worship him, and I have pretended to worship when my heart was far from him. I have given lip service with my words while my life was not surrendered. If I stood before a God who was simply just and holy, I would go to hell, and it would be completely fair. But praise, praise, praise to the name of Jesus – I stand before a God who is not only just and holy, but loving and merciful, and he has provided a way of salvation. My rebellion and indifference and selfishness have been forgiven and paid for, and I am able to stand clean and righteous in his presence.
However, I don’t believe for one minute God gave me cancer. I don’t believe it has anything to do with me deserving it or not. It happened because we live in a fallen, imperfect world that has disease in it. God is using it, definitely. He is using it in my life to change and shape me. He is using it in Sam and me. And he is using it to help me reach out and touch people with my story.
The important thing, however, is the perspective. The verses I quoted at the beginning of this blog have a theme. They all say “Yes, it stinks now. But it will get better. Not only better, but best. Glorious! So good that this won’t even matter.” I love the part in James 1:12 where it talks about the persons “loyally in love with God“. Because that is really what this is all about. Not trying to figure out what God is doing or teaching me or where we are being led. Not trying to reach out or be usable or learn something. All of those are good things – but the best thing is just to keep my eyes on Jesus – to be loyally in love with God. To love him above everything else and then everything else will follow. Gee, it almost seems like there is a verse that says something like that….
But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Matthew 6:33