Posts Tagged ‘cancer’

It’s Been A While

It’s been a while.
To feel the blood coursing through my veins.
To feel alive. 
It’s been a while.
To think clearly.
To think confidently.
It’s been a while.
To see through the fog.
To see beyond the veil of tears.
It’s been a while for cancer decimates,
Body,
Mind,
Soul. 
But,
It is not greater than the Spirit inside me.
It is not greater than the Grace given to me.
It is not greater than the Love that saves me. 
Yes, it’s been a while. But only a while.
“Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning.”

The Voice of Despair

I have been thinking about something in a sermon that I preached quite awhile ago that I remembered recently.  Something I need to hear and be reminded of right now.  From my sermon on 1 Samuel 27 (if you want to see the Scriptural context), I made this bit of application <in italics below> in one of the main points:  

      The voice of despair speaks into our lives, as well.  If you think about it, you will realize that we are always speaking to ourselves.  We have conversations with ourselves about our lives.   I’m not talking about hearing voices, nor am I trying to psychoanalyze here.  I’m talking about the inner monologue or even dialogue (if we get to arguing with ourselves) that takes place in our heart.    One commentator said that “all of us propagandize our souls”.   And if the propaganda is something other than the truth of God’s Word, His Character, His Sufficiency, His Promise, then we are in trouble and might begin to look to Philistia for our salvation, than to the Lord.   

    Who would you say is David’s greatest enemy?  The easy answer is Saul.   And certainly Saul has been a great enemy of David.  But the reality is that David is his own worst enemy at this very point.   And we are our own worst enemies.   We too look for heavenly comfort from earthly sources.  We buy into the idea, telling ourselves this lie, that “if only” I had or I was  __________, then everything would be okay.   And those lies then shape our decisions and the direction of our lives.    David is the fainting king.  And we’re just like him – not kings mind you – but full of fainting, faltering faith.

What does the voice of despair say to you?  What do you say to yourself in dark moments?  Where are you tempted to run instead of the Lord?  And what does God say to you, about you and about your circumstances?  My guess is that they are quite different, if we actually get around to seeing what God’s Word has to say to us.  I know that that is my need. I need a different voice in my head and you probably do to.

Clean Up on Aisle Life

Life is messy.

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I wish it not were not so.  In fact, I’ve gotten pretty good at avoiding messes.  Which is foolish, because you can attempt to avoid or plan your way around them, but things have a way of getting spilt all over the table of your life.  This is what happens when we sin and others sin and we live in a world full of fellow sinners.  And it is what happens in a world wrecked by sin.  We get tornadoes and cancer and death.    

 

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 And I hate tornados and cancer and death (among other things).  They leave messes behind.  Messes that can’t be quickly mopped up with the “quicker picker upper” or whatever the best brand of paper towels happens to be right now.  It takes time and help and hope to deal with such things.

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But in the mess we also find Jesus.  Right there in the middle of it all.  Picking up debris and sitting in an infusion center or holding your very heart when you feel it might break into a thousand little pieces.  Jesus is there.  In the mess. With you.  

And He promises that one day there will be no mess (Revelation 21).  For now, cast all your “messes” or anxieties upon Him, because He cares for you (1 Peter 5:7, also Philippians 4:4-7).  Messes, yes. But Jesus too.
 

Coming up for air…

           I’ve never been scuba diving.  Snorkeling one time as a child in the Dry Tortugas, which was incredible, but never scuba diving.  I do know that if you dive really deep and then come to the surface too quickly, you can end up with decompression sickness.  I saw on it TV and read about it on the internet, so it must be true.  Seriously, decompression sickness can lead to some serious physical and neurological effects  (you can google it if you want to know more). Thankfully, the sickness can be treated with oxygen and time in a hyperbaric chamber, usually resulting in no long term effects of decompression sickness.  

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        I’ve never been scuba diving, but I’m quite sure that I spent most of last year diving in the abyss of cancer.  The depths of suffering and pain that we have explored are overwhelming at times.  Sometimes the deep was so deep that no light could be seen.  Thankfully, the abyss did not swallow us and we have returned to the surface.  But I realize that my return to the surface has been quick in many ways. It has much to do with my desire to return to ministry in a full-time ministry.  And normal life.  Whatever that means.  

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         So, I’m in a strange place.  Maybe there is some decompression sickness.  It’s really nice to be on the surface.  Life is really good, but there are still many challenges that I face on a day to day basis.  On the positive side:  my strength, energy, and endurance are returning in a great way.  I would say that I am back to working full-time – which means some long days and weeks.  That’s not a complaint – the water’s nice.  I am so glad I can make hospital visits, focus on serving my family and our church family, seek God’s wisdom for the future, and continue to preach and teach week to week.  But I also feel overwhelmed, frustrated, and discouraged.  Out of place or out of step.  Disappointed by my mistakes and my need to make frequent apologies for my foibles.  The waters can still be troubled at times.  So, I have to try to remind myself regularly that I am first and forever a child of God.  That I am forgiven.  That, though I am weak, He is strong.   I need the oxygen of God’s grace.  And the  hyperbaric chamber of His steadfast love.  And day by day I find new mercies – which is more than I deserve.  I’ve come up for air and I am so glad – even of my ascent was too fast in some ways.  I have to trust God with that too.

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A Subtle Heresy

Question:  does God want you to be healthy, wealthy, and wise?  Many Christians would say that yes, this is God’s desire for our lives.

Better Question:  does God want to conform us into the image of His Son, Our Savior, Jesus Christ?  Yes, yes, and yes again.

This means that the Lord will go to great lengths to accomplish this in your life.  Including bringing suffering into your life.  Not a once of us would ask to go through the school of suffering.   But, I can attest, great growth in faith and the Gospel comes through our suffering well in Christ.  A friend of mine called it a subtle heresy that most Christians believe, when we that God wants to make us happy and comfortable.  Actually he wrecks our comfort, especially our comfort with our sin.  When we quit fighting for our sanctification.  God wrecks our apathy.  My friend and his wife had great plans for their son, until they realized that he was autistic.  All of a sudden they were on a different journey.  I think he would agree that is both a wonderful and terrifying journey.  This makes us depend all the more on God.  This dependence is the real goal of the Christian life.  I can assure you that in some way at some time, God will disrupt your will, your thinking, and your life.  And He will do so for your good.  I guarantee it, though you may not see it at the time.  It is the lie of the Prosperity Gospel (that God wants you to have your best life now) that we so desperately want to believe.  It is easier to believe that, but it is not in the Bible (read 1 Peter or Acts 7).  God has so much better for us.  Live in that truth and look to our God to do wonderful and terrifying things in our lives.  For His glory and the furtherance of the Gospel in our lives.

Cancer & Sin

I Peter 5:8 – Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls aroundlike a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.
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I wish this weren’t true, but it is.  And I mistakenly thought that Satan might give me a break from temptation – at least for a little while.  After all, haven’t I suffered enough.  And aren’t I doing a good enough job on my own? (yes).  But that not the way things work.

Jesus’ Temptation is instructive at this point.  Jesus spent 40 days fasting in the wilderness.  And no, at the end of it all, Jesus didn’t catch a break from Satan.  No, instead he waited to attack and tempt Jesus at the end of that time when we would he would be at his weakest and lowest point.  He waited until Jesus would be hungry and thirsty for a way out and an end to his trials, which were only just beginning.  But thankfully for us, Jesus prevailed.

And so, I find myself still struggling with sin in my life.  Temptation comes from all sides and often when I am at my lowest point.  Of course, like Jesus, my best defense is to arm myself with the Word of God and be prepared for the attack to come.

But that’s hard isn’t it.  We don’t see it coming.  And we don’t recognize temptation for what it is.  Let me give you an example of such sin struggles in my life at this point.  I love to use Faceboook.  We use for the church.  I use it to keep up with family and friends.  And they have used to send me reminders of their prayers or other such encouragement.  So, I enjoy Facebook.  But there has been a sin that I don’t I have wrestled with as much in the past (of course, I could be very wrong about that!):  Envy and Jealousy.  These are what Jerry Bridges would call “respectable sins” in his great book by the same title.  They are subtle.  What happens is I see all the happy people on Facebook taking their wonderful vacations to the beach or the mountains.  And they are eating such scrumptious meals and having all around good time.  On one hand, I can be happy for them and glad they can delight in such things.  On the other hand, I don’t understand why they deserve such goodness and I have received such hardship.  What did I do to deserve this?  Why did all my plans get wiped off the map with the mention of one little word: cancer.    Envy and jealousy then creep in and I find myself loathing my friends and myself.  No, there is no let up in the temptation.  Sorry, I wish I could tell you otherwise. 

What is happening in my heart when I begin to entertain the sin of envy and jealousy.

  • I have forgotten God’s goodness and His Sovereignty
  • I have neglected to use a powerful weapon to combat this sin, as Jesus did:  the Word of God.
  • I have failed to realize that everything God gives is a gift of His grace and none of us is worthy.
  • I have failed to love my friends and family well.
  • I have not believed that God is sufficient for all my needs.
  • And I have not believe that my Savior has completely vanquished my enemy and I am victorious in Him.
  • And I forgotten how good God has been to me and my family.

No, there is no let up in the temptation.  Sorry, I wish I could tell you otherwise.   Thankfully, I can also tell you that there is no let up in the mercy and forgiveness of God, that covers all our sins.  Especially the ones that we so often let pass and do not recognize.  Envy and Jealousy in Him.  What subtle and respectable sins do you find yourself struggling with?

I Peter 5:6-11:  Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. Andafter you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. To him be the dominion forever and ever. Amen.

Fighting for the Greater Reality

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The longer I live, the more and more I am convinced that a large part of the Christian life is a fighting for the greater reality of God at work in our lives.  A fighting for perspective that see beyond the moment we live in at the present, for the reality that is both our present and our future.  We are a myopic bunch – we can only see what is right in front of us.  Meanwhile, God is ordering our days and nights, is present with us in real ways – especially through His Spirit, and is keeping His promises.

This fighting has been much of what my last week has been about – at least in my mind and in the quiet moments when I consider “what in the world are you doing, God?!”  As you may have read in my last blog post, I didn’t fair well during, but especially after the last chemotherapy cycle.  I was emotionally, physically, and spiritually spent – and not in a good way.

One of the reasons this was true, I have come to believe, is that I lost the mental/emotional/spiritual fight for perspective before I ever started.  This time, two weeks ago, I began to feel a sense of dread and foreboding.  I knew what was coming and I hated it.  I was defeated going in and I came out defeated coming out.  I did not fight for the greater reality of God’s goodness and His faithfulness.  It wasn’t that I was actively doubting those, but I wasn’t fighting to see them either.  If your honest, you do the same thing in your life and in the struggles you face.  And don’t diminish those struggles, just because you are not struggling like I am.  This is a common Christian experience – I think.  We forget that “God has not given us a spirit of timidity (or fear), but of power and love and discipline.” (1 Timothy 1:7).

Another verse that has been much on my mind, is 2 Corinthians 5:7:  “we walk by faith, not by sight.”  I am learning in new ways what that means.  For me, right now, it means that I have to trust that God will be faithful to the promises He has made in His Word (to comfort the afflicted, to come near to those who are low, to hear & even answer prayers, etc).  And to trust especially when I cannot see where His answer are coming from.  That is the faith that sees, despite not seeing.  That is the way the Christian fights for perspective and for the greater reality, even when what is seen out of my two eyeballs seems to scream that God has left me, doesn’t care, or isn’t there.  Those of the lies of the evil one, who does not give me a pass on his evil attack on me or God’s reputation, just because I’m going through chemotherapy.  No, that’s actually makes me ripe.  All the more reason to engage in this battle.

And how do we engage in this fight?  It’s both simple and profound.  Pray, read Scripture, seek encouragement from the Body, worship & rejoice in the goodness and faithfulness that can be seen (if we open our eyes there is much), reflect on how God has come near in past circumstances, journal/write/blog your thoughts, have coffee with a friend who will speak truth into your life.  To name a few.  Thank you for joining me in this fight where you can ad for learning to fight your own battles.   This moment is real, but it is not the only reality.  Fight for the greater reality.

This Moment is Real, but it is not the Only Reality

Like my dinner that ended up on the living room floor – a side effect of the constipation, which is a side effect of the nausea meds, that are used to control the nausea, which is a side effect of the chemotherapy, of course – I feel the need to work through some of my emotions and thoughts.  You have been warned.  It has not been pretty the past few days.

Days that end in Y are hard, much of the time.  The Monday after a chemotherapy are the hardest.   Here’s why:  I’m ready to feel better and return to some activity at home and in the office.  And Lydia is ready to be done with being a single parent (for all practical purposes).  And yet, the transition is stilted and fraught with landmines – physical and emotional.  In that way, that Monday can be very hard for all involved.

Tonight through tears, I cried out to God.  I told Him I was mad, but that I needed Him to meet me there.  It’s the first time that I have been able to express that emotion in prayer.  I don’t tend towards outward anger, in general.  I am much more prone to depression, which I remember somebody calling “anger toward inward.”  I suppose this is progress through the emotional side of this suffering.  I think I have a long ways to go.

I hate that my children have to come to me with their small, sweet voices to ask if I am okay, if they see me writhing in pain, or after I have lost the contents of my stomach.

I hate what this is doing to my wife, who has been a rock, but can only withstand so much.  Our marriage is as strong as ever, but this tests our endurance and patience, as we suffer together

Speaking of patience, I hate that I have so little when my children are just being children.  Never a strong suit before this, but a real test.

I hate that I can’t be the pastor I want to be, though my congregation and fellow elders make no demands on me, other than to focus on my health as needed.

I wonder what they will remember about this time in their childhood.  I hope and pray that it is moments of joy, punctuated with moments of pain.  But not pain without a purpose.  May it increase their faith and understanding of need for the Lord.  I’m not sure I could stand otherwise.

I wrenched my knee, which remains painful, but I think is getting better (I hope).  I hate that it’s an added physical impediment, but I have never regretted being a dad to my son, chasing and playing tag on a scooter.  I’d do it again for the moment of joy with him, in the midst of so many joyless days.

This last cycle I lost the mental battle.  I am learning how much of this is mental, even when the physical side is the most visible.  I went into the last chemo cycle already defeated.  I can’t be sure, but I am fairly certain that that had an impact on my experience this past weekend.  I am trying to figure out how I can keep a positive spirit and attitude, but not make it about my will and ego.  I need to be strengthened by God, not self.  And yet, I am entirely sure what that looks like.  I’ve lost my way a bit in this regard.

I don’t want your sympathy (and yet, I am thankful for it) and I wish I didn’t need your prayers.  Though I do want and need them.   I’m also bad at taking advice and being cared for.  I’m just not good at it.  Typical man, I suppose.

One of my biggest laments is that I cannot go (or should not, for fear of infection with a diminished immune system) to the hospital.  Last week, during chemo, someone connected to our church was in the hospital, and I couldn’t go.

I’m tired of vomiting.  I think my esophagus may agree.

Last night, one of our children had a meltdown.  The end of the school year is always hard.  The end of  the school year when you dad has been diagnosed with cancer and is undergoing chemo – well, that’s a different kind of hard.  One of the thing that I told this child, I realized I needed to hear too.  We talked about how our emotions (whether good or bad) in a moment  are real – very real.  But they are not the only true reality.  This moment is real, but it is not the only reality.  This – this is what I need to fight for emotionally and mentally.  There will be an end to this.  There will be a return to health, Lord willing.  And we are still a family that is clinging to God and Who, more importantly, will not let us go.  This moment is real, but it is not the only reality.

Pondering the Why/Why Me Question (Part 2)

This part 2.  Last week I introduced the topic here.  As I said there, this is not a mutually exclusive list, nor should it be considered exhaustive.  Just my thoughts on the topic…         

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             Fallen World:   We live in a world that is not as God originally created, that has been marred by our sin, and that results in great tragedy.  Children are born with disabilities, we get diseases and cancers, and tornadoes ravage the countryside.  To name just a few things that happen in a fallen world.  Basically, things aren’t the way they are suppose to be!   Maybe I have a gene mutation (something that we are looking into through genetic testing – more on this some other time).  Maybe I ate too many lemonheads that I chased with Mt Dew (maybe not healthy, but probably not the cause of cancer).  Stuff, you know, happens in a fallen world.  And it is often nothing we would ever want or ask for.  And yet, God uses our pain to draw us closer to Himself.  And sometimes He brings healing on this side of heaven and sometimes we have to wait.   In either case, we have the sure promises of His world.  He is making right what we have fowled up through our sin.    Creation eagerly waits with us, for the our full redemption (Romans 8:19)

                   Discipline:  I should probably start with Scripture to gets off on the right foot:  “For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives” (Hebrews 12:6).  This verse, and the broader context, makes clear that the Lord disciplines his children.  The problem we have with this notion is that we hear the word discipline and we think punishment.  That is a very narrow view of discipline.  If we think through the analogy, we can think about all of the positive and negative reinforcements that parents provide children.  Another word that we might use positively is train.  We trained or disciplined not to run out in the street and we are working on not talking back!  So then, I see this trial as part of the Lord discipline of me.  He is disciplining me to depend more fully upon Him, to not look so closely to this world for comfort and pleasure, and to live out my testimony more fully.  To name a few things.  To be clear, I do not think the Lord is punishing me.  He is not paying me back for my transgressions.  That would violate the Cross of Christ.  When Christ said, “It is finished”, from the Cross, I believe Him.  That is, my sins were fully punished and forgiven there.  God will not punish, what He has forgiven through Christ.  That said, the Lord is fully committed to my sanctification and he may well use my cancer to as a sanctifying agent.  In that, I am blessed that God would love me that much.  (See also paragraph 10 of John Piper’s article, Don’t Waste Your Cancer, “We waste our cancer if we treat sin as casually as before”).

              God’s Sovereignty:  I told you these weren’t mutually exclusive points.  In fact, maybe I should have started with this one, as it is an overarching reality.  As a Presbyterian/Reformed-type fellow, my reading of the Bible leads me to see God’s sovereignty as one of the big themes of Scripture.   That God is sovereign (in charge, over all things, past, present, and future) is a very good thing.  I do a pretty good job of just messing things up, so I don’t think I’m fit for the job.    But, let’s be honest, God’s sovereignty also raises questions in our hearts.  The “why me” question for one.   And the “if God is_____, then _______?”  These questions are real and sometimes difficult.  However, I would rather have a good God whose ways I don’t understand (Isaiah 55:6-9) be sovereign, than an impotent god who is merely responding as best he can to the chaos of this world.   That’s not really a choice, but it’s one I don’t want all the same.  So, when I think of “why?” and “why me?”, part of my answer is to run to the arms of the one whom I know is in charge, of my little life and of this big world.  (See also paragraph 2 of John Pipers booklet:  “We waste our cancer if we do not believe it is designed by God.”)

So these are the thoughts rumbling in my head about why I am dealing with cancer at my age, at my place in life, at all, etc…  And whatever answers may be forthcoming or not (God doesn’t always satisfy our curiosity or our felt need for answers), I hang my hat on these verses:   So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.  ~ 2 Cor 4:16-18

Pondering the Why/Why Me Question (Part 1)

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When you go through a trial, adversity, or some suffering, a perennial question that comes to our minds is “why?”  And often that questions turns into a plaintive “why me?”  It is a real question, but it is often without clear answer or at least one that is readily forthcoming.   And sometimes those unanswered questions become a noose around our necks or millstone on our shoulders.  We are weighed down by the seeming silence from God.   This can lead to despair, anger, or further distress.   And Satan can use this question against us and against God. 

It is a natural place to go in our hearts and minds.   We want to know who or what to blame.  We want to know what lessons God is trying to teach us, so that we can get the learning process completed and move on.  We want to know if there is some better way to learn altogether.  We want to know how keep this from happening again.  And yet, despite those desires, many times we are not called to know, but to trust.  To depend upon God in the storm, rather than looking for the first exit ramp. 

I have thought of the why question a good bit, since this whole thing with cancer started back in late February and early March.  And I have cried out the “why me” question at least a couple of very specific times that I can remember.  The first of those was on Sunday, March 10th (a few days after surgery), when for two hours I was in excruciating pain that the morphine barely touched.  The second time was when I vomited for the first time during the very first chemotherapy cycle.  You can understand why those experiences provoked the cry of lament, “why me?”

The more analytical pastor part of me has been thinking about the why question and I am pondering three answers.  In some ways, you might think the answers unsatisfying, but I find hope in them, particularly the second and third.  And these are not either/or answers.  They are not mutually exclusive.  In fact, I think it likely that all three are a part of the puzzle.  So, why did I get cancer?  Stay tuned…I’ll give you my answers, such as they are, next week. 

Preparing for Cancer – A rejoinder to myself

In some ways this is a rejoinder to myself and what I wrote about preparing for cancer a few weeks ago.  While I do strongly believe in what I wrote, as it applies to my situation and can for many others, I do not intend to imply that only those who’ve been worshipping and learning in church for years can successfully face cancer with faith intact.  I do think there is great value in learning Scripture and hymns and other things that point us to the truth of the goodness and sovereignty of God before we need them.  In that sense, some of what we do week to week is practice for when we need it. 

            That said, and I had this in mind from the beginning, there is something (really Someone) that is completely outside of our experience.  Our faith is in Christ and He is the anchor that holds when the storms of life begin to surround us.  He is the anchor that is the yesterday, today, and forever (Hebrews 13:8), regardless of whether we have been following and walking with Christ for a few days or a few decades.  He is not tossed about by the waves, as we are, and is able to hold onto us when we are unable to hold onto Him.   

            This is good news!  The anchor holds.  And it is this that gives our faith confidence – not whether we are being strong, faithful, or dependent – though the Lord may grant us those as a gift too.   I love this quotation from A.J. Gordon that was in the bulletin a few Sundays ago on this very idea:

Christ in heaven is our hope in glory, and Christ in the heart is our hope of glory. An anchor is useless unless fastened at both ends, and Christ has fastened one end in glory, which the Holy Ghost comes down and fastens the other end of the anchor in our hearts. In older times the anchor used to be brought in first and the ship came in afterward. So Christ has gone in as the forerunner within the veil, and we shall come in afterward.”  What a great picture!  And what an awesome savior we have! 

 

Here is one more thing I came across this week using the metaphor of an anchor: 

Are you in a storm? Does it look like your ship is about to go under? If so, you need some anchors: 

The anchor of God’s presence: He is with you – “an angel of God whose I am and whom I serve stood beside me.”

The anchor of God’s ownership: You are his possession – “the God whose I am.”

The anchor that comes through serving God: “…the God….whom I serve.”

The anchor of faith: “So keep up your courage, men, for I have faith in God that it will happen just as he told me.”

With anchors like these, God’s servants will stand strong and true.

Acts, The Church Afire, by R Kent Hughes (comment on Paul’s Acts 27 shipwreck on p 338).

Preparing for Cancer

How does one prepare for cancer?  Specifically, how does a Christian prepare to face the battle of cancer in their life or in that of a close family member?

And I don’t mean, how do you keep from getting cancer.  I’ll leave you to your own devices with that one.  Certainly, I don’t have anything worthwhile to share in that category anyway!

I do not hold ourselves up as paragons of faith, but I do wonder in amazement at how steady we have been through this (It’ll have to be a separate post, but we must remember that faith is more about it’s object – Christ – than our “work of faith”).  Our faith has surprised me at times.  I don’t mean to paint an inaccurate picture.  To be clear this whole thing sucks (to use a technical term), I hate it many days, and the teardrops are too numerous to count at this point.  And yet, there is something more.  Really, there is Someone more.

One answer, in my mind, without a doubt is all of the prayer that we have received and continue to receive.  Friends, family, preschoolers, acquaintances, and strangers lifting us up before the Lord.  Yes, that has much to do with it.  And that’s probably another whole reflection.  Here, I want to think about preparing in the years before trials come, suffering hits, and horrific news knocks us to our knees.  In that sense, this applies more broadly to cancer.

Ready for the answer?  Here it is:  walking faithfully with the Lord day in and day out for years.  In good times and bad.  In plenty and in want.  You get the idea.  As we do that, what happens?   We will have read the Scriptures, we will have heard the Scriptures proclaimed, hymns and songs will root into our bones, and we will watch others deal with the falleness of life.    We will come along side of them when they need prayer, meals, hugs, and encouragement.  We will see the faith of the saints carried out in both the mundane and the tragic.

Trust is something that we learn over the seasons.  We learn that God is trustworthy during the harvest and even during the drought.  For He provides.  Not always what we want or expect, but still this is something that has to be learned over the course of time.  But if we don’t put ourselves in the company of others and we don’t learn those hymns and we don’t hear the Word of Life, then it will be hard for us to trust.  We will have stunted our growth.  Think about it this way.  That hymn that you are singing on Sunday (you know the one that you don’t like the tune of), may not be for today.  You might be learning it for a tomorrow that is going to come and you’ll need to be reminded that “Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take; the clouds ye so much dread are big with mercy, and shall break in blessings on your head” (“God Moves In a Mysterious Way”, William Cowper, 1774).  You’ll need to have treasured up already the Words of Scripture that alone give life and lead us.  You’ll need to have put in some time already listening to the pastor drone on just a little too long once again.  It may not seem like much is happening right now, but I can assure you that the cumulative effect of walking with God and His people, can sustain you when you are diagnosed with cancer.

Thus says the Lord:

“Cursed is the man who trusts in man

and makes flesh his strength,

whose heart turns away from the Lord.

He is like a shrub in the desert,

and shall not see any good come.

He shall dwell in the parched places of the wilderness,

in an uninhabited salt land.

“Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord,

whose trust is the Lord.

He is like a tree planted by water,

that sends out its roots by the stream,

and does not fear when heat comes,

for its leaves remain green,

and is not anxious in the year of drought,

for it does not cease to bear fruit.”

                                                                                (Jeremiah 17:5-8)

 

How can we bear fruit in a drought season?  Only if we have placed our trust in the Lord and have been nourished by Him before that.  That is part of how you prepare for cancer.

Chemo Eve

Tonight is Chemo Eve.  That is, I start my chemotherapy treatments tomorrow (Wednesday morning).  Chemo Eve isn’t near as cool or exciting as Christmas Eve or New Year’s Eve.    I don’t even get to dress up like on All Hallow’s Eve (or better known Halloween).  Maybe I should dress up – that might make things more fun.  I’m taking suggestions, but keep in mind I don’t want to be kicked out of the place.   I think.

And that illustrates my emotional state leading into this.  I have actually had a hard time discerning what I am thinking and feeling the past few days.  Other than just feeling weighted down, bearing an awful load.  That’s especially how I felt Monday morning as I was on my way to the office.  Nothing a donut couldn’t fix, but then I actually become the awful load (Full disclosure:  I did eat a donut and it was really yummy).

With some more rumination, I do think I have ferreted out my predominant thought and it follows, in some ways, my previous thoughts about being on a bullet train to an unknown destination.  I am not primarily fearful, though it can’t be said that I am serene.  I am not primarily anxious, though it can’t be said that I am at complete peace.  I am not primarily worried, though it can’t be said that I don’t spend a good bit of times thinking (worrying?) about the list of potential side effects.

Nope, here it is:  I do not like being out of control.  Out of control of my body.  Out of control of my schedule.  Out of control of my future.   Out of control of my days and nights.  Out of control of my plans.  It is this that haunts and hounds me most, especially when I am not busy with work or the kids.

Some months ago, I called my friend and mentor in ministry after hearing about his diagnosis of cancer.  His is terminal.   I recall him telling me that one of the things he was wrestling with, and that we all have to do in some regard, is reconciling himself to the reality that he is not in control and never was.  Or some words to that effect.  I assented to that truth, as I agree and agreed then, in principle.   In principle, it sounds good and right.  And it is.  In practice, well, that’s another thing altogether.  Now, we are “cancer buddies”, as he says.   And the mentoring continues!

So, I wrestle with my dislike of feeling out of control.  Though I know the One who is in control.  Of all things.  Of this.  And so, what is left for me to do?  There is trust and dependence, but I will confess that those don’t come quite as easily as I would like.  What is left for me to do?  I must plunge myself in the waters of Scripture.  Let the words of Romans 8:28-29, 1 Peter 1, Psalm 121, and Psalm 46 wash over me.  I breathe the air of a dependence that is foreign, but ultimately life-giving, as this world is not my home and the air here is a bit polluted.   And while the water flows and I breathe deeply, I am also confronted, confounded and comforted with the reality that the Lord is not just doing this in me, but also through me. 2 Corinthians 4:11-12:  “For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. So death is at work in us, but life in you.”   And, of course, I do none of this one my own.  But with and through the countless prayers of many – known and unknown.