“More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” – Romans 5:3-5
I’ve always had trouble experiencing the felt reality that God loves me. I can acknowledge it in my head. I definitely see it in Scripture. But the day to day reality often escapes me. Love, the high concept? No problem. Love, the warm, confident day to day and moment by moment reality like I have with my husband and kids or my earthly dad? Not as much.
I think it’s partly because I’ve always been a performance oriented perfectionist. I didn’t fit in very well in school as a child. Instead of thinking of it as a socialization problem that my peers had, I thought of it as a problem with me. I believed that if I could somehow get it all figured out, I’d magically be able to be friends with everyone. Yes, you read that right. Everyone. (Ha!)
I confess that I chose my major in Bible School because I totally related to the person who sang, “Please Don’t Send me to Africa”. Heck, I don’t even like leaving the house most days. My ideal week is often one where I don’t have to go anywhere. Therefore, I thought that by default that the thing God wanted for me was a life so completely out of my comfort zone that I’d have to depend on Him.
I brought that attitude to my work. Chose a career where I’d have to die to myself every day. Granted, not all of my jobs were like that. But if they weren’t, I’d find a way to make it so.
On the surface it might sound spiritually mature, but it wasn’t. It’s not. Yes, God sometimes calls us to difficult things but it’s a lie that the thing we’re called to do is always the most difficult thing.
I still tend to assume that the thing God will ask of me will be the thing I least want to do.
The Bible says His strength is made perfect in our weakness. (2 Cor. 12:9) That we grow through hardship in ways that we almost never do in times of ease. I know this to be true. God has used my husband’s cancer diagnosis to wake me up in a big way. He’s done amazingly good things in my relationship with Him through this time.
I believe that God is the boss of everything. There is no small moment, no big event, NOTHING that is not part of his plan. A God who is not the boss of absolutely everything is not God at all. So I have to believe that He planned for my Lowell to have cancer right now. He has plans for now and for the future. Plans I don’t know about. I know that the Bible promises that he will work ALL these things for good. (Romans 8:28) He already has. However, I’m terrified that He will take my husband away from me because, hey, we grow in hardship right? So, by default, the worst must happen right?
I do know that God promises to be with me always. That He will be with me in hard times:
“Fear not, for I have redeemed you;
I have called you by your name;
You are Mine.
2 When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
And through the rivers, they shall not overflow you.
When you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned,
Nor shall the flame scorch you.
3 For I am the Lord your God,
The Holy One of Israel, your Saviour;” – Isaiah 43:1-3
But I still fear the hard times. I fear the worst case scenario. The one where Lowell is sick for a long time, only to succumb to the rogue cells in his body. The one where he dies, still a young man, leaving me and two little girls who still need him very, very much.
I know God promises to walk with us. I know He promises that He’ll work good out of this. But He doesn’t promise that hard times won’t come. In fact, if one reads Scripture honestly, hard times are a promised given for all of us on this side of Heaven. No joke. Check it out for yourself. It’s true even if you read just the New Testament.
And this is where I’m stuck and scared. Isn’t my faith small? I do keep turning to Him and praying…especially when I start to feel anxious and overwhelmed. The Lord does meet me in those times and I am given the very practical strength to live my days homeschooling my girls, managing my home and going out and about. We still have some very normal times and some very wonderful ones. My Saviour is with me, but it’s still not easy. I’m not leaping from glory to glory with radiant joy and confidence. (OK, so I’m being facetious here. You get the idea though right?)
Our difficulty so far arises only from anticipation. We have a diagnosis. We haven’t started treatment. He has no evidence of cancer in any other organs. No visible blood involvement. Both of his biggest skin tumours have been removed and the smaller ones he found elsewhere on his body have begun to disappear on their own. Other than the cancer, his health is excellent. Whatever treatment the doctors decide, he’ll go through and then they’ll do tests and blood work. Lord willing, they’ll come out as clear as they were before they started treatment and we’ll have to accept by faith that all is well. But for the rest of his life, every new bump that doesn’t resolve itself within a week will inspire the fear that the cancer has once again manifested, because the cancer can come back.
What do I do with that?
Now I come to the same resolution that I did on my last post. That our day to day reality is no different than it was before. The Lord numbers our days and we could die at any time. Here in our comfy, cozy North America, that’s a reality that we work hard to deny (most of the time we’re pretty good at it), but it’s true. We die at the time God appoints, no sooner and no later. We envision ourselves living to a ripe old age and maybe dying peacefully as we sleep, but it could happen at any moment. My brother died in his early 20s from a work accident. My grandfather died in his 70s from a work accident. My uncle died in a motorbike accident. Yet I’m also blessed that my mom has been cancer-free for over 10 years now. I have a grandmother and grandfather who are still together in their 80s.
My dream is still to grow old with my Lowell. To see our girls meet and marry amazing husbands who are as perfect for them as their dad is for their mom. To have grandchildren. To spend time together just hanging out and enjoying each other’s company. (He’s my favourite person.)
However, I also have another dream. I want to be like the tree planted by the river that the Bible mentions in several places. The one who is so rooted in God and trusts Him so much that they’re not afraid when trials come:
“But blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord,
whose confidence is in him.
He will be like a tree planted by the water
that sends out its roots by the stream.
It does not fear when heat comes;
its leaves are always green.
It has no worries in a year of drought
and never fails to bear fruit.” - Jeremiah 17:7-8 (NIV)
I’m so not there yet.