As I sit here writing, I am again waiting for God to open or close a door. So much of this journey has ended up being waiting. But as I am sure many of you can attest to yourselves, there can be great truth and beauty found when we find ourselves waiting…
I haven’t written in some time just about this journey itself. The last few months have been the definition of a rollercoaster. Chemotherapy. Battling. But in the last few weeks I had started to actually feel like myself again. My surgeon told me it could take up to 6 months before I felt “normal,” and it turns out he was about right. We passed the 5 month mark a few weeks ago and I started to notice that I had energy again. I felt like getting out and living regular life! What a blessing.
Then last week after my 4th round of this particular chemotherapy cocktail something weird started to happen. I woke up in the middle of the night and was in pretty significant pain. My lower back and legs were aching and felt almost numb. I spent the hours between 3 AM and 8 AM doing my best to get more comfortable, seeing if the pain would resolve. Finally though we were forced to call the Cancer Center when the pain didn’t resolve, and long story short I ended up in the emergency room getting a battery of tests completed.
When the doctor came in with the results of my MRI I fully expected him to say- “Well we aren’t sure what’s going on! We can’t find an obvious problem.” But instead my Mother and I were hit with news of a much different nature. My cancer has metastasized to my spine and hip bones. Even typing these words now feels like a blow to the stomach. This kind of news knocks the air out of you. It seems to have the power to suck the very breath from your lungs.
Oh dear friends this is the very last news we were hoping for. This cancer does not “typically” move outside the abdominal cavity. It normally stays neatly within the confines of the abdominal walls and is content with wreaking havoc there alone. But not for me. My pain is being caused by the tumor pressing on and growing around the nerves in my lower spine. Thankfully, because of modern medicine and wise doctors I have been able to control my pain through medication and rest, but the weight of this news emotionally has been monumental. The shock of this news even more devastating. I had been feeling better! I had been physically feeling more renewed than I had in months. But the scans and my blood tests unfortunately told a different story.
But God in his usual, faithful way had already been preparing my heart. He had directed me to a passage in the last week that had been echoed several times over. First in my quiet time, then in a sermon, and finally in a conversation with a friend. I have said before how funny it is that you can read a book of the Bible in a new season and see something completely new, something you have never noticed before. And God showed me something “new,” something I had never noticed before in a passage of 2 Corinthians 1. He was preparing my heart for this news. For this shock and sadness. What a faithful God we serve!
Paul is writing to the church in Corinth in this book, telling them of some of the struggles he and his friends had been dealing with. He says in the first chapter:
“For we do not want you to be unaware, brethren, of our affliction which came to us in Asia, that we were burdened excessively, beyond our strength, so that we despaired even of life; indeed, we had the sentence of death within ourselves so that we would not trust in ourselves, but in God who raises the dead…”
How I had never really SEEN this before I couldn’t tell you. Mostly likely it was because before this in my life I had truly very little suffering, death was not a normal part of my life experience. Yes I had had grandparents and family friends pass away, but death was not something I spent much time dwelling on. Up to this point, I have been blessed with a life relatively free from pain and with very little deep awareness of death. But boy did this passage hit me like a ton of bricks as I read it this week!
I immediately went to commentaries on this section and read that while we don’t know what specific affliction had befallen Paul and his companions, they felt very sure they would die. They were being burdened to the point of death. The fear of death a very real and present part of their circumstances. And what’s more, they were found completely helpless in facing this situation on their own. While all of us know that death is inevitable, there is a 100% death rate after all, we aren’t often faced so directly with the threat or possibility of death in our day-to-day lives. This is probably why I have been able to gloss over these verses in the past. But oh what a picture of my life these verses are have become today…
I have been burdened excessively. Beyond my ability to stand. This news makes all the more obvious that death is a reality. Now let me say here, I have not give up hope. I have not given up the battle. BUT by God’s strength and grace I have been working on accepting God’s will for my life- whether that be healing here on this earth or eternal and permanent healing in heaven. And no matter what God’s will for my life ends up being my current “excessive burden” can be ignored in my life no longer.
But I don’t want to dwell on the first part of these verses…We all face trials. Burdens. We all face death. This is a part of living in a fallen world. Lets look instead at the HOPE God grants us in second part of this passage. A truth in that can serve as a rock solid foundation! One that will never be moved. There is purpose to ALL types of suffering, and what a powerful purpose it is indeed! The purpose is that we would be forced to rely on God and not ourselves! When we find ourselves burdened to the point of death- or maybe in more cases simply to a point much beyond our own strength- the purpose is to make us seek God and acknowledge that we are helpless without Him!! I know some people may find this discouraging- it’s not fun to accept that we are in fact helpless, that our lives are very far beyond our control. But for me, I find a tranquil and deep peace in this truth. As I read it the anxious flutters in my heart cease. The feeling of running and never getting anywhere falls away. All fear and anxiety are forced to take a back seat to a much greater and profound truth. The God of the Universe loves me and is in control of my life, no matter how out of control my circumstances may seem! I can trust this God I serve. Nothing is a surprise to God!
What a truth to rest in, rely on. When the waves of life crash around us God is still in control. And He is the one directing our steps. He is the one who will get us to safe harbor. When our burden becomes to great for us to bear we have a place to turn. The purpose of this burden on my life right now is that I may be sure, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that I can rely ONLY ON GOD! He is my strength. He is my Redeemer. He is my Healer. My hope is ONLY in Him!
While I don’t know what the outcome of my journey will be yet, I can rest more easily knowing that I can rely on God. I don’t need to trust myself to succeed or overcome my circumstances. That would very obviously be a hopeless situation. I instead am trusting the all-powerful, all loving God of the Universe. The Creator of heaven and earth. He is in control of my life, my circumstances. And I have a great peace in knowing that I don’t have to rely on myself, but on a God who raises the dead.
I will update you all as we find out more. Right now we are waiting. Waiting for God to make a path clear. Waiting to see what direction He has for me next. Until then I will continue to rest in the fact that I can rely on Him. He gives us just enough grace for today….