Tag Archive | Cancer

The Goodness of Affliction

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The goodness of affliction. Goodness? Affliction? Those two ideas always seem contrary to one another. How is it even conceivable that suffering or troubles, whether from circumstance or people, could, for even a moment, be considered good?

Affliction is addressed in many places throughout the Bible. In Psalm 119 alone, the psalmist refers to affliction repeatedly:
Verse 67 states: Before I was afflicted, I went astray …
And then verse 71 makes an amazing statement: It is good for me that I have been afflicted; that I might learn thy statutes.
And finally in verse 75, the psalmist praises the Lord for His faithfulness:
I know, O Lord, that Thy judgments are right, and that Thou in faithfulness hast afflicted me.

And it is these verses that have stirred in my heart and mind for the last couple of months – since I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I can humbly say that the Lord is making these verses real in my life.

Very soon after my diagnosis, the Lord began speaking to my heart saying that He wants ALL of me. I discussed this with my husband, and he asked me what the Lord wanted me to do. But I explained to him that though there may be something that the Lord wants me to do in the future, right now what He was saying was that He wants ALL of me … that He wants ALL OF MY HEART!

I had no idea of the path that the Lord had prepared for me, but I can, in all honesty, say that before I was afflicted I went astray, that it has been good for me that I have been afflicted that I might learn His statutes, and that in His faithfulness He had afflicted me.

How did He bring this about?
Before I was diagnosed with cancer, the church had asked me to lead a ladies group on the study of the Sermon on the Mount found in Matthew 5-7. After discussing the request with my husband and the pastor, we agreed that I would serve in that capacity, although the study was not scheduled to begin until the fall, which would be several months later. I felt so unqualified and began to pray regarding the study. Then along came the cancer, with appointments, procedures, biopsies, surgeries, and more.

I had “still” time, and quite a bit of it. I had told my husband that though I had this illness, I still needed to use my time well. Therefore, I “decided” to begin studying the Sermon on the Mount in preparation for the fall study. There are inadequate words to describe what the Lord has done in my heart. Yes, although I have been a Christian for over 30 years, I saw that before I was afflicted, I went astray, and indeed, the Lord wanted all of my heart.

It is impossible to explain, in one writing, the depths of the truths that the Lord has been showing me, but with His guidance I will attempt to summarize the path that I have been on. This path was not trodden in one day. I have been weeks and months in these truths. May the Lord Himself show forth His truth!

As I began to study this sermon, I saw that the Lord was teaching His disciples and that these truths are true for every child of His throughout all generations. It was as if He was speaking directly to me! Remember, He had shown me that He wanted ALL of my heart, and He lovingly laid it all out before me.

Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Poor in spirit. Humble. Emptied of self. Broken, knowing that in my self I have nothing to offer God. I can only fall before Him, pleading for mercy. That is how everyone who has entered the kingdom of heaven entered, but I must REMAIN humble in heart. How easily pride slips in, and how often the enemy causes one to lift himself up in pride. How many times do I look down on others with criticism and silently pat my own self on the back? Pride and arrogance have no place in the life of a child of God. How often the Scripture exhorts the child of God to humility! Indeed, I had gone astray. And yes, the Lord wanted ALL of my heart!

Blessed are those who mourn: for they shall be comforted.
Mourning. What is this mourning? When one comes before the Lord poor in spirit, he will of necessity mourn over his sin as he sees how far short he falls. But do I continue to mourn when I sin? How often do I compromise without any remorse? How quickly I justify and excuse sin. How complacent am I when worldliness begins to creep into my heart? How readily do I accept my flesh responses to situations or people? It is all still sin! I must remain poor in spirit, grieving to the point that I confess to Him. There He is faithful and just to forgive, and there I am comforted. Yes, indeed, I had gone astray. I had allowed sin to settle in my heart. And the Lord wanted ALL of my heart for Himself.

Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.
Meekness. How I have come to love this word! What is meekness? Meekness is not easy to describe. It seems that there isn’t a good word in the English language that defines meekness, nor is it something that is seen readily in our culture. Meekness comes following being poor in spirit and mourning. Meekness is a place of surrender to God, and a calm assurance rests in the heart of the child of God that she is His child and that He cares for her perfectly, only acting in goodness toward her. What this calm assurance produces is peace within the heart. The amazing effect of this meekness is that no matter the difficult circumstance and no matter the problem the difficult person may bring, God is in control of it all, and I can rest in Him. But besides the wonderful, confident rest and peace that meekness brings, it also prevents certain behaviors in my life. It will prevent one from retaliating, from lashing out, from storing up resentment and bitterness in the heart. It is not self-centered, nor self assertive. The effect of meekness is all because the child of God is trusting every situation and circumstance in the hands of her Heavenly Father. Yes Lord, without any exceptions, You want ALL of my heart!

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.
All of these qualities described in the Beatitudes are qualities of the heart, and so is this hunger and thirst. What are the desires of the heart? What do I truly hunger and thirst for? Is it God’s own righteousness? Is it all the things that God says is true and right? Do I have a deep desire to reflect Him as He truly is? Or do I settle comfortably into my own ways? As the world insidiously creeps in, do I find myself seeking worldly things and worrying about such? The heart moves away from hungering and thirsting for God, and settles for some worldly endeavor rather than seeking first the kingdom of God and His righteousness. Even busyness in doing “good” things can interfere and subtly change hunger and thirst for Him to desires for other activities. And, there again, I saw that surely I had gone astray. And, most importantly, that God wants ALL of my heart for Himself.

What I was beginning to see is that God wants my heart to consistently remain with Him. He wants me to continually humble myself before Him. He wants me to be sensitive to the Holy Spirit’s conviction and guidance, confessing when I fail. He wants me to remain meek and trust every circumstance of my life to Him, without reacting in a fleshly manner. And He wants me to continually seek Him above all else.

All of those heart qualities are directly related to my relationship to Him, and I am eternally grateful that He gives His children His own Holy Spirit to comfort, guide, and enable us. For apart from Him, we can do nothing!

I had been so convicted and humbled as I examined my heart and my relationship with God in the light of these truths. But my examination was not over. God now turned the focus to my relationship with others and my heart toward them.

Blessed are the merciful: for they shall receive mercy.
The first quality of the heart toward others addressed by the Lord is mercy. Why is that such an important quality to find in the heart of the believer? I believe that when a person has truly experienced the mercy of God, the very mercy of God must be manifested through him as he turns toward others. Apart from being merciful to others, I can never reflect the Father as He truly is. I had to face some tough questions. How often did I look at others with a critical spirit toward them rather than one of mercy and compassion? How often did I truly lift those same people up to the Father in prayer, that they may come to know Him and experience His mercy? God says His mercies are new every morning. Did I consistently and faithfully reflect the mercy of God? Oh, how short I fall. How desperately I desire for the Lord to take ALL of my heart.

Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.
I cannot even begin to speak regarding purity of heart. I cannot even imagine the blessing that it would be to truly be pure in heart. A pure heart. Pure thoughts. Pure motives. Serving the Lord purely, sincerely, and in singleness of heart at all times! The human heart is a desperately wicked heart, deceitful above all things, as the Scripture declares. Yet, our loving God says that He gives the believer a new heart, a heart that is like His own! How humbling, that God would be so gracious to any one of us. I understand the cry of the Psalmist: Create in me a clean heart and renew a right spirit within me. Lord, only You can do this in me!

Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.
Peacemakers. My whole life is to be an ambassador for Christ. My life is to be about reaching out to others that they may be reconciled to God. And then, as I interact with others, am I a peacemaker? Or do I find myself guilty of stirring envy and strife? Do I gossip? Or do I speak with words to edify and minister grace? Am I a part of healing relationships? Do I forgive? Am I truly a peacemaker? Again, I will trust the Father to change this heart to make it all He desires it to be! Truly, He wants ALL of my heart!

Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
If someone is growing in all of those attitudes of the heart revealed in the Beatitudes, doesn’t it seem as though he would be respected? The Scripture indicates otherwise. It says he will be persecuted, insulted, and falsely accused. Yet, the believer is to rejoice – to rejoice in the Lord! It is an honor to be counted worthy to suffer for Him, and great is the reward in heaven!

I have only given a quick glimpse into these Beatitudes, but the truths are deeper and higher than we can fully comprehend. The Lord has just begun showing me what He means by wanting ALL of my heart. He wants it for Himself. He wants to dwell there. He wants me to be conformed to His image.

Yes, slowly over time I had gone astray. I was like the church of Ephesus described in Revelation who had left her first love. God always call me to repent – to turn back to Him. And there I find the same gracious, merciful, forgiving Father as when I first believed.

I am still studying the Sermon on the Mount, and will likely be here for some time. I still have another surgery ahead of me, and I know that the Lord has much more for me to learn on this cancer journey, but right now, He is teaching me that it is good that I have been afflicted because He is truly bringing my heart back to Him!  Yes, My Lord wants all of me.  He wants all of my heart.  And if you are His child, He wants all of your heart, too!

It is good for me that I have been afflicted; that I might learn thy statutes.
Psalm 119:71

I know, O Lord, that Thy judgments are right, and that Thou in faithfulness hast afflicted me.
Psalm 119:75

An Unexpected and Uncertain Journey

Vacations. Travels. Journeys. Most of us look forward with eager anticipation to the journeys of life that are on the horizon. We plan, pack, and thoroughly prepare for the journey ahead. But in life, we sometimes find ourselves on a completely unexpected journey, one that we had never planned to take.

Such is where we find ourselves in this season of life. Having recently been diagnosed with breast cancer, there is an unexpected and uncertain journey that lies ahead for my husband and I. Where this journey will ultimately lead, only our Lord and Heavenly Father know for sure. However, as unplanned as this journey is on our end, I see that the Lord is preparing our hearts and packing all that we need for this journey.

The first truth for the journey – ASSURANCE. As we received the diagnosis, I was immediately reminded in my heart that I am not my own, I have been bought with a price – 1 Corinthians 6:19-20. What assurance it brings when you know of a certainty that you belong to God. Because you have been redeemed (bought by the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross) you are a child of the Living and Almighty God, and as such, your perfect Heavenly Father will care for you on every step of this unexpected and uncertain journey. From that assurance comes great rest and peace. Nothing else, nor anyone on this Earth, can give that kind of rest and peace. I know I will need to rest in the loving arms of my Father throughout this uncertain journey.

Interestingly, the second item for this journey is something that I am not allowed to bring with me. I thought about my travels to visit my son and his family overseas. There were certain items that I was never allowed to pack. Such would be the case on this journey. God spoke very clearly to my heart that I am not to bring FEAR with me. Fear is the natural and understandable reaction to the news that you have cancer. But immediately the Lord began bringing Scriptures to mind to FEAR NOT! As I took a concordance and walked through the Scriptures, over and over God’s people were instructed, yes commanded, to fear not. In addition, God gave the reason that they were not to fear. The overwhelming reason was that HE was their God and that HE was with them. I spent many hours in those Scriptures, with a greater and greater understanding of why fear should not be in my life. I believe Isaiah 41:10 explains it best: Fear not, for I am with you: be not dismayed; for I am your God: I will strengthen you; yea, I will help you; yea, I will uphold you with the right hand of My righteousness. Again the reason that I am not to fear is because He is my God, and He has said that He will strengthen me, help me, and sustain me. He has also said that He will never leave me nor forsake me. Faith, in its very essence, is knowing what God has said and trusting Him to do what He has said. Therefore, I must walk by faith, and not by sight. He has said: Fear not, therefore my heart’s response to Him is: I will fear no evil, for Thou art with me! I know of a certainty that fear will want to creep into this journey because fear is such a strong, natural human emotion, from which I am not exempt. But I also know of a certainty that the Lord does not want fear on this journey. I will trust His grace to help me walk there day by day.

The third item the Lord prepared in my heart for this journey is CALLING. Every true believer should know his calling in life. It is God Himself who calls, equips, and places one where he is to serve. God has called me to Himself to be a child of His. That calling will not change – not on this upcoming journey, nor on any journey in this life, nor throughout eternity.

Secondly, God has called me to be the wife of one man – my precious husband. During our 39 years of marriage God has taught me much about being a wife, help, and companion to this one man. That calling will not change. I am to continue in this calling in every way that I am able, even through the ups and downs of the journey. As the Lord began to cement this in my heart, there was one day that I wanted to mope around. The Lord gently reminded my heart that I wasn’t having a mastectomy TODAY, and that I wasn’t having radiation TODAY, and that I wasn’t having chemotherapy TODAY, so what was I going to do TODAY? My heart’s response was: I am going to be David’s wife today! With that truth, I set about having a blessed day. Since that day, I have been frequently reminded to just continue to be David’s wife. That is my place in this life and that will not change. I was reminded of a portion of our wedding vows: in sickness and in health. That vow must be true, not only to the kind of husband David will be to me, but the kind of wife I am to be to him. Additionally, the Lord has called me to stay under my husband’s leadership (headship) as I trust the Lord with every step of this journey. The Lord has spent years teaching me to see the goodness of God in following a husband’s leadership. That, too, must not change. God had called me as David’s wife, and all that that means shall not change for as long as we both shall live.

And the third part of my calling in this life – As a Christian, God places us in the body of Christ. There He gifts us and equips us to serve one another for edification – to build up the body of Christ. That calling would not change either. Though it seems that I fail at this so often, I am still to be about encouraging fellow believers. Yes, there could be such a tendency to shut oneself away from all others, but that is not God’s design. Everyone has times of struggles, trials, hardships, and difficulties. No one is exempt. It is part of the fallen world in which we live. But as fellow believers, we are to encourage one another, pray for one another, comfort one another, help one another, and love one another. This calling would not change. As I walk through this unexpected and uncertain journey ahead, as God Himself faithfully sustains me, I am to encourage others facing the struggles of life. By sharing truth and proclaiming His faithfulness, may I be found true to that calling, as well.

So in all three of these, to God Himself, to my precious husband, and to fellow believers, may I be constantly reminded: the gifts and calling of God are irrevocable – Romans 11:29. Those things will not change.

I know this is only the beginning of this unexpected journey as God prepares my heart for this path. When one looks at our situation with earthly eyes, it seems as if there is a one way path ahead, from which we cannot turn away. Above this path is a dark and ominous cloud encapsulating the word “Cancer”. Earthly eyes would see that only darkness lies ahead on that path, but that CANNOT be so for the Christian because God is already ahead of us on the path, and of a necessity light must be there because God is light and in Him is no darkness at all.  

I know that I understand nothing yet of the path that lies ahead, but I know the God in whom I have believed. I have been reminded of words penned by Daniel W Whittle in one of his well-known hymns. I close for now, as I share those meaningful words with you.

Refrain:
But “I know Whom I have believed,

And am persuaded that He is able

To keep that which I’ve committed

Unto Him against that day.”