Some bad news came in May when we learned that my Mom has stage four Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma (cancer). She had her third chemo treatment yesterday, and we are all praying for the best. The situation is very serious but not hopeless. Her attitude and outlook are very positive, so we are all trying to learn from her example and be just as positive and upbeat as she is. My mother was aptly named "Grace." Mom is an incredible woman who has always taken joy in caring for others, so I'm sure it's rough on her to sit and let others take care of her. I'm going home to Arkansas to see her in July, and I know it will be hard for me to see her so weak with her hair all gone. Those outward signs of the illness will be the hardest things for me to handle. At the same time, all of this is a life lesson: "We are not our bodies. The best things in life...are not things. (that's from a little sign my Mom has sitting in her bathroom) Live and give in every moment. Old age is not a right or a guarantee, so get up, get off the couch, and live your life."
Soon after her diagnosis, it was my Sunday to sing on the Worship Team at church. One of the songs we sang that day was taken from Job 1:21. Those words were very hard for me to get out of my mouth that morning:
"Every blessing you pour out I'll turn back to praise; When the darkness closes in, Lord, still I will say: Blessed be the name of the Lord!...You give and take away; You give and take away; My heart will choose to say, 'Lord, blessed be Your name.'"
Obviously, my Mom hasn't been "taken away," so I was confused by my reaction to singing the song. After a little bit of thought on the subject, I realized why my tears welled up and my voice was shaky. Mom has not been taken away, but something of my innocence about the world has been obliterated. I guess I've lived a charmed life. Major illness has never attacked anyone close to me besides the elderly. When a shocking thing like this occurs, you're knocked down; you're breathless for a while. I felt like screaming, "Not fair! Not fair! Why?!? Why?!? Why?!?"
James says: "Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything." How am I supposed to "consider it pure joy" and praise God for this? I know, I know..."All things work together for good," right? But nothing about this is good, is it? I say: "God, couldn't I have learned this lesson another way?"
I'm not strong enough yet to thank God for this struggle, but just trying to believe in God's promises one day at a time is the most important lesson I'm learning so far. I'm thankful to my parents for instilling in me the instinct to trust and believe that God is in control, and he will not put any of us through anything we cannot bear. Besides, this time we have on earth is not all there is to life. We are eternal beings, and I can never be separated from my Mom or anyone I love because God is an eternal father of an immortal family. My fear is not doubt. My questioning is not a lack of faith. We fear because we are human. We question, so that God can answer. Simply believing in God's promises can feel like hard work. Sometimes all I have the strength to pray as I lie in bed at night is to quietly whisper "I believe." The simplicity in the words of John 6:29 have given me a lot of peace:
"Jesus answered, 'The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.'"
Jesus, I believe in you.