Today marks exactly one year since my wife got the phone call that everyone prays will never come. I remember her calling me crying and all she could say was “come home.” I drove and prayed and asked God to do a miracle, and he did not in the way I would have done it but a year later I can say that I don’t understand, but we’ve learned to trust more. This year has been difficult because walking through cancer was difficult for everyone in our family in very different ways. It has been hard because we have lost some very dear friends a few of them to cancer. Every time I think of them my heart aches a bit because this isn’t how it was supposed to be.
To be clear, I hate cancer. I also don’t believe that it is a gift from God. I do believe that God works through our greatest pains for our good and his glory (Romans 8). While I would never wish for Cancer to come. There are things in my life and in our family I would have never known existed both good and bad if it wasn’t for the trial that took the form of cancer in our family. At the moment we were rejoicing from the good news that my wife was Cancer free a few of our friends discovered they had Cancer in their bodies. With the freshness of the pain from what we had walked through I can’t tell you how this pained my heart. Yet having just walked through something so similar and watched God move in my wife’s life and in several others I had a faith to believe and pray in a way I wouldn’t have before.
One of those friends of mine was Jeremy Lee, a guy I had recently met in person but have known online for some time. As my wife was receiving her joy-filled news 6 months ago he was received far worse news. Since the day I found out he had Cancer I began to pray with new wisdom and fresh hope for healing. This week he received a clean bill of health, to God be the Glory. I wanted to share his Facebook status with you because I found it personally helpful and profoundly true.
One of the expectations of being a pastor is that you always know what to say, when to say it and how it should be said. The is even more true when the person who you are ministering to is hurting. In nearly 20 years of pastoral ministry to the same church family I have learned that when someone is hurting all they need is for you to “Just show up.”
When I was younger I would avoid painful situations and people who were hurting because I was so afraid of saying the wrong thing. I was afraid what I would say would only push them further into despair. The older I got, and the more people I went to see, the more I realized how wrong I was. I was reminded of the power of showing up when I asked one of the kids who grew up in our churches kids ministry what he remembered most about kids church when he was younger. I would have guessed he would say “the fun events” or “the powerful services.” You know what he said? “You came to see me in the hospital and gave me a video game when I got my tonsils out.” He didn’t remember what I said, he remembered that I showed up. I didn’t even remember doing that, and the video game I got him was a soccer video game – he played baseball. I didn’t do or say everything just right but I showed up.
One of the most powerful illustrations of this truth is seen in C.S. Lewis story of “The Voyage of the Dawn Treader.” Eustace a very frustrating boy who through the greediness of his own heart fell asleep on a treasure and was turned into a dragon. This caused tremendous amounts of pain and frustration for him and those who were traveling with him. Throughout the voyage a mouse named Reepicheep would call out Eustace when he would act selfish or unseemly, much to Eustace’s frustration. In this part of the story Eustace in the form of a dragon is in a deep despair as he feels that he will never be a boy again. Here is what Lewis says:
I am happy to report that earilier this week I had a PET Scan done and my doctor said my scan was clear and I am offically in remission. I am so very thankful for those who prayed and supported us. In the fall when all this came about. People would tell me that it was going to be very hard and that I would need lots of help. I remember just staring back at them not knowing what to say. They were right. My family, Sam’s family and my church family stepped in to help us in so many ways. When I look back I have tears of gratitude and in mhy heart I feel full of true joy. Difficult seasons cancel out all the noise in our life to allow you to focus on what matters most.
I can’t imagine going through this without our families and our church families support. When you face something so profound I know that the reality is,when it’s over you feel a sense of relief. Often relief can be followed by grief and that pain sometimes can delay grief as you are gutting it out each day. In the next season as we rejoice together I pray that you hold me and my family up in prayer that the enemy could not use this next season as an occasion to bring fear, anger or sadness to rob our hearts of the true joy Christ can only bring.
Lastly I want to challenge you to obey the promptings of the Holy Spirit in your life. When you have a thought or feeling that you should pray for someone, stop by and see them, or show them some act of kindness. Don’t ignore it. Often times it’s like a whisper. C.S. Lewis famously said that God whispers to us in our pleasures and shouts to us in our pain. My prayer for you and for myself is that we become more aware of God’s whispers so we can comfort those who are in pain.
Why is this happening to me? Why me? Everyone of us at some point has asked “why”? When I think of someone crying why I for some reason always picture Nancy Kerrigan grabbing her knee after it was hit by a thug with a club as she was leaving an ice skating rink in 1994. The camera crew covering the event showed Kerrigan grabbed her knee and saying over and over again “Why,Why, Why…?” You don’t have to be a Christian to know this world is not as it should be. There is something inside of us that sees the the injustice, pain and inequality of this world and knows that we were made for so much more. We instinctively know that this world is broken and falling apart. As Christians we are not immune from the effects of this pain and the brokenness of this world. What we do have is living hope. We have a light that shines in the darkness of our darkest days. We have a hope that whispers to us in the beauty of a perfect day and screams at us in the darkness of our worst “Behold I make all things new.”
Did you ever wonder if your kindness matters? It can and it does. My friends, church family and relatives have been so kind to me during this time. My friend Stephanie came and prepared a roast for my family, put it in my oven so the house smelled wonderful when the kids came home from school. Melissa matched a full basket of socks. We all gasped! That doesn’t always happen.
So many people sent cards, gave, sent text and prayers and it all has meant the world to us. Whether we know you well or not your kindness has mattered. This time has shown me how to care for others and that our friends are more generous than we deserve. In this post, I want to gently remind you to have courage and be kind to those around you. It matters more than you know.
I want to thank you for your prayers. Last update I asked you to pray for me because my white blood cells were very low. I was going to have to have a steroid shot to boost them. I wasn’t able to get the shot due to circumstances and this visit my blood counts were up significantly. I know that is the power of prayer at work. Our kids are also doing well I know is an answer to prayer as well.
We are so grateful for your support and prayers. Here is how you can be praying for us:
- My blood counts continue to stay high.
- That my kids maintain their health.
- Daily grace.
- That I would see a decrease in my nausea.
- That God would be glorified in our family through this trial.
Thanks so much and Happy New Year.