An End to Suffering

Yesterday at tee ball I chatted with friends and moaned about the heat while Abigail gingerly batted and skipped around the bases. I barely paid attention and mostly waited for the game to end so we could get on with the day. On the way home Abi mentioned that a little girl on her team doesn’t have a mommy. Because her mom died of stage 4 cancer. One of my first thoughts was, “Why didn’t I know?” because I’m That selfish. I actually think I know every woman in town who is sick. Or that I have a supernatural sense for when a motherless child is on the tee ball field. Or that it would have actually made a difference if I had known.

My next realization was that it could have been me. With one different choice from our Savior, Abigail would have been the motherless one on the team. Naomi would spend her time in daycare and the workers there would feel so sad when she was confused and tried to call them “Mom”. It could have been me. God doesn’t make mistakes, so it shouldn’t have been me in that sense, but if you look at how worthless I am as a person, a mother, Christian, wife, sister, daughter and friend, it should have been me. Someone who doesn’t even enjoy the blessings of this life doesn’t deserve to be the recipient of a miraculous gift. But as quickly as that sorrow sinks in, it is replaced by the Lord’s still, calming, all-encompassing peace. He saved me because of His grace, His mercy, His plan–not mine. I could actually be a fruitful person, I could be close to perfect in all I do, gracious, devoted, and compassionate. But I still would never earn His love.

Ephesians 2:4-9
“But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God.”
I’ve been surrounded by suffering lately. So many people are sick and dying, and God pointed out to me that as a society we sort of celebrate suffering. It is obviously helpful for us, because the more we suffer the more we seek God and recognize our need for Him. But I wonder if we celebrate suffering more than we celebrate Him. When you think of the Bible, I think an outline would reveal that the whole thing points to Jesus, our Savior. We all suffer, it is biblical, but that’s not the theme of the Bible. The Good News isn’t about us at all. It’s about Jesus and what we do with Him and His truth. 
“How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news” Romans 10:15
I think it’s time to put an end to the suffering. I’m ready to remember the lessons He brought us through it instead of focusing on the circumstances. Seems to me that we find a lot of reasons to wait on celebrating Him. We have a hard time rejoicing in Him when we’re suffering. Some of us even think about how we’ll be doing all that rejoicing in heaven, like that nullifies the fact that we already have our Savior! We live in a fallen and sinful world, but that doesn’t make God any less…God. He doesn’t change so He won’t be any “better” in heaven, we just won’t have as many crummy circumstances that color our view of Him. 
“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, when you face trials of many kinds” James 1:2
I think the original point of singing songs in church was to praise Him for His sacrifice and presence. That the appreciation for who He is would overflow so abundantly from our hearts that we would be incapable of withholding beautiful musical offerings toward the heavens. I had a little vision today at church, of what it would be like if we all actually entered the sanctuary in that state of mind. That we would all simultaneously arrive at the conclusion that God Almighty is perfect, loving, amazing, sovereign, all-knowing, pure love and MUST be praised! That it doesn’t need to wait until the perfect song is played, or fit into the 17 minute pre-scheduled worship time. That our love for God would spill from us so readily that we wouldn’t care that we don’t sing well or don’t know the words, we would just rejoice at His awesomeness without delay.
“Let everything that has breath praise the Lord. Praise the Lord!” Psalm 150:6

Suffering and all that jazz

Here’s what’s keeping me up on this lovely evening: Suffering. Not that I’m personally suffering more than usual, but there are some ideas floating in my head that I think the Lord is trying to teach me about. For one thing, I’m praying for two very sick women with breast cancer. Honestly, both are about to die. But one is ready and waiting for heaven, and the other is still praying for a miracle. She’s a believer, so is it her heart’s desire because He put it there and is waiting for us to pray and believe she will be healed? Or is she struggling to trust Him with her children once she’s gone? Afraid of this heaven we read about, which sounds so great but is eternal and, therefore, beyond our understanding? 

How do we pray for people who suffer when we don’t get marching orders straight from Him? Isn’t this faith that can move mountains big enough to expect and ask for things greater than our friends can hope for? Do we dishonor Him with safe prayers like those to “ease suffering”?

Jesus set the example with, “Father, if you are willing take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” Luke 22:42. We can’t go wrong praying the way Jesus did! But Jesus was God and knew His mission was to die for our sins. Karen, the one who wants to live, has no idea what He wants. So, we pray for more faith for us and for her. We pray when she is too sick to do so herself, that angels will minister to her and lift her up. We pray for her broken heart to heal on earth, and that she will not feel ashamed or deserted, but will experience His true, unshakable love. And we pray in agreement with her to the only One who was given all authority on earth (Matthew 28:18) to completely remove all her cancer. That she will not die but live and proclaim what He has done (Ps 118:17). Then we close our prayer back in rightfully humble place, remembering that we are servants to the only one who is truly faithful. That His glorious and perfect will is done with both of these ladies.

Ephesians 3:19-21 “and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God. Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen.”

Here’s a little housekeeping: I’m having some trouble with this blog, so for the past year or so people couldn’t “join” it. I thought it was weird that people kept telling me they read it but there were no new followers. I’m not sure how or if that differs from subscribers, which I can’t see at all but seems to send emails. So, if you haven’t ever followed it, please do so because I think it’s time to move off Blogger and that will be a way to make sure everyone gets the address change. Also, I’ve read a bit about what a pain that change is (and that I can lose access to this blog at any time, how sad!), so if you have tips or suggestions please send them my way!

My final update is that although I stated a few weeks ago that I was trying to write a fiction book about all this cancer, it’s just not coming together as I hoped. I guess I got the message wrong from the Lord, so please please pray for me to hear what I am supposed to do. I have several thoughts but don’t want to continue taking the wrong avenues. Over the past few years I have been blessed to verbally share my testimony on an average of every two months. But now I have none on the books and I’m not sure if that means it’s time to change my focus or not. I do LOVE to share what the Lord has done though so please let me know of any opportunities!

Pain and Comfort

A well-known Tallahassee resident is about to die because of breast cancer. She’s battled it for years with many ups and downs, but now her liver is failing so no one expects a recovery.

Everything she is going through is exactly what I used to be afraid of. It’s exactly what I prayed against–people not believing she has enough faith to survive, people adjusting their prayers from requests for healing to begging for her to be released from her awful time in “this life”. When she passes many will sigh with relief as the burden of having worried about and sacrificed so much for her over the years passes.They will talk about how she’s in a better place now. And they will be right. 
Maybe having watched her health decline will make it easier for her boys and her devoted best friend to recover from losing her. Maybe having hundreds of people offer hugs and platitudes will ease the pain. Perhaps all the flowers that are delivered will send delicate fragrances that seep into their consciousness and revive special memories of happy days spent with her. Or, maybe none of this will help. 
Probably the fact that her boys have no mother will put a damper on the summer. The scent of the flowers will likely become a stench to all who cross them, a reminder that she cannot smell them any longer. Those who loved her will have pain that cannot be covered by reminders of this heaven that we cannot fully envision. 
Self-control and smiling faces can mask the pain but only one thing can remove it. The One who endured it all but didn’t have to (Hebrews 12:2). The One who truly understands what we go through and promises to comfort us with the peace that transcends all understanding (Philippians 4:7). The one who is closer than a brother, who sustains us on our sick bed but still numbers our days (Ps 3:5; Job 14:5). Only He can bring true healing, and only He will bring true healing (Jer 30:17). 
2 Corinthians 1:3-4, “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.