This is one of those seasons with lots of people suffering. Specifically with cancer, but that’s likely because I’m a magnet for people with it. The picture here is of my beautiful friend, Julie Marchio, who passed away this month. I met her through Dr. Crooms, who put us in contact so I could be an encouragement to her. Julie believed she could be healed and sought it. By the time I met her, she had renewed her faith in Jesus, and saw Him as the loving savior that He is. She was always positive, always faithful, always full of love. Her liver failed when I had the flu, and I didn’t see her at the end. I know she still had faith but I don’t know if she was brokenhearted about not having been healed. I prayed that she had a deep peace about it and expect that she did. I don’t know how thrilled she was with having to suffer or having to leave her boys before she felt ready. I don’t know why God answered our prayers for my healing differently than He answered hers. But I have more peace about it all than I used to. I am more confident in the sovereignty of God, and of the joy of heaven than before.
Part of my new confidence is because, we studied Revelation this year at Bible Study Fellowship. It was the best Bible study of my life. Completely amazing. Every week brought something new, my perspective changed. My love for the Lord swelled, appreciation for His people skyrocketed, understanding of His glory grew…my interpretation of our suffering teetered, but my faith still soared.
People think of Revelation as prophecies about the future, but there’s much more to it. My words couldn’t do it justice, but in fact those words the Lord inspired reflect just that– His mercy and justice . Like, “Hallelujah! Salvation and glory and power belong to our God, for His judgements are true and just; For He has judged the great prostitute who corrupted the earth with her immorality, and has avenged on her the blood of His servants” from Revelation 19:1-2.
Sidebar: There’s a lot to study there about His fairness, which I think is debated by a LOT of people. So I hear…The truth is that people haven’t debated truth or basic biblical concepts around me much in years. Maybe I just hang out with too many Christians. So, if you want to hear about any more of that type of thing, I might be able to expand on here or via email, so contact me if so. Otherwise, just agree with everything I say. That’s what I do…
Besides Julie’s death, a different friend’s dad passed away from cancer this month, a friend had a cancer recurrence and three other girls I know were recently diagnosed. One friend’s chemo regimen identified today as The Day her hair is supposed to fall out. I don’t think constantly about my own journey anymore, but knowing what This Day might bring for my friend takes my breath away. My head pounds thinking back to that time. The worst manifestation of the journey. The most humiliating period of life.
My mind races between the memories: At first I thought maybe God would spare my hair so I didn’t face it and wouldn’t shave it. Then I arrogantly vowed to never wear a wig (which I but regretted many times, although I did stick with). Next, it started falling out over a period of weeks, each day brought terror and more heartache…a trip to the mall to try on hats, which was ruined because I shed what looked like hair extensions in each one. Then going away for the weekend without a brush, because I thought it was better to keep the remaining hairs matted to my scalp than to see them fall out. Making faces at Naomi as she slowly smiled and pulled that chunk of hair by my ear out… one particularly awful day I thanked God was finally ending, then as I slammed the dishwasher door shut I noticed what looked like an animal tail at the bottom. I almost screamed before I recognized my highlights throughout it. And finally, that night I spent crying for Naomi as the hairs and tears hit my shoulders. That is the blog post more people mention to me than any other. It’s the experience I share in front of an audience that I know will bring mothers to tears. And, it is The Moment of my life that I first knew the full extent of God’s love for me. His fatherly, perfect, passionate, devout, unceasing love.
Without that moment, I might not know how deeply Jesus loves me.
Without that suffering, I might not know how to love well and pray for others who struggle.
Without that cancer diagnosis, I might not know how much I want others to avoid the constant torture of hell.
I am grateful for that moment. I am grateful for my hair loss. Glad to know cancer and suffering, ecstatic to know Love. For me, suffering is love and love is suffering.
Please don’t think I’m downplaying suffering. I’m the one who still cries about hair loss, so it’s not that I’ve gone numb to it or anything. But I know that we will be better for it, and it will be over soon. Jesus said, “Behold, I am coming soon, bringing my recompense with me, to repay everyone for what he has done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.” (Rev 22:12-13).
Not to get all preachy, but if you read that verse and by some chance you aren’t sure what you’ve done is good enough, you don’t need to wonder anymore. It isn’t. Being a good person isn’t enough. Doing good deeds isn’t enough. We all sin and the wages of that sin is death. The only way you can “earn” your spot in heaven is to get your garments washed clean by the perfect blood of Jesus. He’s the only one who can atone for all of your past sins and the ones you’ll do next. No apologies, day of atonement or animal sacrifices can make you perfect. Sheesh, I haven’t even been perfect in the half hour it’s taken me to write this post. But I’m healed. We are healed by the wounds of the only begotten Son, and He freely took your sins on the cross. “The Spirit and the Bride say, ‘Come.’ And let the one who hears say, ‘Come’ And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price.” (Rev 22:17) That’s it. If you understand this paragraph, you are a hearer. If you’re searching for something and water doesn’t satisfy, you’re thirsty. In both cases, Go. Go to the One who can fulfill you and drink from the living water. Literally just say the words. You won’t regret it.