Hope in Unanswered Prayers

Barbara Holloway left the earth early Wednesday morning. Since then I waited to post this in case I got some amazing revelation that improved the tone of the post, but that just hasn’t happened. She was a very strong and devoted believer and we know she is in her rightful place, at the “beginning” of eternity with the Lord. 


Romans 8:28, “And we know that in all things God works for the good<span class="crossreference" data-cr="#cen-NIV-28145A" data-link="(A)” style=”background-color: white; box-sizing: border-box; line-height: 22px; position: relative; text-align: start; top: 0px; vertical-align: top;”>
 of those who love him, who have been called<span class="crossreference" data-cr="#cen-NIV-28145B" data-link="(B)” style=”background-color: white; box-sizing: border-box; line-height: 22px; position: relative; text-align: start; top: 0px; vertical-align: top;”> according to his purpose.”

There are no more tears or regrets in heaven. There is no more sin. Nothing to dread. No hurt feelings, pain, or sorrow. She got to go where we all should be. Where we all would have been if it weren’t for the sin that Eve (first) committed in the garden. Barbara left this nomadic life where she was a stranger and didn’t fully belong for the only place that isn’t true. She made it to the end of the long race, where the Lord greeted her with His passionate joy and love.

We should all rejoice that Barbara is in heaven. Instead of coveting our neighbor’s car/job/house/husband/well-mannered children/toned body/savings account/friends (pick whatever best applies), we should covet her new life. She is home and we are not. 

But there is one problem: She didn’t want to go. 

Psalm 139:16, “Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained<span class="crossreference" data-cr="#cen-NIV-16256Y" data-link="(Y)” style=”box-sizing: border-box; line-height: 22px; position: relative; top: 0px; vertical-align: top;”> for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.”

On the surface, and maybe a few layers beneath that, it feels like the ultimate betrayal by the Father. He promises, “If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.” (John 15:7). I assure you without any hesitation or confusion, Barbara asked to be healed and to stay on earth. She asked time after time. I’m told thousands were praying for her. She wholeheartedly believed He would heal her, until the very last agonizing breath, she believed He would answer that prayer. 

We can rejoice that she really was healed, but let’s not pretend that was the answer she was looking for. She asked to be healed on earth and He chose not to do that. He could have done it but He knew better. He alone knows what is best for you, best for me, best for Barbara. He knows what God-glorifying things will happen on earth because her time on earth ended. He knows what other pain or problems she avoided by moving to heaven. He created her, you, me, and everything on the earth. He numbers and ordains all of our days, and He makes no mistakes.

Colossians 1:15-17, “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities– all things have been created through Him and for Him. He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.

We might want to know why He answers some prayers and not others, but we might never know. We just have to trust. That’s what faith is all about, the confidence in what we hope for, the assurance of what we cannot see (Heb 11:1). We don’t know the reasons, but we are never left alone with the answers. Jesus understands our feelings. When He saw Mary mourning over the loss of her brother, “He was deeply moved in His spirit and greatly troubled” (John 11:33). The Jews even recognized it and said, “See how He loved him!” (John 11:36). Jesus had already planned to raise Lazarus, so we don’t know if the sadness had anything to do with why He raised Lazarus from the dead, but regardless the words convey His true feelings. Jesus didn’t sin, so He wasn’t wrong in feeling enough sorrow for some combination of Mary’s loss, the earthly loss of Lazarus, and maybe  for the confusion and sadness produced by His not preventing the death, that He wept. 


Barbara was in horrendous physical anguish at the end of her life. It was torture. But she never lost the hope of the living. She trusted fully in her Savior, even though He seemed to turn His back on her. The big picture is that He helped her to end up where she should be, where it is perfect and beautiful, pain-free and carefree, instead of where she thought she should be. Praise to the Lord Almighty who knows so much better than we do! Please pray for her family’s sadness to turn to joy as they see the ways He turns Barbara’s legacy into more fruit on earth.


2 Corinthians 4:16-18  So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.

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More Sadness

Have you ever had a day where you had to dry off twice after a shower–once from the water, and the other from the tears that cover you so rapidly you require a second pass with the towel before you can get dressed? This is one of those mornings. I’ve had countless ones like this but they grow farther in between as time passes since my healing.

Someone else we were praying for died. Of cancer. I know, I know, we all die. Oh, and I’m well aware that every day with her was a blessing and the Lord answered many prayers to keep her around so long. And, yes, I do know that heaven is the place we should all want to be. That once we experience heaven we truly will all want to be there and to stay there. Forever. And ever. And ever. (And that believers GET to stay there forever and ever.)
A lot of people come to know and accept Jesus into their lives when someone close to them dies. I wonder why. Is it because He is so much more real to them then, providing His limitless comfort we don’t experience under other circumstances? Or is it because they realize how preposterously powerless they are so maybe it’s time to suck it up and worship the only one who is actually in control? I hope that’s not it, but I struggle at times to tear my mind from bitterness of that sort.
Last week I prayed about how dead I feel inside. I know it’s a spiritual battle, but think it’s also related to all my medications and lack of hormones. Today I see that the Lord can break through such barriers to answer my prayers to really feel something. My ungracious heart cries to Him that I had other prayers I would have preferred for Him to answer. In my flesh I wish I still felt numb and that He healed this woman. That she was alive, dancing and praising the Holy One who healed her. 
As I wipe the last of my tears away I turn my heart back and thank this God we serve. He knows that I needed to feel again, to help me care enough to bother loving other people. And best of all, she is dancing for Him forever. She has that limitless joy that we all desire on earth but can never experience here. She is worshiping the One who knows us closer than a brother, who knit us together in our mother’s wombs, who counted and ordered each day we struggled through on earth, who is the only one who knows what is actually best for us and who faithfully provides it.
Romans 14:8, “If we live, we live for the Lord; and if we die, we die for the Lord. So, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord.”

“Blessings”
We pray for blessings, we pray for peace
Comfort for family, protection while we sleep
We pray for healing, for prosperity
We pray for Your mighty hand to ease our suffering
And all the while, You hear each spoken need
Yet love us way too much to give us lesser things

‘Cause what if your blessings come through rain drops
What if Your healing comes through tears
What if a thousand sleepless nights are what it takes to know You’re near
What if trials of this life are Your mercies in disguise

We pray for wisdom, Your voice to hear
We cry in anger when we cannot feel You near
We doubt your goodness, we doubt your love
As if every promise from Your word is not enough
And all the while, You hear each desperate plea
And long that we’d have faith to believe

‘Cause what if your blessings come through rain drops
What if Your healing comes through tears
What if a thousand sleepless nights are what it takes to know You’re near
What if trials of this life are Your mercies in disguise

When friends betray us
When darkness seems to win
We know that pain reminds this heart
That this is not,
This is not our home
It’s not our home

‘Cause what if your blessings come through rain drops
What if Your healing comes through tears
What if a thousand sleepless nights are what it takes to know You’re near

What if my greatest disappointments or the aching of this life
Is the revealing of a greater thirst this world can’t satisfy
What if trials of this life
The rain, the storms, the hardest nights
Are your mercies in disguise



Sometimes

Sometimes it’s easy to see how good God is. He is everywhere. The sun is shining like only He can make it do, the birds are chirping the songs He taught them. Your children are behaving like the perfect little angels that only He (or the promise of chocolate) can convince them to be. 

1 Thessalonians 5:16 “Always be joyful.”

Other times we are awakened at 4 am by the “puppy” that is bigger than a miniature horse, clawing at us to go outside. Then maybe the day gets worse so our head aches and we feel that we’re climbing up a mountain of infinite height the whole time. And when it’s finally time to sit and rest we glance at our phone to see bad news. Really bad news.

1 Thessalonians 5:18 “Give thanks no matter what happens. God wants you to thank him because you believe in Christ Jesus.”

This is a day with struggles like that. God is good no matter what, but I sure wish I hadn’t just read that Kate died. I mentioned her on here before. She was really young (don’t remember, mid-twenties probably), and had ovarian cancer. I met her when she was scared, sick, and seeking God. She prayed with us for her healing but not for her salvation. As soon as I left her I knew I should have pushed for her to pray for the Holy Spirit to envelope her life. But I didn’t. 

Ecclesiastes 9:12 “Moreover, no one knows when their hour will come: As fish are caught in a cruel net, or birds are taken in a snare, so people are trapped by evil times that fall unexpectedly upon them.”

She was in town visiting this winter, and was about to return to Colorado. Since then we emailed a few times and she implied that she was involving Jesus in her life, but I don’t know if she ever literally prayed a sinner’s prayer and accepted the Lord. That’s between Him and her now. I desperately hope that she did, and ask that you would all pray for her family to see Him through this tragedy somehow. Pray that her life and death would have a beautiful impact on the kingdom of heaven and that all who knew her would live for Him. And with Him, forever in heaven.

I’m just devastated that she passed away. She was really frail but was also on a strict diet so I sort of thought that was it. I can’t believe someone who was able to fly here and get around just fine a few months ago was sick enough to die so soon after. You would think I’d be used to it by now but I’m just not. This girl did NOT want to die. There wasn’t that lack of hope that would make her give up. And her poor husband actually married her after she was already diagnosed. They were newlyweds and never even spent a day of her marriage as a healthy person. She never got to have kids or to really celebrate the great things God gave her. 

Acts 14:7 “…and yet He did not leave Himself without witness, in that He did good and gave you rains from heaven and fruitful seasons, satisfying your hearts with food and gladness.”

It’s really hard to see His goodness in all of this, but it’s there. It’s there in the little things, like letting her get diagnosed in time to appreciate the notice and share a lot of love and memories. It’s there in the fact that at least as of a few months ago she wasn’t in a lot of pain. It’s there because He led her to seek Him before she died. So many people do that. I think on some level they realize that the emptiness they feel has a source, and it’s not in the pleasures that healthier people enjoy so much. They start realizing that they aren’t in control of their own destiny, and maybe eternal life isn’t worth hedging your bets about.

John 14:6 “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the father except by me.”

It’s not enough to be a good person, or to help others. Anyone can do that. But not just anyone can go to heaven. I actually don’t live for Jesus because of the promise of heaven, I do it because He has redeemed me and I am overflowing with that gratitude NOW and want to share it TODAY. But when it boils down to it, it doesn’t matter what we do on earth, because it’s less than a fraction of eternity. There is no end to eternity. No second chances, no do-overs. That’s why a true Christian will love these non-believers enough to tell them about the Lord. He is the ONLY way. Honestly, I wish that wasn’t so, but I’m not going to lie to you about it.

Ephesians 5:6Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience.”

There are a lot of reasons not to devote yourself to God. It can be embarrassing. You might have to give up your lavish lifestyle. You have to depend on Him instead of yourself. But…we are not promised tomorrow and you will likely not have a clue when you’re about to die. I sure had no clue that I was dying at the time of my diagnosis, and I really thought I had a good handle on intuition. Hell is an eternal wrath, a complete separation from God. It’s not worth it. 

Revelation 14:11 “And the smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever, and they have no rest, day or night, these worshipers of the beast and its image, and whoever receives the mark of its name.”

There is no official prayer to accept the Lord but I’m going to paste one from here. You just have to acknowledge the God is supreme and Jesus is the only way to get to Him. Promise to change your ways (then do! He will help!). You could pray this and if you mean it (or really, just try to mean it. If there are parts you fail at or don’t understand you just pray for help!). If you do this, it’s the first step in a relationship with Him. Most of us don’t just “get” what to do next. If that’s the case, read the Bible, pray, find a church and repeat. I can help you find resources so feel free to email me here if so.

A Sinner’s Prayer:
“Dear God in heaven, I come to you in the name of Jesus. I acknowledge to You that I am a sinner, and I am sorry for my sins and the life that I have lived; I need your forgiveness.

I believe that your only begotten Son Jesus Christ shed His precious blood on the cross at Calvary and died for my sins, and I am now willing to turn from my sin.

You said in Your Holy Word, Romans 10:9 that if we confess the Lord our God and believe in our hearts that God raised Jesus from the dead, we shall be saved.

Right now I confess Jesus as the Lord of my soul. With my heart, I believe that God raised Jesus from the dead. This very moment I accept Jesus Christ as my own personal Savior and according to His Word, right now I am saved.

Thank you Jesus for your unlimited grace which has saved me from my sins. I thank you Jesus that your grace never leads to license, but rather it always leads to repentance. Therefore Lord Jesus transform my life so that I may bring glory and honor to you alone and not to myself.

Thank you Jesus for dying for me and giving me eternal life.
Amen.”

Lots of Updates

There are so many updates to share that I might not get to anything juicy today. I’m having a hard time getting my act together this fall. I took on too much so am always either overly busy, or so overwhelmed that I shut down.

I just got back from Jacksonville, where the latest FABA conference was held. That is the Florida Association for Behavior Analysis, and I haven’t been there in two years. I used to work for the company and have very few fond memories from it, meaning that I was losing sleep about going. In many ways it was as bad as I expected–it was the first time I’d seen all these people since before my diagnosis, so some people were weird to me and others didn’t recognize me. As a result of that and several other variables, I feel much more socially awkward than before. I noticed I had virtually nothing to say to people, so sometimes even avoided conversations rather than risking sounding stupid. My hair has grown in nicely but is currently at an awkward length, so tons of people who didn’t know about the cancer stuff talked about it. They said they liked it, but I am repulsive so doubt they meant it. Those talks generally turned into an awkward cancer conversation. I tried to avoid it, but people would keep asking why or when I cut it, so I had to say something. It gave me a great chance to tell people about how I was miraculously healed, but..I wasn’t really in the mood. I just wanted things to be normal again. I don’t actually want to be the one sitting around the coffee station telling them how I’m supposed to die soon. They just wanted to get a packet of Splenda and make small talk. They didn’t want the girl with bad hair to remind them of how mortal they are.

The highlights of the conference were when people (some were barely acquaintanes) pulled me aside to say how moved they were by my story. Some said they grew closer to God through it and, as I’ve mentioned many times, that makes it totally worth it. So, I need to focus on that.

There are other bits of recent good news, too. I saw Dr. Rassam before I left town and he said he’s not going by the book with me anymore, because I’m atypical. So, he’s sparing me the radiation that goes into regular PET/CT scans and instead will just get me tested if I have symptoms. He took my blood and all my markers were negative again.

I was interviewed for the Tallahassee Democrat (our local newspaper) last week. They are focusing on breast cancer stories throughout October, which is BC Awareness month. I did a written interview, then the reporter took a video of me sharing the story to be posted online. Wouldn’t you know–I royally messed up the video report. I misspoke and had weird, nervous inflections. So, I went home and prayed about it. Then a week later the guy emailed a big apology–the video somehow was messed up so he needed to reshoot it!!!! Coincidence? “Sure”. The second time went a lot better and I’m excited about it, because most of the stories will not have the same message of hope that mine does.

I do have to report some bad news, too. Both of the people I requested prayer for reccently, Angela Faddis, and Steve Kalogeras, have passed away. Those are the first unanswered prayers out of all the ones I’ve posted. Steve died almost 2 weeks ago and the funeral was last week. Angela survived a few weeks longer than expected but died yesterday of colon cancer. She was my age. Her husband had quit his job to take care of her. They set up an in-home hospice and her little children were with her until the end. I am so saddened by this. She loved the Lord and is with Him for eternity, but I know she didn’t want to die. Not at the first anyway. I imagine that by the end you kind of want to put the rest of the family out of their misery. That’s the worst part of the hospice stuff, to me.

I’m still wrestling with this issue of whether everyone can be healed on earth. I can’t get past it, because it changes the whole perspective. Most say no, but some of those who think it so are those who then are healed. My take home message from being healed is that God healed me because a) we all asked and b) I (with at least a few others) believed that He would answer. That His word is literal and true. His word says to pray and believe it will be done and it WILL be. Literally, it will be done. For me, it was done. For Angela, it was not done, and I have a hard time with it. I won’t presume that it’s because she and her family didn’t believe she would be healed, because that’s almost like blaming them for her death. I guess it goes back (again) to that stuff I keep mentioning about God putting desires in your heart, and that’s how you pray. But if that such an important thing, why is it barely mentioned in the Bible? It says TONS of time to pray and believe. It barely says that God gives you the desires of your heart, and that could sort of be interpreted differently.

I guess that is it. Enough sad and confusing issues for one day. This year at BSF we’re studying Genesis so I’ll probably bring in points relative to that. For now, remember that He created the heavens and the earth (Gen 1:1). He created each of us. Planned it all. Formed us in our wombs. Why? For His glory. It’s individualized because we’re all different people, but we are all working together. Every move we make should be pleasing to Him, even if it means living like an alien in this strange land.

“They tell how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead–Jesus, who rescues us from the coming wrath.” 1 Thess 1:9-10

Death

I’m close to a breakdown…not sure I can handle this…I just learned someone I knew in college recently died. Of cancer.

Yaacov didn’t understand the magnitude of the situation, which means you all reading this probably won’t either. That’s part of the isolation of the ridiculous disease. Especially in my situation–hardly anyone my age can relate to having a terminal illness at all, because, well, there aren’t many of the and they die before we can really “bond”. So that stinks, and then when you throw in that I was miraculously healed, it’s even harder to find people that “get” it. Not that I’m complaining, really. 
There’s something about being told time and again that you’re going to die soon that changes you. I used to think it was like teaching English as a Second Language–you don’t have to speak multiple languages to teach the new one. But I’m pretty sure that in this case you have to live through it or have some really, really, really awesome insight straight from God to get it. 
That said, most people don’t have the ability to turn from a happy thought into a mess of tears because someone they barely knew is dead. I have that ability, and right now I don’t want it. It’s like I’m living his death. I already lived my own, you know. It’s not much easier this time. If he had died in a car accident or something, I probably wouldn’t be too upset. But the second I read “cancer” I knew. I knew what it felt like for Jim to hear the diagnosis for the first time. For him to hope and pray for good test results. To hear bad news instead. To hope and pray for the miracle. Without ever having set foot in a hospice, I knew how it felt to have to move there, knowing it would likely be his last earthly home. Then finally, to hope and pray for a removal of the agony–mental and physical–that the bastard disease caused himself and loved ones. 
I couldn’t tell you what color his eyes were, but I know exactly how he felt. And I know he wanted to live as much as I did. I know he deserved to live as much as I did. And I know he didn’t. And I did.
I’m so sad. Confused. Surprised. Everyone in the body has a part and I always thought mine was minor. I did hope sometimes for a position of higher impact, but life and death with myself as an example is beyond my capabilities. Why aren’t I called to be a beacon of hope for something lighter? Simpler? Easier? Less painful, perhaps? 
“After he was healed, the man…begged Him that he might be with Him. However, Jesus did not permit him, but said to him, ‘Go home to your friends, and tell them what great things the Lord has done for you, and how He had compassion on you.” Mark 5:18-19
I am quite certain the scripture above is a direct command for me, so I will keep doing it. It’s not particularly hard with the right audience, but what can I say to people grieving from actual loss? “See how healthy I am?!” 
I know it sounds so ungrateful to complain, when I’m still alive, but I don’t know how many more deaths I can live through. I suppose the point is that I am utterly unable to perform these duties without the help of the Lord, so when I feel this way I’m on the verge of breaking through–become less so He can become more. So, come on then, God! I’m ready to feel numb again.