More than a comforter

The Lord is our comforter. The prince of peace. He creates a tranquil calm in the midst of storms that transcends all our human understanding. Holy is He who casts out all fear and soothes our souls! 

2 Cor 1:4, ” [He] who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.”
So, we find out someone is sick and we comfort them the way He has comforted us in the past. We hear about a struggle and we pray for His will to be done, that they would know the supernaturally perfect peace of the Savior. And we move on. Mission accomplished, right?
Maybe not. Maybe praying, hoping, even striving for comfort is a great intention but…maybe stopping there is among the deeply insulting ways we fall short in loving God. We must love Him and His people bravely and deeply, bolstered by the power of the Holy Spirit, who calls us to speak the truth, and be doers of the Word. 
If you and your children were trapped in a car as it fell into a lake, would you want an onlooker to pray for your comfort? To call out “boldly”, “Peace, my peace I leave you!” My heart aches just thinking of the cowardice that would display. The sad reality of how often that happens. Remember, when we do things for others, we are doing them for Him and through Him. God’s is not a coward. Jesus was not a coward, the Holy Spirit is no coward. This is how He came: “And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each of them” (Acts 1:2-3). That is the same Holy Spirit who dwells within every baptized believer! Would someone who valued that Holy Spirit and His power watch the car plunge through the depths of a watery grave and begin to mourn before the car was fully submerged? 
Of course not. So why do we learn bad news from men and immediately jump to platitudes and peace offerings? Do not misunderstand me. Peace is amazing, and it is the opposite of fear, which we should call on the Lord to quench at all costs. But, peace is just one of the limitless perfect blessings the Lord will bring to us. Not through manmade objects, positive thinking, or will power, but through true faith in Him. He tells us time and again to pray, pray, pray. “The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working” (James 5:16). The parable of the persistent widow taught us to always pray and not lose heart (Luke 18:1-8). “Ask and it will be given to you, seek and you will find, knock and it will be opened to you” (Matthew 7:7) Then do it again. And again. “And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us. And if we know that He hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of Him.” (1 John 5:14-15). 

The bolder the prayer, the more faith it takes to pray it. It’s hard, sometimes impossible, to pray for impossible things. But if things were possible with men we wouldn’t need to pray. We wouldn’t need a hero…but we do need one, and we have Him! He came, freely, to save us, it’s already been done! The blessings that come from Him answering impossible, faith-filled prayers are so much greater than whatever He did to answer it. It is for His glory, and not for our own. So no man can boast, we pray and seek this Mighty God who does so much more than comfort us. He heals, loves, empowers, gives, and takes away. Let’s treat Him and His people like they are worth the risk of acting boldly and expecting mighty results!
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Death

We need to feel helpless to appreciate and recognize our need for God.
The problem with that is: I don’t want to! I want God to empower me to be fruitful for Him! I want to have such amazing faith that I don’t stumble over my own inconsistencies! I want to pray and see Him work, instead of to do all that and watch as nothing changes. Sometimes I feel like I’m sitting alone in a big empty bubble, just watching others in their bubbles struggle. There’s no escape, nothing I can do. I cry out to the Lord but my voice doesn’t project. Where does our help come from? When will it come and who will it reach?

This week, an amazing woman of God died. Her name was Jessica Marie Hehn, and she was the first person I ever prayed for who was healed…and now she’s dead.
Jessica was extremely young and healthy. She was actually a very successful vegan health guru, who was newly married and excited to have babies. Out of nowhere she was diagnosed with Stage 4 lung cancer. Can you imagine a more insulting diagnosis than lung cancer for someone so healthy? Right after I was healed she called me and I boldly told her about Jesus. I boasted about The Lord Who Heals and when I paused to take a breath I was surprised that she responded,”Oh, I know He will heal me.” She had the faith I was sure no one else had. The faith that took me months of sleepless nights, hundreds of desperate prayers, thousands of mental debates, to grow to the size of a mustard seed. Since then I’ve talked to many more ailing people and she is still the only one so certain of her earthly healing. And she was right! That is, until she wasn’t.

It was pretty quick that Jessica was healed and she praised the Lord for it. That was a few years ago now. I don’t know when it came back or any other details, but a few weeks ago she got sick and couldn’t recover. I’m very sad about that, but I’m more devastated by the last post I saw by her husband, right before she died. He faithfully declared that he knew the Lord would heal her. I know, I know that she was healed in heaven–that’s what we say to him when we hug him in the receiving line. That’s what we say to each other so we don’t have to evaluate our theology or dare to question our own faith. In truth, Jessica and her husband did it all right. They prayed and believed He would heal her. They gave the glory to God. They boldly fought off all desire to water down their beliefs to match up with the world’s expectations. And, then…she was rewarded by going to heaven, and he had to stay on earth. Without his wife. Without proof to support his faith. Without a reason to keep believing.

Oh, the agony of defeat! The heartbreaking ache of emptiness that comes with this helplessness! The anger from recognizing there is no one left to blame. This is the state of mind we often must embrace to recognize the Lord. The graver the despair, the more clearly we see our surroundings. The more we appreciate when He moves. I’m ready to appreciate Him! Ready for what He will show the whole world when He finally deals with all this cancer and pain. Ready.

“For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: First to the Jew, then to the Gentile.” Romans 1:16

Ready for Surgery

The part of Christianity that makes our message urgent involves the afterlife–we will all live forever, but whether it is with God in heaven, or an eternity separated from Him in hell remains to be seen. Jesus will stand there on judgment day and say, “I didn’t know you” or He will defend you because He already paid for your sins on the cross.

Some people stop there. They think they have the basics down (“if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”, Romans 10:9) and can live however they want. But they miss out on the part that matters here on earth. Generally, devoted believers aren’t spending their time focusing on getting into heaven or fear of hell, they are nurturing their daily relationship with God through the Holy Spirit. The closer I am to God, the more I am aware of my helper, the Spirit of God. He whispers to us, intercedes for us, and guides us. But the more steeped in sin we are, the less we discern His voice. And the more I am aware of Him, the more I obey and do what He wants. My desires transform to match His.

I first learned about the mass on my ovary over a month ago. I tried hard not to think about. The last time I had a cancer scare (when I was waiting for my primary tumor diagnosis), I indulged the fear. It was sinful, but not in an obvious way. Doubts would creep in, and little by little they would chip away at me. Soon I lost all focus on God and other important things, and was consumed by fears, what-ifs, and imagining the worst. There were times it took over my life, and the more it did, the harder it was to crawl out. It seemed like there was no helpful truth to hold onto or believe. 

While awaiting this biopsy I have been much more aware of those doubts and tendencies. Satan is clever but relatively consistent. He always starts with trying to pull me away from others. Just like he approached Eve when she was alone (Gen 3). He knows we are weaker when we’re away from other believers, so he makes me try and pull away. When I would tell myself that many people have benign masses, he would remind me that my breast cancer journey was not like anyone else’s. No one can relate. He picks at my faith by causing me to doubt whether I really heard from God about not removing my ovaries last year. Just like he asked Eve, “Did God really say…” He does this to get me to doubt whether I can hear God. When He gets me to doubt that, I lose confidence in future decisions that I need to trust God in. He also uses memories I have about other people’s problems to make me doubt that God will take care of me. A few of these are, “You were never healed and this will show that”, “The naysayers will think they were right”, and “You will never be healthy again. You will always be going through some health problems. By  the time you die everyone will just be relieved.” Satan is the father of lies and this is his fruit (John 8:44). But he disguises his words as common sense and gives evidence to back them up. If you aren’t on guard, you will buy into them.

This time around I have been much more aware of the damage it does to everyone around me when I fall for this nonsense. It keeps me from being the best wife, mother, and friend I can be because I’m distracted by fear. So early on, I started rejecting those fears instead of letting myself consider them. The more I refused to indulge them, the less they came. Now I sit here, just one full day before surgery, with no anxiety at all. I am filled with peace and faith. I know God will take care of me and I completely trust that this is not cancer, and that He has a great plan for this. I am actually excited to get this surgery under my belt and see what amazing things He brings out of it. 

Romans 8:9, “You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ. “

1 Peter 5:10, “But may the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a little while, perfect, establish, strengthen and settle you.”

Surgery Scheduled!

Great things have been going on since my last post. I got test results from the bloodwork Dr. Rassam took on Thursday. Both tumor marker tests came back lower than last time (they’ve stayed in normal ranges for a year now but had increased a bit within that range), and he also checked my thyroid. It came back high, as hypothyroidism. I read that chemo can cause this, and I’m just so glad to have a reason for some of my symptoms that it is a big relief.

I saw Dr. McAlpine yesterday and scheduled the ovary plus fallopian tube removal for April 29. He is going to start laproscopically, and if that works it will be an outpatient procedure with 3-7 day recovery. If he has to switch to normal surgery he’s going to take my uterus too. Then it will be a longer recovery and short hospital stay. Dr. Rassam told me in the past that I would never be able to have hormone replacement therapy, but Dr. McAlpine said today that if things go well for the next decade or so I might be able to take some then. He also told me about some anti-depressants that can decrease hot flashes and such from the menopause I’ll be going through. 
Dr. McAlpine felt around and said there’s no palpable lump on my ovary, which is a good thing. He also said  that is not causing my abdominal pain, but he will poke around there during surgery and fix anything he finds. All in all, I’m happy with the news I’ve received lately and the treatment plan. I wish surgery was a little sooner but trust God, His timing is perfect. Yaacov had to cancel a business trip so he can be there that day, and I’m really grateful for his unconditional support. 
The Lord has really been there for me during this. I am not anxious and trust that I don’t have cancer. I think the Tamoxifen caused the mass and after the surgery get to try a new medication. In the meantime I am praying for and expecting further protection from all the side effects of these drugs and procedures.

Last year I struggled so much with fear that I sometimes had trouble voicing my confidence in the Lord. This time He is very present and I trust Him regardless. This is a great chance to be bold about my God. I am really feeling good, mentally and physically and am praying that I will be a faithful example for my doctors and the other people who will follow my case.

1 Peter 2:15, “For it is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish people.”

In the Moment

Before Jesus came, people were expecting the Messiah to come and become a literal king of Israel, to free them from the physical powers and harm that were inflicted upon them. Then he came along and some people rejected him as a fraud, or because he threatened their way of living. For others he filled in the blanks, changed everything they thought they knew. For those people, there were lots of great moments that reinforced their new beliefs. There was some confusing talk about the future. Then he was killed. His body lay dead, like any other mortal–much ado about nothing.

I imagine the letdown and confusion they felt. It must have been the ultimate slap in the face to his followers. His body was in the tomb for three days. I wonder how many hours or days it took them to re-frame their understanding of the Messiah into the fact that he had died. We know that on the third day, when those ladies went to prepare his body, they weren’t expecting the tomb to be empty. But I imagine that they still had that tiny bit of hope that the story wasn’t really over.

Believer or not, I expect that everyone who has brushed up with mortality can relate to how the followers felt during those three days that Jesus’ dead body lay in the tomb. They had been flying high with the clarity and freedom He brought. He took away the laws they hadn’t even realized they were chained to and opened their eyes to the spirit behind the law. And suddenly overnight he had been killed. His enemies seemed to have won. Their worlds crashed in around them and everything they thought they knew was wrong. It didn’t make any sense and there was no one left on earth who could clarify it for them. Haven’t we all been there? Don’t we all dream of being able to rewind time to the way it was before that moment? Then finally, we think we get some resolution. We stop dreaming of things like that, but He surprises us in better ways. We go to do the hardest thing ever, like anointing his body, and instead find an empty grave.

He is risen!
Luke 24:1-49

One-Year Anniversary of Healing

It’s been a year. A glorious year. A year with much less doubt and much more faith. A year of my being a better person, mother, wife, daughter, friend, and Christian because of my increased faith. A year without much fear, which I didn’t even know I struggled with before my diagnosis.

I just read the blog I posted last February 2. I wrote it right after Dr. Rassam said those life-altering words–“It’s gone, your cancer is all gone! I can’t explain it. I’ve never seen anything like it!” Words that changed everything. Words that shouldn’t have changed anything.

Nothing changed that day besides my understanding of who God is. He was always Good and that is still true. He performs huge miracles every day, but we don’t all see them or remember to praise Him for them. He also allows sad things to happen, for our well-being and the good of mankind, but we are quick to assign blame and remember His role in that.

He is at work in all our lives. Sometimes we’re more aware than others. As long as we’re living there is still time to change our ways and turn to Him, but sometimes it’s harder to hear that call. I learned a bit about leprosy from biblical days the other day and was surprised to discover I had experienced similar sensations during chemo. That leprosy differed than the more current understanding. The biggest thing is that people lost sensitivity in their bodies but didn’t notice until something that should have caused noteworthy sensation didn’t. Like they might have cut themselves or gotten hot water on themselves but couldn’t feel it.

That leprosy happened to many, many people in the Bible until Elisha healed one person of it and later Jesus and the disciples healed many. It was such a clear parallel to the way our hearts are within us now. We slowly accept worldly values and become desensitized to sin until we’re so immersed in it we don’t even notice. But there’s healing available for all of us. Sometimes crazy things like a girl being healed of cancer opens strikes a chord and jerks our heads back to where they should be (looking up at God). Sometimes God uses other things to get our attention. I pray that we all will remember the things that He does to slough off the dead parts of us before it is too late. I don’t want others to have to go through horrendous experiences just to get re-focused. But most importantly, I don’t want any of us to miss the lessons from our experiences and spend an eternity regretting it.

“The Lord is good, a refuge in times of trouble. He cares for those who trust in Him.” Nahum 1:7

Romans 12:12

Day 2 of claiming my hip healing: Hip feels great. I didn’t work out today though, so that’s not otherwise unexpected. I’m going to keep praising Him for the healing no matter what. Otherwise I might take it for granted and it will come back.

I had a bad day emotionally today. I have an issue unrelated to my physical health that upsets me. It’s one of those things that takes me a long time to get over, and then once I think it’s done it comes back up. It involves a loved one and I know that God can change me rather than answer my prayers to change others. So I was praying a lot for it then opened my Bible app to look something up. The daily verse was SO helpful. Romans 12:12, “Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.” It applies to every situation. This line has the answer to every question. 

No matter what, we will embrace hope. We will persevere during tribulations. Let us all continue praying, no matter what the cost or fear. Live Romans 12:12 with me, even for a day.