Her voice is weary and heavy with sadness.
I listen to her through the phone and can see with clarity the look on her face. Tensed, worried, and eye-lids half closed. Begging to shut so the world will calm around her. I’ve seen this look many times, I know it’s there just by the sound of her voice.
She asks me to write something. “Anything”, she says. And even though I ask her what she wants me to write about, I know she wants to read something that will bring her some comfort; that will give her some hope. She needs this from me. This woman who has been so influential in my spiritual life, who has taught me to seek God in everything I do, to read His Word for guidance, and to really strive to know Him- she needs assurance. Assurance from me, who feels like I’ve failed God in more ways than I can count. So, I feel inadequate to offer any words of wisdom.
I’m realizing that our roles are slowly reversing. The season is changing for both of us.
It’s because she has cancer.
That most dreaded word in medical diagnoses, the word that once spoken from a doctor’s lips tends to suck hope right out of a person like a tornado sucks a tree up by its roots. Cancer…and it’s growing right inside her lung.
And now there’s further tests that have taken place and surgery to be scheduled and statistics to mull over and complications to discuss and the what ifs and maybe nots that can leave a person who wears anxiety, draped around her shoulders like a heavy shawl, feeling hopeless.
For her it’s not just the cancer she faces, there’s a long complicated medical history there and she’s tired.
Hard questions come.
The fear of suffering is palpable. It’s not dying she’s afraid of, it’s the process. And who isn’t afraid of that?
And what words of hope can I give that won’t sound like a vain, clichéd attempt to smooth over the fact that this is real, and the possibility of suffering is very real?
Sometimes you don’t want to hear that everything happens for a reason. Ask any grieving parent at the moment their child takes his or her last breath.
Sometimes you don’t want to hear that you just need to have faith. Ask anyone who’s never doubted that He could heal their loved one, yet sat hopeless as they watched them writhe in pain, begging for the miracle that never comes.
Sometimes you don’t want to hear that everything works for the good of those that love the Lord, because you have and everything hasn’t always been good.
Sometimes you don’t want to hear that you always have hope, because when life is spiraling out of control, the instant reflex is to grab on to the sides of fleshly reason rather than reach for the spiritual lifeline that is hope in Christ.
In times like this, you relate to Job, and you read his cries, his laments, and you understand them and you think you could have written that yourself. You just want to know why, and you feel guilty for questioning your Creator. You just need a word of hope, you just want to hear from God.
And this mess of a woman prays hard to know what to say to a woman who’s led her spiritually for twenty years and as my fingers move along the keyboard this is what I have to offer, even though I know she knows this deep down in the marrow of her bones, in the innermost recesses of her soul, sometimes you just need a word…even one you already know. And sometimes God gives you a word through someone else, because that person has some things to learn as well.
You are not alone in your suffering. The One who died for you, suffered for you, and just as He was resurrected, so your hope in Him is that you will also be.
For Christ also suffered for sins once for all,
the righteous for the unrighteous,
that He might bring you to God,
after being put to death in the fleshly realm
but made alive in the spiritual realm 1 Peter 3:18
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy, has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead… (1 Peter 1:3)
It’s okay to cry and it’s okay to have all the emotions you are feeling. Jesus prayed His cup of suffering would be taken from Him as well. Yet He also prayed for God’s will to be done, not His. (Luke 23:42) He knows your agony, you are not alone.
Just because you’re enduring pain and suffering, does not mean you lack faith. Hebrews gives us great examples of faith, and yet tells us that even though these greats had a reputation because of their faith, they did not receive all God had promised.
The hope you have is that Jesus is the perfector of your faith.
The hope you have is that He promises to give you strength, so release the white-knuckled grip you have and give it all to Him.
The hope you have during Job moments, is to remember Job was restored.
The hope you have is the joy that awaits you, no matter what you endure on this Earth, just as He had to endure as well, when you take your last breath.
The hope you have is that death no longer has any sting, because Christ conquered the grave to set you free from its power.
The hope you have is that when it is your end, it is actually only your beginning.
Oh, what a day that will be.