The Great Victory of Pain

Good and evil are not two equal opponents battling in this world. Christ has won the victory!  He has already defeated Satan and his evil force. 

In the book of Job, we see Satan approach God who is the supreme power in charge. Satan accuses Job of worshiping God because of the many blessings in his life. God does not will, but he allows Satan to cause great suffering in Job’s life. 

WHY?  So that the name of the Lord will be praised!  Job endures the stripping of his wealth, the sudden death of all of his children, the betrayal of his wife and his closest friends, and excruciating pain. 

In his many questions, he never sins. The famous words of Job cursed Satan, defeating his argument with a powerful blow.  His words are a reminder for all who suffer: 

The Lord gives and the Lord takes away, BLESSED BE THE NAME OF THE LORD!  

And I Lived Happily Ever After

The Lord gives and the Lord takes away. Blessed be the name of the Lord. Spoken from a man that knew suffering. Job was a man that was so righteous that God pointed out his goodness to Satan. When Satan strips him of his riches and kills all ten of his children in one day, when he is judged by his closest friends as being in the wrong, and when his wife tells him to curse God and die, Job responds that if he praised God in the good, he will also praise him in the bad. The reason for Job’s suffering was not that he had done something wrong. In contrast, the reason was that he had done so much right. The reason was to see if he would praise God when he suffered so immensely.

For good reason, humans do not like to suffer. But in the wrong, we conclude that suffering is proof that there is no God or if there is a god, that he can not be loving. 

What kind of god do we want God to be?  “If you do not do what I want, I dismiss you God?  If I do not understand, I dismiss you God?”

God is a God of order. He created this world that makes sense. We study science and it is the textbook of this earth. And life is the poetry. It is the love story. There is a problem of sin and suffering is the result.

“Suffering is a reminder that this world is not the way it is supposed to be.”  Tim Keller

But Jesus is the remedy!  We are living the story. We are in the thick of it. Sometimes it hurts and sometimes it does not make sense. So, why is the Bible the Good News?  Because we already know the ending. Not only will Chrisians live happily ever after, all the past wrongs will be undone!  

Put yourself into the story!  You are the protagonist. The King of Kings has come to seek and to save YOU!  How will the story end?  Is it a tragedy or will you live happily forever after?

The Bright Victory

“Here is joy that cannot be shaken.  Our light can swallow up your darkness:  but your darkness cannot now infect our light.”  C.S. Lewis 

It does not matter how small I am, I am a light. And a small flame can set a forest ablaze. There is nothing that darkness can do to hide light. Light always wins!  Go to the deepest, darkest cavern, consumed by the darkest of darkness and it can not close out light. 

Christianity is under attack. Claim the name of Jesus and you will be mocked, you will be persecuted, be it verbal or physical. But what do we expect?  We are in a battle!  The louder we shout, the harder we fight, Satan sends his strongest to silence us. 

But we know the secret. THE BATTLE HAS ALREADY BEEN WON!  Christ the King will sit on the throne, he will claim the victory, and he will emaciate death and pain and suffering and Satan and all his greatest tools. And Satan knows it! He is the King of Lies!  

But we wave the torch, we march, we shout, we will fight and we will win. This light will shine brighter and brighter. The power of God Almighty is on our side and nothing can separate us from him, this light can not be extinguished. 

Thank You Cancer

As a child at the age of fifteen, I was not scared of the “could be.”  The fact that we were waiting on test results did not phase me. When surgery was scheduled, I actually found myself excited. I had lots of treats promised my way and I was going to be asleep. I thought I would wake up from surgery and walk away with my free surgery treasures. The pain I awoke to still haunts me. It was the first time that I felt true physical pain. 

I have now had six Cancer related surgeries. They all have their own story and their own pain. I know the pain of Cancer. 

I know what it feels like to hug my husband and cry because it is happening again. I know what it is like to write a letter to my miracle baby, praying that I will be there for her life. I know the physical torture of the side effects of medicine, exercising through cut muscles, another scar that can not be hidden, trying to explain my past to a new friend with a glazed look of no comprehension, and medical bills that keep piling up.

Cancer is NEVER what I would have chosen for myself!  James and I never sat at a fancy restaurant on a Saturday night date as I offered, “Ya know, I was thinking about getting cancer. What do you think?”

“Oh what a wonderful idea,” he enthusiastically responds, “I think we should do that right away.”

Uhhhh, NO!  I don’t think anyone has ever done that. So, why am I the complete freak, idiot, deranged person that would title this article “Thank you Cancer”?????

Because it was too long to write:  Thank you that I appreciate my life, that I know from experience that my husband loves me in sickness and health, that I never take my daughter for granted, that I have new priorities in my life, and most importantly that I know the presence of God intimately. 

I know that humans, especially western culture, especially me, run from pain and suffering at all costs as quickly as we can. However, some of the wisest people that I know are those that have suffered the most. Some of the life stories that impact us the most are those of deep pain and suffering. And Jesus, God himself, brought forgiveness and salvation through the most intimate pain ever experienced. 

Therefore, while it hurts, while I fight and do all that is possible to rid myself of any suffering, I have much to thank “cancer” for.  (Yes, I believe Cancer is an awful thing and who I am thanking is Jesus, that he used something bad to bring something good….just artistic liberty here.)

So, thank you Cancer that:

I appreciate my life. From the young age of fifteen, I learned to value life. Each and every single day is a blessing that almost did not happen. And I love life!

I know my husband loves me when I have nothing to offer, when he has to give everything and get nothing in return. I have so much security in the love of my husband. I know without a doubt that HE LOVES ME!  When I need him, he is there for the nights on the town and nights at the hospital. For shopping for summer clothes and paying medical bills. For living and loving this life that has become one. My friends, I love my man!

Thank you Cancer that I never take my daughter for granted!  We were in for the long bumpy road. Pregnancy was supposed to take try after painful try. I was supposed to cry over many miscarriages. And it was supposed to end with the huge possibility that there would be no baby to grow inside me. And then she was supposed to share my fate of cancer. JESUS SAID NO!  As quickly and easily as could happen, I have a healthy, brilliant, beautiful daughter growing into a world changer!  I hold my girl close and I soak up every single minute and I am so very thankful to God in heaven for a miracle that sleeps in the little girl room in my house and daily keeps me on my toes!

Thank you cancer that you help me keep my priorities straight. I am so thankful for my life, I could care less what the popularity club thinks.  I am so thankful for my daughter, I have decided my career will not go first.  I see what this world has to offer and I say, “Yeah, no thanks, I chose Jesus.”

And, most importantly, thank you cancer that when I lay in pain when all I can do is moan, I know the comforting touch of the only one that can calm my soul, I know the miracles of a loving Heavenly Father, I do not doubt the one that has spoken to me in my dreams, I would never walk away from the healer of diseases, I know personally my God and my Savior. The one who made everything, knows everything, can do anything, LOVES ME!  And if Cancer was the only way for God to take me by the shoulders and shake me and get my attention and the only way for me to know my God so personally, then I have a lot to thank Cancer for. And I know the intimacy of the verse that God works all things together for good for those who love him. 

The Real World

Her little cheek pressed to mine and I could feel the warm tears pouring from her eyes. I scratched her back and rubbed her soft hair in my fingers. Her little eight year old body shook from the intensity of her cry. She hurt. Her little girl heart and soul ached. “Shhh.  Shhh.”  I did not say much, I was just there.

“Why?  How can that happen?”  Each word was spoken with difficulty because of the deep cry she fought to calm. I laid in my bed beside my daughter. 

At the age of eight, my daughter has given into the routine of bedtime. She is a hard sleeper. She prefers her bed full of stuffies and falling asleep in her own bedroom. At the rare request of sleeping on Mommy and Daddy’s floor, I knew something was pressing on her heart. With a request to cuddle, I prompted her to lay down on my bed and I slipped in beside her. 

She laid cuddled in the bed chatting away, like my Chatty Maddie does, and it took a little while for her heart to release the struggle within. “Why doesn’t she have a Mommy anymore?”

The Mother of one of her closest friends had thrown in the towel and walked away. It rocked Madison’s world. It rocked my world. Questions, so many questions. So much hurt that seemed to have no reason. Why should any little girl have to go through this?  

Madison hurt for her friend, wanting desperately to comfort her. My mind raced with the agony of how any mother could cause her own child so much pain. 

There are natural responses that spring up within me. I long to shield and protect my daughter from the hurt of this world. I want to ignore that it exists and spoil her beyond the thoughts of pain and suffering. I want to reason that this hurt could never come to my family. I want to assure her that we are safe from this possibility. I want to run and hide. And then I breathe. 

I inhale and I exhale and I say a quick prayer, “God, I do not understand this.  I need you to speak, not me.”  I focus and I realize. I am preparing my daughter for battle. I am raising a soldier. This life is hard and I long to raise a woman of God that is equipped for the difficulties of life that are sure to come her way. 

“Madison, I love you so so much. Daddy loves you so very much. But who loves you more?” And I continued to rub her back. 

Her response had been taught. She had learned it in the songs I sang to her as a baby, the answer was in the school we chose to send her to, the answer was in the nightly devotions, in the love of her bedroom decor, in nature walks, and sacrifices made so she could have everything to her benefit, even in the television shows we chose.  Her response was JESUS. 

“Madison. I do not know why this happened. But let’s do everything we can to help her so that she can know how much Jesus loves her and that no matter what happens, he is always there for her.”

You see, I never ever want my daughter to hurt. But it is a reality of this world. I do my very best to protect her, but I do not have to seek out these lessons, pain and sin are everywhere. What matters is if I teach her how to react. I long to teach her to chose right, how to help others, how to forgive, how to love, and even how to hurt.  

No matter how much I try to keep it away, my daughter will cry again. She will hurt again. I can shout at her to “toughen up” and harden her heart and steal that compassion that she has for others. I can ignore her questions and leave her scared and insecure. Or I can give her the only tool that will lead her to love, security, strength, and compassion:  JESUS. 

So, Madison, while your question pierces deep into my heart and soul, I do not know, I do not understand, but I know the one who does. And sweetheart, I can see that Jesus has amazing plans for your life and he has made you such a strong, sweet little girl that he is already using you to bring love and comfort to a little girl that no longer has a Mommy. And right now, I am so proud to say that YOU sweetheart are part of Jesus’s answer. 

Apprentice God

My self-serving, instant gratification, arrogant, self-righteous humanity demands explanations.  What?  When?  Where?  And Why?  If I don’t understand it and put in my vote, ain’t gonna happen.

I have been well taught by the culture that surrounds me and when there is a God that I can not understand, uhhh….not really my thing.

What do I not understand?  I do not understand that babies die.  I do not understand that someone would devote their life to missionary work, pray over a dying father and God allows them to die.  I do not understand that mothers get cancer, I personally do not understand that.  I do not understand that children see their mothers raped.  I do not understand…A LOT!

And then God asks me to accept?  He asks me to trust?  He asks me to follow?  He asks me to worship him?!  I DO NOT LIKE THAT!

And that is the very answer.  I AM NOT GOD.  I have my plans of how I think the world should look.  I have my plans for my life, and trust me, it did not include cancer!  I have my plans for prayer being answered.  I have my plans for babies being rescued.  But God is not here to serve me.  He does not have to get my approval.  He is not my apprentice.  That is a god that I create.  Hard to swallow, but I am never asked to understand.

I can hear the insults now:  Dumb Christians!  That is a fairytale!

And I hear another response:  I only follow what I can understand.

Really?!  Do you get all the government inside scoop?  No?  Then you should live your life in fear.  Are you a specialist of every disease, do you understand all the parts of the body?  How could you ever trust a doctor?  Did you build your own home?  How can you trust it will not fall on your head while you sleep?

Then how can you understand the meaning of the universe?  How can you impart your morals on all around you?

Can you just accept that you do not, and you never will, know and understand everything?

Elisabeth Elliott, that saw the death of her murdered husband, she dedicated her life to missionary work to see her life’s work washed away in a flood and her only translator die at her hands puts it this way, “Those hands, that keep a million worlds from spinning into oblivion, were nailed motionless to a cross for us.  Can you trust him?

My God! My God! Why Did You Leave Me?!

I see a man upon a cross, my stomach churns in agony.  Who is this man?  What did he do?  Why would God allow him to endure this pain?

I ask among the crowd, I see hate in their faces.  Why do these people hate this man so much?  They yell insults and spit upon his face.  What he did must be awful, he must be a horrible man.

I see a crown of thorns upon his head, I see a sign nailed to the cross.  “King of the Jews.”  I become desperate, my questions turn to pleas.

I see a man upon a cross, he cries out in agony, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” (Which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”)

He had been beaten beyond recognition, nails pierced his hands and feet, he hung fighting for his last torturing breath, and yet all his pain was in the separation.  Why?!  Why would his God forsake him?  What reason could he have?  When at his hour of suffering, why would his God leave him?

And then I knew the answer.  ME!  My God!  Why would you forsake him?  FOR ME!  Why would you let him bear this cross?  FOR ME!  Why would you let this perfect man live the most painful life ever endured?  FOR ME!  Why would you leave him when you have been with him for all of eternity past?  FOR ME!

Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?  FOR ME!

Spread the Word

Tonight we march. We whisper from one ear to another. In our churches, we will pray. We gather together and we unite. We call Satan’s bluff. The truth we know can not be unlearned. We are children of the King. We claim our inheritance. We will teach our children. We will read his Word. We are afraid no longer. 

A little spark lights up the dark, it can not be hidden, and we are a fire!  There is no containing us!  We spread like a river, pouring through the land bringing relief and abundance.  

We live our lives with purpose. We suffer without fear. We forgive with no ending, love with abundance, and give graciously. We praise the God of all gods. We are princes and princesses. There is no end to our knowledge, our wealth can not be used up, and our strength is never ending. We are filled!  

We wait no longer. The time has come, the bell rings, and we sing. We sing a song to wake, a song to unite, a song to conquer.  A solo becomes a choir, our whisper turns to a shout. Tonight, we march. 

My Cancer Fairytale

Life is a story.  The setting is loving parents and all the possibilities of the world, an ugly boy abandoned on the street tortured by all he encounters, or perhaps a past you would like to forget.  And we must have a conflict.  Cinderella is all the more beautiful for the cruelty she endured, Snow White can only be rescued by her prince because the witch seeks to kill her, and a story is not a fairytale unless there is a conflict.

Suffering does not always feel like a fairytale.  And that is why it is called “conflict.”  The world deals with suffering in numerous ways.  When confronted with pain, those that never acknowledged God before, then curse him.  Buddhism deals with pain by seeking stoicism.  Atheist run from pain, seeing that it serves no purpose.  Only in Christianity can pain and suffering be embraced.  What in the hell do I mean?

This:  Jesus Christ was a man of sorrows.  He wept bloody tears, he overturned tables in the temple, he cursed a tree that did not bear fruit, he cried upon the death of his friend, he welcomed little children, he forgave, and he loved.

The Bible says that this world is screwed up.  The Bible says that this is not the way things are supposed to be.  Is your life at peace?  Praise God!  Life is emotion!  Cry for sorrows, celebrate accomplishments, hate evil, and love abundantly!  We were made to FEEL life!

My conflict is cancer.  I can not tell you about my life without that word creeping into the story.  Why?  Because it has been the biggest struggle of my life.  And do you know what?  IT HAS MADE ME STRONGER!  Cancer came into my life at the age of 15 and guess what?  I am an 18 year survivor!

I have cried out, I have questioned, I have had my own little (ok big) pity party…AND I HAVE COME OUT STRONGER!  In this world we will have trouble, we may get thrown into that fiery furnace, but I can say without a doubt that Jesus has walked with me through that fire!

Hardships, Suffering, Conflict, IS THAT ALL YOU’VE GOT?!  When marriages fall apart, Mine is a rock!  There is absolutely nothing that no other man has to offer me!  The best a man can do is promise and James has fulfilled that promise!  He has loved me through sickness and health!  He has provided for me despite hardship.  Hard?  We have overcome impossible!  Together we have seen God walk us through a journey that we never chose and come out of it all amazingly blessed!  Love happens during hard times.  I am loved and I love James more than I love myself!

I have cried out to God in agony over my daughter that I would gladly give my life for and I have seen God answer my prayers.  Madison’s talents, love of people and love of life, imagination, curiosity, and brilliant mind overwhelm me with thanksgiving and love.

When trials come my way, I know I can do hard.  I can suffer and come out of it stronger than ever!

Conflict, cancer, it is all part of the fairytale.  I am living my happily ever after.  And one day, I will never cry again.  One day, Jesus will call me home to perfection in eternity.  I will eat whatever I want and my body will be perfect.  I will never worry for my daughter ever again.  There will be no panic of evil that may come our way.  My home will be a mansion and I may paint the walls with new colors only to be found in heaven.  Life will be perfect.  Eternal Life will be the very best HAPPILY EVER AFTER.

If You Do Not Suffer Today, You Will Tomorrow.

Suffering defines this world.  Suffering is the always there panic that we are enduring suffering or that it is yet to befall us.  No one escapes.  Olympian bodies will grow old, the dripping wealthy can not pay the price of immortality, and hiding in safe places can not barricade suffering.

It is the norm that people die and the world does not blink.  Right now a child dies of starvation, a woman is raped, a man loses his job, and a lion captures its prey.  And upon those words, we each put up the defense of “not me.”  However, a certainty of life is that death awaits us.

Your child dies, her husband leaves her, I have cancer, and the world goes on with its day.  Hide from it, deny it, tell yourself that you are healthy, wealthy, good, and safe, but pain and suffering are a part of your life, or they wait for you.

“The total amount of suffering per year in the natural world is beyond all decent contemplation…some people are going to get hurt, other people are going to get lucky, and you won’t find any rhyme or reason in it, nor any justice.  The universe that we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil, no good, nothing but pitiless indifference.”  says Richard Dawkins.

The Western culture listened to Dawkins and bought in hook, line, and sinker.  We preach it in our schools, purchase materials for the here and now, and live up life because that is all we’ve got.

There is no meaning.  Do what feels good.  There is no right and there is no wrong.  Run from suffering at all costs because it is just your unlucky fate.  Conclude that life is here and now.  The handicap, those doomed to genocide, the poor, and the sick, crawl on top of them and claim your life.  Live for yourself.  There is no meaning.  Die.

But the human spirit cries out, we must press on.  There is good and there is evil.  There is a purpose for humanity.  Why and where does this voice arise from?

It comes from Creation, it comes from our core, it comes from our purpose.  We were made in the image of God.  And God says HOPE.  He says that there is only one other option.  And that is HOPE.  Hope that all the wrongs will be undone.  All of evil and pain and suffering will be crushed and we can live eternity in perfection.

Chose this day who you will serve, but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.