Over the last seven months since my cancer diagnosis, I have been preparing my heart, soul, and mind for what all this means for me and my life. As I noted in my last post, this recovery has been a long treacherous road. I am still weak and tire easily. My mind wanders into places of fear, anxiety and doubt. But my dear friend and spiritual mentor Bonnie sent me these words a few weeks ago: She said: “ I have only one word of advice. .don't waste this time by NOT learning everything God has for you to learn (even the pit). It's too painful to not milk it for all it's worth! It will be a sweet memory when you're through it.”
First, let me clarify the word JOY for all of you. My blog site is titled “Consider It Joy” based on the passage in James which tells us to consider our trials joy for they cause us to have perseverance which strengthens our faith. The word JOY is used over 150 times and the word REJOICE is used over 200 times in the Bible. JOY comes from the Greek word “chara” which translated means: “the delight of knowing God’s favor and grace.” Please note that it doesn’t mean “the delight of our circumstances.” Let me assure you—I have not been jumping out of bed with joy each day or proclaiming some fake joy that I can handle all this. No, most days I have to will myself to get up and do ordinary things. Many days I whine and complain and wonder why I have to go through this. Taking a shower wears me out. I get winded just talking to people. Up until this week I couldn’t drive because of the pain medications and I felt dependent and out of control. I have to pray for the Lord’s strength each moment and I have had deep dark moments of crying out—“Where are you God? I trust you but I don’t feel you now!” That is the real deal.
In Philippians Paul says this: “For I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need and what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation…I can do everything through Christ who gives me strength.”
Note that Paul says twice “I have learned…” Contentment and joy didn’t come naturally for him or for any human being. We want what we want and we want it now, especially those of us who have the luxury of living in America. Most of us truly do not know what it is to have real needs. Paul grows and learns because he leans on and trusts in the true power of Jesus, not upon himself. He relies on the strength of God to get him through tough times.
Let me share some of the things I have been learning through God (and I am a reluctant learner).
First, every day we have the opportunity to learn more about God, ourselves and others. I will never know it all. Faith and life are journeys. We never know what will come next. I am learning about waiting. I really suck at it. I don’t like being weak or dependent or tired or emotionally drained. I don’t like the time it is taking to get physically stronger. I don’t like having anxious thoughts and fears and I don’t like having numerous appointments, scans and procedures. I have learned that God’s timing isn’t mine at all. I don’t like that. But if I didn’t wait, then I wouldn’t know perseverance.
I am learning about trust. Trusting in God when I don’t see or feel Him at all. Trusting that He will meet my needs (but not necessarily in the way I want it). Trusting that things will keep going in my family and at my work even when I am not there. Giving up control and trusting. Again, I really suck at this. It is a daily struggle and I will be learning this all my life.
I am learning about inconvenience. This recovery has many parts to it that I did not expect and I certainly don’t enjoy. I have wrestled with pride, dignity, vanity, and independence. The simple acts of getting out of bed, taking a shower and getting dressed take me much longer than before. I can’t plan a full schedule because I get tired and need to take rests throughout the day. I have had to depend on others to take me to appointments and get my groceries and make meals for my family. While these are all good things—that I have a community of people who take care of me-- it takes away my independence. Relying on the servant hearts of others is something most of us don’t want to do. We say, “I got this” all the time because we don’t want to be “weak.” These are all mere inconveniences, not at all true needs. With the rush of the world and all the hustling and bustling about, I have learned, through inconvenience, to slow down and to accept the love and support of so many.
As we enter into this busy Christmas season, I challenge you to take the time each day to ask yourself “What did I learn today?” About yourself, others, your faith, your priorities. And if you listen, wait, and trust, perhaps you will hear God’s still small voice speaking to you.