After we had just received the news about my wife's cancer my only response at the time was:
“Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life."
In the instant this whirlwind of a storm came into our lives, my first response was, "What can I hang onto?" Where do I go for security? This is a real difficult circumstance in our lives. I've heard of many men leaving their wife or a wife leaving her husband during times like this. Many people ask this same question, "where do I go?" And some coward away or default to what they think offers them security or an illusion thereof. Grief, struggle and suffering is like a refining fire where we are tested.
When we face uncertain times and everything in life seems to turn upside down, where do we find our footing, our security? My first response was to turn to our Father in heaven and to His living word. Yes, there are times when I find coping mechanisms like Facebook, Netflix, eating junk food and so on. But when everything else is in transition and changing, I know I can hold on to God's promises. And unfortunately God does not always lead us down easy street but may in fact lead us down very difficult life journeys.
Jesus led his followers and disciples down some really difficult roads during his earthly life too. He challenged them to follow him as he healed people, and as he faced questioning from the religious leaders. He taught them things that challenged what they previously understood as the norm for living and challenged their interpretation of the scriptures as well. A large crowd of disciples were following Jesus and listening to him as he taught. In John 6, Jesus fed over 5000 people with just a few loaves and fish. The people were in awe! "Free food, we won't have to work," they may have thought. They wanted him to be there king! Jesus' twelve disciples then saw him walk on water. They were actually in terror and thought he was a ghost! Their emotions and thoughts moved from doubt, to awe, to fear and all the while learning to have faith in Jesus. "Who is this?" was often their question.
Then Jesus challenged them yet again with the teaching that he indeed is the bread of life. (Read through the whole section of John 6 for the details). But seeing many of his followers and disciples turning away at his statements, Jesus turned to his twelve disciples.
67 “You do not want to leave too, do you?” Jesus asked the Twelve.
68 Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.
69 We have come to believe and to know that you are the Holy One of God.”
This statement is all I can say during this trial. I hate seeing my wife hurting, uncomfortable and in pain. I hate that she has to go through these awful treatments. It's even more discouraging that the treatments haven't shown the improvement or cure that we are hoping for yet. But, "...to whom shall we go? Jesus has the words of eternal life." My wife has put her trust in him. I have put my trust in him. There is nowhere else to turn! Control is totally out of our hands. Modern medicine's best efforts may or may not work. No other person, psychology or religion can do anything. And we certainty cannot heal ourselves from our own will power or mindset. It certainly helps the day to day attitudes and enjoyment of life, however, only the Creator, our Daddy in heaven is able to heal my wife. He loves her even more than I do. I can trust that because God's word promises us this very thing.
Our hopes and dreams, our lives are but a mist in the greater panorama of God's vision and plan for us humans. From our perspective we see what is being taken away from us and the pain we are going through. From God's perspective He doesn't lose one of those that are His own. We just can't see how this all works out. But Jesus calls, "come follow me!" We follow. Many follow Jesus for the good things He gives like good food, prosperity, health, you fill in the blank. However when He says, "follow me up this hill, carry your own cross and come and die." Will we follow? He went to the cross and then to the grave. The only thing certain for all of us men and women on earth is that one day we will face death. When will we face it? How long will we live? Only God knows. But when Jesus calls, will you follow him? If we will follow him to the cross and the grave, we will also follow him beyond. He rose from the dead! Hope! Resurrection!
Follow him. Jesus is our hope and salvation. He took our penalty of death upon himself, so we wouldn't have to pay for our sins and be separated from God FOREVER! Do you believe?
How much God must love us that he sent Jesus so that we may not have to be separated by the second death. Perhaps this sting of death is to point us to recognize God's love for us so that we aren't separated from our God for eternity.
I'd love to hear your comments.
God's grace and peace to you today.
And keep praying for Laina!
Over the last couple months I've been praying earnestly.
Sometimes my prayers seem repetitive and too simple, "Lord heal my wife!" "Take this away Lord!"
You see my wife is battling brain and lung cancer. I've cried alone sitting in my car, "Lord, help us! Why this? Why now?!" "I know you hear me Lord and that you can respond and heal her in an instant. Lord please move and glorify Your Name by healing my wife!"
I have so many questions. There are many uncertainties. We pray and we wait. We take one day at a time. We take one step at a time. I know that the Lord is good and that He does respond to us with love and grace in our times of need.
As we continue this journey there are many people praying for Laina and our family. Some people are experienced and gifted in intercession. They wake up in the night and pray for us and other people the Lord lays on their hearts. Other people are fasting for Laina's healing. Fasting is a spiritual discipline that directs our attention to the Lord as we pray. And other people say a quick prayer here and there throughout the day. And still others mean well and offer a prayer to something/someone out there or offer good thoughts, or positive energy or maybe they are just uncertain but want to help somehow. I am thankful for all of you and I hope to shed some light on the issue of prayer today.
Did you know that Jesus's disciples asked Jesus a question that some of you are asking? "How do I pray?"
Read this short section of the account in the gospel of Luke.
Luke 11New International Version (NIV) (Bible Gateway)
Jesus’ Teaching on Prayer: "One day Jesus was praying in a certain place. When he finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.”
2 He said to them, “When you pray, say:
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come.
3 Give us each day our daily bread.
4 Forgive us our sins,
for we also forgive everyone who sins against us.
And lead us not into temptation.’”
This prayer is often referred to as the Lord's Prayer. (Matthew 6:9-13) also has another version of this prayer. Jesus gave us an example by praying himself early in the morning alone. His disciples wanted to know how He prayed too. I can imagine as they followed him daily, they saw miracles, healings, the dead being raised and were in awe of the compassion and power of Jesus. They must have had some idea that prayer was somehow involved in Jesus' life and they wanted to pray like He did.
The Lord's prayer is a common prayer that most mainline denominations pray on a regular basis. It's often read in unison as a part of a liturgy. As a child I'd hear this prayer in service. I loved the words and appreciated participating in and being a part of the community. Yet something bothered me about the way many people were praying. Their voices sounded monotone, without much emotion or heart in their praying. Some people seemed to have blank stares and knew the prayer so well that I'm not sure they put much thought into it either. I watched and observed and I made up my mind that I would pray with all of my heart and mind.
Think of Jesus for a minute. He was praying on his own and one of his students (that's his disciples) approached him. "Teach us to pray..." he said. Let's consider Jesus' response.
"When you pray, say: Father..."
Jesus' generation and those prior thought of God as so Holy that they often wouldn't even say all of the letters in G-d's name. God is in fact Holy, yet Jesus started His teaching on prayer by referring to God as Father (Abba). Yes, God is to be looked at as our Father. He loves us and gave us life and desires the best for us. We talk to Him as though we talk to our Daddy.
"Hollowed be Your Name."
God's name is indeed Holy! He is set apart and without sin. We need to recognize this as we talk with Him. Can sinful man put ourselves over a Holy Sovereign God? Certainly not. Yet we approach Him with reverence and respect. In the book of Esther, if anyone approached a king unannounced in his throne room the king had the power to raise his scepter and allow the person to be heard or to have the person put to death. Through our faith in Jesus, we have the privilege to approach God's throne in prayer, not just as a subject of His kingdom but as His children. (Look at Hebrews 4:12-14).
"Your kingdom come (your will be done on earth as it is in heaven)."
God's kingdom, His rule, His authority is present now, has already come and will come and we should pray as such. Jesus often preached "repent for the kingdom of heaven is near." And there are many parables about the kingdom of heaven and what it is like. God is sovereign in heaven and on earth. We should pray that His will be done in our lives too. In Mark 14:35-36 Jesus was in a time of grief and praying as His time to head to the cross came near.
“Abba, Father,” he said, “everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.”
I'll be honest, I've prayed this as we have been going through this cancer journey again. The first part of the prayer was easy. "Father, Daddy, all things are possible for you. Heal my wife of all cancer!" Yet the second part of the prayer took me a while to be able to actually say the words. My soul wrestled and still wrestles saying, "Yet not what I will, but what you will."
As I wrote this, I just sat and stared at my screen for a few moments. To let those words sink in... it hurts. God is loving, compassionate and can heal. He may answer my heart's desire. Yet He may not answer the way I want Him to. It's sobering and we just won't have answers on this side of heaven. However, His will is always good.
"Give us our daily bread."
Simply stated, God gives us what we need for each day. He gave the Hebrew people that He delivered out of Egypt manna (bread from heaven) as they traveled through the desert for 40 years. He gave us Jesus who is the "bread of life." And he gives us each day what we need for food, shelter and life. He's a good Father.
"Forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who sins against us."
God is a Holy Father. We are not holy. Adam and Eve ate of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. They fell into sin (disobedience) which leads to death and separation from a Holy God. We cannot earn forgiveness. We cannot take our own sin away and clean ourselves up. Yes, we do some good things. But the bad things we do corrupts the whole man. We need forgiveness!
We can receive forgiveness through Jesus. Take a look at John 3 and Exodus. The Hebrew people were in the desert and they were bitten by snakes and were dying! They couldn't heal themselves! Moses cried out to God and God responded, "Make a bronze snake and put it on a stick. Have the Hebrews look at it and they will be healed." Moses did as God instructed. To those who obeyed the instructions they were healed. But for those who thought it was foolish and wouldn't take the simple act of at least looking at the bronze snake on a stick, they died.
Jesus went to the cross to take our snake bites (sins) upon himself. He died so that we would be forgiven and live with Him forever. This is our hope! So if we have been forgiven we also should forgive others. We need to look to the cross. It's simple, yet difficult for many of us to humble ourselves to respond to God's call to us in Jesus.
I've known this good news for a long time now. But it's still difficult to forgive some of the crummy things people have done to me.
I've been wrestling with forgiveness in regard to a couple people that treated me unjustly many years ago. As we go through this cancer journey again, God is confronting me with these people. In some ways I need them in our time of need. But also, I don't want anything to hinder my prayers to our Father who is Holy and Just. He has forgiven me and so I need to forgive them. Who knows perhaps they will believe in Jesus too?!
"And lead us not into temptation."
God does not lead us into temptation. We are tempted when enticed by our own sinful nature. However we can pray and ask God to help us in our spiritual battle of will and nature. By His indwelling Spirit, He will guide us not into temptation but into His will. Our lives may not always be easy, but God is a loving, holy Father who gives us what we need each day, including forgiveness or strength to forgive. Most of all He is with us always.
How do we pray?
As Jesus taught, use the Lord's prayer as an outline. Read a word, pause, think. Go meditate just on that word and talk to God. Look at other scripture passages that help us to know God more deeply. Don't settle for a mundane prayer that is repeated without thought or heart. Seek the face and heart of a loving Father who already knows what you need. He desires us to seek Him, to need Him and to ask Him.
Will you approach the throne boldly with me on behalf of Laina? Pray with all earnestness knowing Daddy will answer!
Over the last month I've heard sermons on the Extravagant love of God. In my personal Bible reading and study the same theme is there as well. Yet, we are afflicted and weary as we battle my wife's cancer for a second time. We would not have chosen this battle in our lives again. And it seems even more burdensome to think of the statistics, to see my wife so tired or in pain and to think of all the interconnected details of life that hinge on one person's relationship with you. God has yoked Laina and me together: her pain, is my pain, her flesh is my flesh - yet I can do nothing but wait and pray for God to answer.
In the waiting, in the pain, through this storm of life, God is showing His Presence and extravagant love toward us. Through God's word's in Bible study and sermons, through the meals people keep bringing, through the clothing people have blessed my girls with (by the way we have more than enough now), through the fundraisers at Meadowbrook, in our community, Laina's workplace and so many other gifts and blessings of support and prayer, even from strangers, God is working through so many people! Yes, God does love us extravagantly! There is so much love that often I don't even know how to respond. We could never pay back such a debt of love!
Isn't that the type of extravagant love that God offers all of us? We can never pay God back for all of the blessings, of which salvation through Jesus is the greatest gift. We cannot pay for our own sins; Yet God paid for them through Jesus' death on the cross. We certainly deserve punishment for our wrongdoing, but Jesus took the punishment upon himself so that if we look to Him and see our need for forgiveness from our sin, we shall be saved.
I don't know the outcome of all of this suffering on this side of heaven. But I do know God loves us extravagantly. God will make good out of this bad. As I recently read in a book entitled, Reading Your Life's Story,
"Our story is written to be read again; my life belongs to others just as much as it belongs to me."
In faith I am attempting to face fear and become more vulnerable. I am willing to do this because in the broken places of my life I know there will be healing, comfort and encouragement for others. Somehow through our story of endurance and suffering we will be able to offer hope to others; not a hope that is found in hope itself, but a hope that is found only in Jesus.
There is something that has struck me as we go through this cancer journey. Many other people are going through a similar journey of struggle all around us. Are they loved as extravagantly as we are being loved? Our communities have surrounded us with love. We are part of the body of Christ (the church), those who believe in Jesus Christ as both Lord and Savior. I believe a lot of the love we are experiencing is because we are in this community and have served in this community for years. Others who are not believers are loving us too, but I am confident Jesus' love endures forever.
Let's not forget about others around us daily who may be struggling. Will you love them extravagantly as God has loved you? You just may be the answer to their prayers.
Keep praying for Laina's healing! We know in whom we have put our trust!
In faith, hope and extravagant love,
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