As many of you probably already are aware, this year has been a difficult year for my family. After having baby Matea in October 2013, we discovered Laina had breast cancer early in the New Year. This was a shock to us and an unexpected burden on top of our weariness in caring for our colicky baby and caring for our then 2 year old. Besides these things, I had some ministry challenges with some students that took much prayer, tough conversations and endurance. Not to mention that my father was found to have cancer in his bladder back in November. Burdens stacking on more burdens. How much is a person able to carry? I had mentioned back several months ago, how this cancer journey is like traveling down into a valley. We do not take this journey alone. There are others who have traveled before us. Others who travel with us, for short periods of time and others who walked the entire journey with us. We honestly would not have endured, had it not been first for the Lord leading us and for the many sacrifices of family and friends who provided food, prayer and encouragements along the way. Thank you!
As I reflect on the past several months there are a flood of thoughts that rush through my little brain. All of the "what ifs", the concern for my wife, my children, my own needs, lack of sleep, finances, future plans, broken dreams and the grieving process. What is it I am supposed to learn from this experience? This is a sinful, broken world with disease, illness and so many things we can not understand, but God is fully in control. I love my wife, my children, my ministry and even my own life - these are all such great blessings indeed. However, I was learning to "detach" myself from putting these things/people above my love for God. For me to fully love others and even myself, I must learn to "attach" myself fully to God. But in-fact, it is God who loves me so deeply (and you of course) that He is willing to pursue me, even to the depths of his own suffering on my behalf. He is acquainted with suffering and is willing to suffer to bring us back into a relationship with Him through his son Jesus.
There were times in the last several months, where I just didn't know how to connect with God. The usual bible studies and prayers felt empty, hollow even. I couldn't express my feelings on these matters of the illness my wife had. I knew in my head and heart that God was in control and that I needed to trust Him. Yet I found myself getting angry and having very little patience for others. My students were enduring their own hardships with some having their fathers have brain cancer, heart attacks and one students father was even murdered during this time. I felt helpless and had nothing to offer them; no support, only shallow prayers. Even those a church would come up to me and offer condolences or share their burdens with me. I felt anger building up in me and thinking to myself - "Don't you understand! I have nothing to offer you! I cannot bear your burdens!" I was alarmed at my thoughts and feelings, as I have always been a patient and kind person, desiring to pray for and help anyone who had need. But I felt as if I was empty.
So what did I do? I went to find places of solitude. I talked honestly to God about these feelings and fears. I cried out to Him! Then I discovered something that let the anger, the pain, and the internal suffering be released. Where bible studies and prayer seemed not to offer the consolation I needed, I found that hymns started to open up and heal my heart.
"It is well with my soul" by Horatio G. Spaforrd (1873)
"When peace like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou has taught me to say,
It is well, it is well, with my soul."
Horatio's story is that he lost his family as the boat that they were on sank in the Atlantic Ocean. He traveled across the Atlantic on another boat that followed and wrote this song as he passed the location where his family perished. Deep sorrow and suffering, were met with the knowledge of the living God comforting him through this song.
Other hymns like "Be Still my Soul", A Mighty Fortress is Our God, Blessed Assurance, I love to Tell the Story and now one of my favorites - O the deep, deep love of Jesus.
As I studied these hymns and the stories that inspired them, God led me through this darkness, through this storm. I read Psalms as well. These songs were deep because people had suffered and the Lord met them in their suffering, as He did mine. We all grieve differently, but this is my story. I'm sure I will write more about all that the Lord taught me through this journey. I will probably be even more vulnerable and share some of my journal entries and poems. If it helps you or someone else grow in your relationship to Jesus - then it will be worth it. Thank you for listening.
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