Today I feel like death is becoming that way to me. I've seen it before. It's happened before. I'm tired of it; tired of the grief, tired of the pain, the ramifications. I am resigned. It is the same line mowed over and over, and it doesn't seem to benefit anyone or anything. There is no refreshment. I am apathetic. It is old and dry.
But then I think of Job who suffered death and grief beyond anything I can imagine, and I hear his words, "Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him," and I know I believe it. The words from a new song by Andy Gullahorn repeat over and over in my mind:
They say God listens to our prayers,I listened to those words earlier this week, and while I was hit by the stark truth I wondered, "How do I prove that to people? How do I say, 'Yes, this is the God I believe in, and I do not doubt Him'?"
When you're suffering, He holds you.
I don't feel Him anywhere,
That doesn't make it any less true.
My friend Joann died yesterday morning after a brief battle with cancer, a form of leukemia. Hers was a hopeful case, despite the shock of it to her and all of us who called her friend. The doctors caught it early, she started chemo and responded well. On top of that, her two brothers were a 100% match for a bone marrow transplant. Despite the hiccups, really, everything looked toward a healthy, hopeful recovery. We rejoiced with her, we prayed with her. We prayed for her husband and young son, for her extended family. She and her husband encouraged us with their trust in God's hand, no matter what.
And then a few weeks after the transplant, her husband sent out word that Joann was sick. And then we got the word that the cancer had returned and it was acute. Then a coma...then death. No miracle of healing. No grand stories. The same old, same old specter swept in and dried the field. One more notch on the death belt.
I'm writing this out of grief. I'm not angry or bitter. I'm tired, yes. I feel like I'm going over the same row that I've already mowed. I wish Joann's story had the ending of another young mom I heard about last week who had had stage 4 cancer, but has recently received a clean bill of health. The doctors can't find any trace of cancer in her body. I know that God can do that. I've believed it for Joann. I wonder if I needed to hear about this other mom last week so that I could remember God's sovereignty and omnipotence. Joann didn't die because He's not capable of miracles and of healing.
So why did she die? I don't know. But I know I trust God and that His promises are true:
"I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die," Jesus said to Martha after her brother Lazarus died. (John 11:25 & 26)
"Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you." (Deuteronomy 31:6)
"Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light. (Matthew 11:28-30)
"I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world." (John 16:33)
"For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope." (Romans 15:4)As I've been writing this, I've glanced out my window at our vegetable garden. While the lawn may be dry and slow-growing at this point of the summer, the garden is lush with fruit. Ruby tomatoes weigh down emerald branches, waiting for me to reach out, pluck them and enjoy the burst of tangy sweetness. They will refresh my body as God's promises refresh my spirit.
In the midst of suffering, there is always hope. I know that if God's promises were only true when they played out the way I think they should, or when I feel them, they wouldn't be promises, and God wouldn't be God. I will trust Him and enjoy the fruit that He has for me.