The last few days I have been reading some of my journal and blog entries from those early days of Scott's diagnosis. I can't help but notice the timing of everything. As we begin this day, I realize that it has been a year, to the day, that Scott's mom ended her battle with cancer and passed from this toilsome life into an eternal, glorious life with our risen Saviour. The two older kids even commented on the significance of today.
It's been quite the journey the Lord has taken us on this past year. So difficult in many ways, yet there is a sweetness to what we have gone through and experienced. I was thinking today of that phrase that we have all verbalized at one time or another... "This is not what I thought my life would be like...". I was realizing that I would need to add to the end of that... "it's much better..."!
Some of you are probably wondering how I could say that after this year. I wonder that myself, at times, but I know that through the trials of this year, so many good things have happened.
1. Scott and I are closer and our marriage is stronger now than it ever was. We find ourselves immediately evaluating if what we are arguing about is actually worth anything. Life is WAY too short to be angry, bitter, selfish, ugly, rude, (the list could go on, but you get the point) towards each other. We are more grateful now for the time we have together than we ever were before.
2. We've seen the hand of God work. We saw how the body of Christ can truly function to meet needs! Our brothers and sisters in Christ cared for us, prayed for us, and ministered to us in ways we have never experienced. We had so many people outside of the church comment on how remarkable this group of believers was. It was an amazing testimony to all who witnessed it! Because of them, we do not have one outstanding medical bill!
3. Our family's faith has grown tremendously. I have seen the faith of my two older children strengthened and refined. Autumn's spiritual growth and the depth of her belief have amazed me. I don't think either Scott or myself were ever that mature in our walk with the Lord at that age. Hunter even made a comment to me the other day. He said,
"I've seen that God can do anything. He can give and take away whatever he wants. He took Grandma, but he gave us Dad".
4. We've also, as a family, become more committed to honoring Christ with what we watch and read, with our actions and attitudes. It's not easy by any means! However, I always go back to the thought that we walked this road for a reason, and I don't want to be the same person at the end of the cancer road as I was at the beginning. If I am, then all the pain was for naught.
I was reading some excerpts from John Piper's "Don't Waste Your Cancer". He writes ten points under that title, but there's one that I want to share. He says,
"You will waste your cancer if you treat sin as casually as before. Are your besetting sins as attractive as they were before you had cancer? If so you are wasting your cancer. Cancer is designed to destroy the appetite for sin. Pride, greed, lust, hatred, unforgiveness, impatience, laziness, procrastination-- all these are the adversaries that cancer is meant to attack. Don't just think of battling against cancer. Also, think of battling with cancer. All these things are worse enemies than cancer. Don't waste the power of cancer to crush these foes. Let the presence of eternity make the sins of time look as futile as they really are. 'What does is profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself'?(Luke 9:25)".
David Powlison (from the Christian Counseling and Education Foundation) adds his thoughts to this.
"Suffering really is meant to wean you from sin and strengthen your faith. If you are God-less, then suffering magnifies sin. Will you become more bitter, despairing, addictive, fearful, frenzied, avoidant, sentimental, godless in how you go about life? Will you pretend it's business as usual? Will you come to terms with death, on your terms? But if you are God's, then suffering in Christ's hand will change you, always slowly, sometimes quickly. You come to terms with life and death on his terms. He will gentle you, purify you, cleanse you of vanities. He will make you need him and love him. He rearranges your priorities, so first things come first more often. He will walk with you. Of course you fail at times, perhaps seized by irritability of brooding, escapism or fears. But he will always pick you up when you stumble. Your inner enemy--a moral cancer 10,000 times more deadly than your physical cancer--will be dying as you continue seeking and finding your Savior: 'For your name's sake, O Lord, pardon my iniquity, for it is very great. Who is the man who fears the Lord? He will instruct him in the way he should choose' (Psalm 25)".
As I read this it resonated deeply within my soul. I have seen and felt the Lord circumcising my heart this entire year. I think at first I didn't want to deal with the pain, but now I can see it as a refreshment to my spirit. The Lord has continued bringing me to the end of myself and my sinful pride... through Scott's cancer, the women's Bible study (Seeking Him), and sermons at church (thanks, Todd!).
It seems almost surreal that we have "completed" our travels on the path of cancer. What was once an all-consuming part of our daily life is now vanishing behind us. I can't praise the Lord enough for bringing us through the fire, but I think the real work is now ahead of us... to bear witness of the goodness of the Lord while in the valley of the shadow of death. Scott and I want our prayer to be that we never go back, that we continually move forward. That we keep what the Lord has done in our hearts fresh, raw, and real. That we share this with others for the remainder of our days here on earth... because,
"We have heard with our ears, O God; our father's have told us what you did in their days, in days long ago". (Psalm 44:1)
Praise the Lord!