It’s one thing to have faith for one’s self, to go through the test, to endure the good fight as a good soldier but it’s something different when you have to trust God in the midst of someone else’s fight, especially if that person is someone you love.
In 2006 my mother was diagnosed with colon cancer. When she told my sister and me the news my initial response was one of praise and reassurance. Although I understand it now, it was strange to me then, even in the middle of my praising God but now I know that it was the Holy Ghost inside of me, the Intercessor, who allowed me to recognize the end from the beginning. I had a deep ‘knowing’ that my mother would survive. There was a moment when I recognized that through her impending battle, mom would grow closer to God and come to know Him in a way that only suffering allows.
Later, during the days of her recovery from major surgery, when the doctors discovered that the cancer had spread to her liver, the days when she and I both realized that mom was not going to receive an instant healing but instead would have to endure months of chemotherapy and related sickness, that I began to let go of the Spirit’s initial reassurance. I permitted worry, fear and anger (on behalf of my mother) to cloud my steadily dwindling faith in God. So much so that I could not be a buttress for her; I could not be a prayer-partner or offer her anything but hollow words of encouragement and physical support.
Nevertheless, mom recovered and sure enough, just as the Spirit had declared, she came away from the experience with a deeper knowledge of God and, she’d grown spiritually and quickly began to tell anyone and everyone who would and could listen just what God had done for her! Mom recovered, and I grew sick (sin sick). My faith had been depleted; my anchor was no longer sure. I continued to sink into despair and hopelessness and my mother’s battle was yet another nail in the coffin of my dying relationship with the Father. It became an excuse I used to justify my faithlessness to God. I reasoned within myself that if God wasn’t faithful to us in keeping us free from suffering, why should I trust Him? Oh the lies the devil tells and we swallow whole!
A few years passed and in that time mom continued to grow and to seek after the “exceeding great and precious promises” of God. 2 Peter 1: 4 I was graciously, miraculously and completely restored and had resumed my walk with God when, just last year, we once again learned that mom was about to endure another test; the cancer had returned.
A test loomed before us both – would she maintain her faith and press toward the prize? Would she endure another surgery, more chemotherapy and this time, radiation? Could I stand another period of watching someone I love suffer and undergo illness and pain? Would our faith hold fast?
The answer to all those questions is the one in the same – Yes! We both made it through with the grace of God, for surely it was His grace and his alone that shored us and gave us the ability to trust Him. “For the Lord God is a sun and shield; The Lord will give grace and glory,” (Psalm 84:11) once again God had given us the promise that not only would mom live but she would come out stronger, wiser and better equipped with the knowledge of God. Today affirms that she is indeed, a seasoned saint. And why should we doubt God’s word? When has He ever gone back on His promises? Doesn’t the scripture say, “No good thing will He withhold from those who walk uprightly”? (Psalm 84:11) Life is certainly a “good thing”!
Let there be no mistake, every day was not sunny and bright. We didn’t smile all the while and walk around with a bounce in our steps. There were some days when we had to grasp each other’s hand and remind each other that we were not alone. We never doubted God’s promise. She would live and the end would still result in victory!
I can’t speak for her but for my part, let me tell you – it was hard to see her hurting. There were moments when I wished and asked God for mercy. Now when I asked for mercy, in my mind, it meant taking away the sickness without her having to go through the suffering. Now I know that God’s mercy is like water; it takes on the form that fits the situation and every situation a child of God faces is supernaturally designed to fit God’s pre-ordained plan for an individual’s life. God has a tailor-made plan for each of our lives. God showed my mother mercy by sparing her life and denying Satan’s desire to sift her like salt!
This test was not meant to destroy mom, “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil,” Jeremiah 29:11. It was meant to shape her, strengthen her, and equip her with the tools she needed to fight the devil, not just for her but for others. Sometimes the route we have to take to victory passes through a valley. We must comfort ourselves with the words our Lord spoke to Paul in the midst of his sufferings, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” 2 Cor 12:9 God received the glory every time she walked into the oncology center and testified to someone of God’s healing power, of His love and His willingness to impart both to all. Someone’s life was changed, no matter how minute, by those words of encouragement. She was being perfected in her suffering and God was being glorified. It’s the way He works beloved.
God is a loving God. He is not spiteful nor does He take pleasure in our pain. There was a widow woman in the bible that had only one child, a son who had died. Jesus saw her crying during her child’s funeral procession and the bible says, “His heart went out to her…” Luke 7:12-13 He is touched by our pain and He cares. Praise God, He cares!
You know, when we’re children, our natural parents may see us in pain. They have a desire to make the pain go away because they can empathize with us and therefore feel compassion for us. Empathy is to reach back into one’s past experience, bring it forward and compare it with another’s experience. We remember what we went through and the pain we felt and so we have empathy, thus sympathy and we offer comfort. But God does not have to conjecture about what we must be feeling because He feels what we’re feeling while we’re feeling it.
There’s a popular phrase that says, “Can you feel me?” Which means, do you understand or can you empathize with me? God not only “feel” us but He feels us.
I think of my love for my mother and my pain in seeing her suffer and I can’t help but to think of Mary, the mother of our beloved King. Can you imagine the agony she endured in seeing her oldest son, begotten of God Himself, suffer long hours of scourging, being mocked and ridiculed by the spitting, jeering crowds, bearing witness to the physical pain and agony our Christ endured – Oh my God! And still, this blessed woman stood at the feet of her Son hour after hour, as the blood ran down His side, as the crowd cursed him, as He slumped further and further down, drowning in His own blood. This most blessed of women, this mother, watched as her child writhed with pain we could not imagine and not once, not once did she curse God. What a testimony, what a victory, what faith! I can see why God chose her as a vessel by which He would enter into the world. It takes an immense love, an Agape love (God-given love) to do what she did.
Elizabeth said of Mary, “Blessed is she who believed, for there will be a fulfillment of those things which were told her from the Lord.” Luke 1:45 I wonder if at any time did Mary remember this? Perhaps it was not until later, after her son and our God rose from the dead, ascended to Heaven and poured out His spirit on all those who believed that the words returned to her. God is faithful beloved. He only asks that we be faithful to Him. Faithful in good times, faithful in suffering, faithful in the presence of a loved one’s pain and yes, even in the reality of their passing from this life to the next. He wants our faithfulness and our faith in Him to abide. “And now abideth faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.” 1 Cor 13:13
The love for our God is what will preserve our faith when we’re hanging on by a thread. Our love for Him is what determines what we’re willing to endure. How great is our love for the One who loves us most? For, there is no one who can love us the way God does.
He’s asking – is your love great enough for you to abide in Him when your loved one does not recover? Is it great enough so that you will endure anything just to please Him, to glorify Him, to seek Him? Abraham’s love for God and faith in God was so great that he was not only willing to see his child suffer, he was willing to be the tool by which his suffering would come. My God! Who among us loves God that much? I’m afraid to answer. I can’t, because I haven’t been tested in that way, only God knows.
However, there is one thing I’m beginning to understand and that is faith, in the face of sorrow, will make us, and faithlessness will see us broken. Please pray much for me beloved, that I will ever stay before the throne of mercy and that I will ever seek the “exceeding great and precious promises” of God. Be blessed beloved, be strong and endure!