When you can’t lead your heart to say “cancer sucks.”

The chemo corner we find ourselves in today puts a whole new light into the start of this year. I said just two weeks ago that I wouldn’t dare wish this away, but there are days I wish we could just walk away from it for a moment. Walk away to rest. Walk away to just have some time that doesn’t require us to think about it. But I wouldn’t wish it away. I see often in social media and through the mouths of others that “cancer sucks!” Literally that terminology. And as I look at my mother nestled quietly in her chair, I can’t bring myself to say it. Or even think it to believe it. Does it have to suck?

It is not pleasant by any means. As I watch days of sickness and weakness, even though it’s not me, watching her overwhelms me. And there is an ache deep within that I can’t rightly begin to explain at this moment. The ache, however, isn’t fear. We need to clear that up very quickly. That I know – I fear not this disease. The ache could maybe be knowing suffering is essential for our faith. I am reminded fully of John chapter 17 where the Lord prayed In the garden. It wasn’t pleasant by any means, but He knew the will of God and He knew the measure of obedience. And He prayed for us. He knew we would be called into our own measure of obedience. Knowing each and everyone of us will walk through our own bouts of suffering. Why? To be sanctified. To be made holy as He was holy.

In the spring of last year I went to a bible conference. Normally, I would try to gather those I journey with to go with me. Experiencing more of Jesus with your friends is an unbelievable blessing for me. However, I was just beginning to exit a season where I questioned heavily God’s goodness towards me. I felt it important that I go alone. The dealings within my heart screamed to just be alone with Jesus. I found it unbelievably difficult to see the goodness of the past through the woes of disappointment, through failures, through unintentional unkind and hurtful words from people I love dearly. I found it difficult to not dwell in the things I couldn’t rightly wish away or walk away from. And in the difficult I chose to believe for a moment that He wasn’t good.

I remember sitting on the row alone, right side of the sanctuary, bundled in a chunky sweater. My mind was going crazy. Like it itself was in the middle of the battle for my heart and it urged me to pay more attention to what I was saying to myself versus what I was glaring at in the Word. Do any of you suffer from this epidemic? Oh the mind. I’m often telling myself, out loud, to put my helmet on. Girl, just put your helmet of salvation on and remember with all that is in you your make-up!

I walked away from the weekend with a clearer in-process changing of heart. Working through my disbelief to know in great depths that His goodness and mercy and grace doesn’t always constitute breathing in 365 days worth of comfort. Could it mean quite the opposite? That knowing the depths of His goodness and mercy and grace lends to the invitation of suffering to be engulfed with the process of sanctification.

I decided upon leaving that weekend that I would, with willingness, accept whatever the Lord intends. I didn’t know that it meant a resignation, a move, a diagnosis that kind of rocked much of our worlds. I asked for it. Not specifically what we have been given, but I asked for my heart to beat in the dwelling of His. I asked that the nine months ahead of me would be filled with only of what He wanted – to wage war against my mind to know more of Him with much less of me. I asked, at whatever cost, I would know restoration and I would know it through the foundations of His truth. I asked in March for much of today’s newness in comprehending what His goodness and mercy and grace actually looked and felt like.

And sometimes that goodness and mercy and grace looks messy and treacherous and feels breathtaking and broken. But it’s wholly divine.

It’s where Jesus, in all His goodness, creates sacred moments of peace amidst the clatter. Oh, and it’s when our hearts are at peace with His shepherding that He begins to restore our souls.

I see it in Mama’s face now as I look at her resting in her chair. I see His goodness in her despite her earthly body changing against the trenches of treatment. I see His mercy and promise of sustainment for just this day alongside the messy of tomorrow’s side effects. I see His grace in her eyes as she, too, knows that fear isn’t a part of this equation. I see Him in the cancer. Therefore, I can’t wish it away.

We don’t always choose what we’ve been given. Much of us can look at life and see very little we actually chose and see much of what has been offered to us. Cancer is no different. And that weekend on the right side of the sanctuary in a chunky sweater was by no means all my doing when looked at with the perspective of the Spirit’s leading. The stones we were given in our latest goodbye year might very well be an introduction into how to hold on to and celebrate the presence of a forever Good Shepherd through out these next days.

For at the end of the day, it’s wrapped in who He is, and who we are called to be, and where we choose to place our trust and what we fall for in belief. We are so prone to miss the glory of eternity here on earth as we walk as believers, but this I know with all sureness… I see Him in hard stones and in breathtaking illness, and I know Him better for it.

Cancer doesn’t suck in the Light of God’s sovereignty. He has built a sanctifying dwelling in it. A dwelling that meets each morning with a new beat of restoration and with an unexplainable ache to learn to celebrate His goodness.

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