Colossians 3:17 “And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”
As you read this Valerie and I will be in the third and final installment of our drama. She has her 1st surgery on August 29th, and her second on September 5th. The first is to remove the cancer, and the second will be to fix her leg from the removal! I have taken September 1st off so that I can be with her, but we have some help coming for the second surgery so I should be with you again on September 8th. Here are two things that I have learned through this process…
Valerie astounds me. When we go into the hospital or the clinic, for treatments or for appointments, the doctors and nurses comment on her demeanor and her kindness. I notice it too. There are so many that come for treatment that look and act absolutely miserable. Why shouldn’t they? If the disease doesn’t kill you the treatment can. But Valerie’s faith has shown through and been noticeable. We have both been tired and afraid. But she has faced this with a courage and conviction that I find amazing.
I have also been reminded that there are blessings to be found in everything. Everyone goes through the “why me?” stage. Valerie went pretty quickly to the “why not me?” stage. We all face troubles in this life, but they don’t have to define us. During the semi-annual business meeting I shared some of the blessings that we were “counting,” and I’d like to update that list for you.
We are blessed because the doctor’s referrals got us to exactly the right place.
We are blessed that her medical team has numerous Christians on it.
We are blessed that there is a Facebook group for her cancer that supports each other.
We are blessed not to have regular insurance, because some have to fight for treatment.
We are blessed that Froedert was comfortable allowing Bellin to do the treatments.
We are blessed that both the chemo and the radiation drastically shrunk the tumor.
We are blessed that it is in the leg, which makes it easier to treat.
We are blessed that it is NOT in the lungs, and the last scan (8/20) confirmed that!
We are blessed by a wonderful church, friends, and family that have been helping us.
Seriously, you have been incredible. I can’t even begin to express how understanding you have been. We realize that it’s a little strange not having Val around, but, short of me putting her in a protective bubble, we felt like this was the best way to get her through the process! Val is especially thankful for those who have taken on her responsibilities at church. And I want to thank you for being understanding about my time. The wonderful thing about this day and age is that with a cell phone and a computer I can work from just about anywhere, and the elders have allowed me to do that! I also want to say a special thank you to Winnie. She has taken on extra while I have been out more, and I appreciate it very much.
So, what is next? I would ask that you pray for clean margins when they take out the cancer, and that the second surgery and recovery go well. This is also a pretty aggressive cancer, so they will be proactive in checking for it. It begins with scans every three months for two years, and two years is a milestone. Anything after two years will mean that we have beaten the odds. There are many reasons medically to think that may happen in this case, but it is all up to God, and we trust the future to His hands.
2 Corinthians 12:8-10 “Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”
We sometimes hear that God will not give us more than we can bear. The idea comes from 1 Corinthians 10:13. However, that verse deals with the issue of temptation. Paul says that when we are tempted (which I believe is the correct understanding based on the context), God will provide a way for us to escape! In other words, when we make a bad choice we can’t really blame God, because He has given us everything we need to bear up under temptation and to choose Him over sin. That is wonderful and scary all at the same time! But what about all the other things that happen to us as a result of living in a sinful and fallen world? Doesn’t God help us then?
The truth is that God does allow some things to happen to us that seem overwhelming at the time. Consider these words from Paul: “For we do not want you to be unaware, brothers, of the affliction we experienced in Asia. For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself” (2 Cor 1:8). We all face struggles, disease, pain, and sorrow in this life. Paul experience more than most. He details more of the difficulties he faced later in that same letter: “Five times I received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I was adrift at sea; on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers; in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure” (11:24-27). How could he make it through? He gives us his secret a little later. He had another problem. We don’t know what it was. But he brought it to the Lord. Three times. And the answer he got may seem unexpected to us if we’ve been listening to all the bad preaching out there. God didn’t take it away. God didn’t get rid of the problem. God didn’t remove the pain. Instead, God said to him, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” And Paul was content with that, realizing that “when I am weak, then I am strong.”
Here is the lesson for us today. When we face difficulty, trouble, pain and despair, they drive us to God. God doesn’t always take those things away, because they are the very things that drove us to Him in the first place! Instead, he give us comfort, courage, faith, and joy in the midst of our circumstances. He assures us that He is with us, even though he doesn’t remove all the pain from our lives. And it is because of that we are thankful.