So as many of you know my sister was diagnosed with brain cancer last April. It's a weird reality to live in that definitely has it's ups and downs. Up until this month, my sister has done amazingly well through her treatments. Last summer when she was undergoing chemo and radiation, she participated in practically all our family reunion activities (horseback riding, hiking, swimming, etc) without missing a beat and even returned to teaching this past August. For Christmas, she and her husband came to Charlotte with my parents and we celebrated the holiday with little evidence of anything out of the ordinary.
This month some new symptoms and loss of mobility popped up virtually out of nowhere. It was/is scary and the fact this cancer is very aggressive cannot be ignored. According to her doctors, there are now two areas (original site and one new one) that appear to have some new, low grade tumor growth. They have changed her treatment plan/meds, but for now she is on leave from her job and dealing with symptoms daily from tumor growth, swelling, and drug side effects.
At this point in my post you might be wondering why the word 'thankful' is within 100 yrds of this entry. Cancer is horrible and brain cancer is a different breed of horrible (no offense to anyone with other types of cancer). But cancer, like any trial we go through in life, gives us the opportunity to make much of who God is. It's so hard for us to grasp the value of that statement since our lives are so mortal, yet our expectation of life is so...immortal. Death is all around us yet it still leaves us reeling whenever it brushes past (or bursts into) our life. I once heard a pastor say that the reason death is so strange to us and so traumatic is because we were designed for eternity. The thought of life ending rocks us because we innately believe we will continue on forever.
Now back to where the thankfulness comes in. I recently listened to this sermon by John Piper and it has had a profound impact on me and the way I view...well, everything.
The bottom line of the sermon is this:
Do you feel loved by God when he makes much of you or when he allows you to make much of him?
Wow. That sentence sorta shook me because honestly, I am often in the "making much of Shelly" business. I want God to bless me, and fix that, and make this over here happen, and stop this, and start that to make my life better or someone else's. What's worse is that when our most desperate (circumstantial) prayers aren't answered and everything we beg God for just seems to bounce off the ceiling, we can even feel abandoned by God and that our prayers must not be working.
But abandonment by God is impossible if you cling to his son, his one and only son that he sent out of love for us, to die for us, so that we can be with him forever. God does not readily forget the ones he sacrificed so much to have.
This sermon was such a sharp reminder that I want my heart's cry and my ultimate joy to be found in making much of who God is and that alone. No matter what. I want to be overwhelmed with joy because he has given me the privilege of making much of him through the good times, but most importantly through the hard times. If our joy is rooted in circumstances, it will always end up crushed, but if it is rooted in Christ, it will never die! I am thankful for my sister's cancer because it reminds me to look for joy in the only place real joy can be found.
And so even as my sister faces more treatment, more drugs, and more suffering from this disease, I will praise you God and thank you for her life, for our family, for her doctors and medical care, for her job/benefits, for my dad's retirement and flexible schedule, for her ability to continue talking and texting, for her humor, for her faith, for all the friends and family supporting her and praying for her, for every moment of relief she gets from sickness, pain, and steroid side effects, and mostly for your son Jesus and the opportunity to make much of who you are God and what you have done. That is our greatest blessing in this world. To you be the glory forever and ever!