Archive for the ‘Lord’ Tag
The day lilies in my yard astonish me with their beauty—their delicacy and rich colors shout to my spirit of the vibrant imagination and creativity of God. Aptly known by the scientific name, Hemerocallis, which comes from the Greek words for “day” and “beautiful,” they bloom one morning and have wilted by the next; great illustrations of God’s truth about the brevity of life.
He comes out like a flower and withers; he flees like a shadow and continues not. Job 14:2
O Lord, what is man who you regard him, or the son of man who you think of him? Man is like a breath; his days are like a passing shadow. Psalm 144:3-4
In the morning of our lives we flourish, blossoming out to become all that God created us to be; growing from helpless infants into accomplished adults, developing careers, raising families, reaching for our dreams.
But it doesn’t last long. Soon, a look in the mirror reminds us that youth is fading and we may become desperate to hold onto it—turning to diet, exercise and Botox to ward off the inevitable. And yet, time marches forward, and suddenly we have become parents, then grandparents, then great-grandparents; and we wonder how it happened so fast.
As I ponder the scope of my years, God puts it in perspective for me. My life isn’t really about the brief time that I am confined to this body—it is about preparing for the eternity I will spend with Him—this is just my warm-up for forever. So why should I lament the trials I go through now since He has made it plain that they are meant to strengthen me?
Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. James 1:2-4
Watching the Summer Olympics, I realized that I’ve never heard an Olympian complain about the rigors of training—each one gladly pays the necessary price to compete in their games. And so I too will persevere, remembering Paul’s words that,
Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that Day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing. 2 Timothy 4:8
Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Hebrews 12:1-2
(This is an except from “I’m Still Standing,” a series of essays based on my journals during my encounter with breast cancer.)
Who would have thought so many would turn out to hear what this nondescript young man had to say? What was it that stirred up so much interest—even among those who were sick and tired of hearing any discussion regarding politics or religion; or among those politically-correct individuals who sought to avoid controversy of any kind, preferring their “live and let live” philosophy that rejected any interference or judgment by others? It certainly wasn’t his appearance. He looked like any other 30-something guy; casually dressed in a way that didn’t make any sort of statement; and he didn’t have those movie-star-good-looks that the tabloids loved. But there was something different about him. Was it the humorous gleam in his eye? Or the intriguing way he spoke in what seemed to be riddles? Was it the way he seemed to be speaking directly to you when you were standing way in the back of a crowd? No one seemed to be able to put a finger on it, but there was a certain charisma in his manner that divided people—they either loved him or hated him. He was considered a dangerous terrorist who wanted to bring down the government to some, and a peace-loving pacifist to others. So here they were—common everyday working people, stay-at-home-moms with their kids, reporters, clergy, politicians, celebrities and unknown businessmen—all gathered around and hanging on every word he spoke, just trying to figure him out.
He had a lot to say that day; touching on legal issues, personal accountability, lifestyles, and even the meaning of life. Amazingly, the crowd remained quiet. He was such a captivating speaker that they were literally speechless. Then his manner seemed to change—for a moment he seemed genuinely puzzled as a new thought occurred to him. “Why do you worry so much about things that really aren’t all that important?” he asked. “You shouldn’t be so obsessed with your jobs, your finances, with how you’re going to afford to buy a house, with the cost of that new outfit or car or vacation, or even with where your next meal is coming from. All you really need is faith in God because he knows what you need even before you do. All you really have to do is look to him first and everything else in your life will fall into place.” Oh boy—he’d done it now—if the crowd was just divided before it was polarized now. Yet they remained quiet, almost mesmerized, as he continued speaking, with each person forming his own opinion of just who this guy was, and just how relevant were the things he had to say.
Such could be the scene should Jesus preach what has come to be known as The Sermon on the Mount in a public forum today. And the simple truth he set down originally is as valid now as it was then, “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” (Matthew 6:33-34, NIV)
It’s so simple we miss it—no matter that it’s written over and over in God’s Word—we still miss it. “Seek him first.” It means just what it says. It shouldn’t be a complicated or difficult-to-understand instruction. After all, the concept of diligently seeking after something is not foreign to us. If we desire the love and attention of another person we go after it with everything we’ve got—romantic dinners, gifts, doing all of the little things that would please the object of our affection. Or, if it’s a career we want, we perform and perform and perform to keep the boss happy—late hours, heavy workloads, compromised ethics—we do whatever it takes to get that bigger check or promotion. We understand these pursuits, but when the Lord says, “Seek me first,” we don’t seem to get it. We don’t seem to understand we need to pursue him just as we would pursue anyone or anything else that’s important to us.
And what of his admonition not to worry about tomorrow? After all, worry is such a normal part of life. It’s so easy to do it. Who among us doesn’t worry about something? Aren’t we supposed to worry about our kids, our health, or our finances? Aren’t we supposed to worry about threatening global issues like poverty or war?
As a teenager, I remember worrying about what would happen during the Cuban Missile Crisis and, a few years later, about Viet Nam. For my parents it was World War II and the Korean War; for my grandparents, World War I. And today, the terrorism and doomsday scenarios are worse than ever before, even in fictional accounts. Have you ever watched 24, or read a Clancy or Ludlum novel?
Jesus is still the solution. His word remains true—he doesn’t make false promises, and he promised that if we seek him first all of our needs will be supplied. Therefore, worry should have no place to rest in our lives.
So why is something that sounds so simple so difficult to implement? I believe it’s largely because Satan knows how to manipulate us, and worry is just another face of fear. Life is hard, and we routinely face painful and difficult situations and/or decisions. And when fear wears this disguise it often appears legitimate—sometimes even admirable. It appears as concern for things that are our responsibility—the financial stability of our family, the well-being of our child, or issues regarding our health. But when worry appears, fear has done its job. Fear has turned our attention away from the simplicity of God’s command and focused it on the “what-ifs” of life.
Part of my own struggle to overcome worry is recounted in a journal entry: How do I re-focus and get rid of worry? It remains just as Jesus said—I must seek him first. And, in order to do that, I must give him ownership of all of the things that concern me. I must ask myself, “What is the worst-case scenario, and if it happened would God still be there for me?” Yes! As promised in Romans 8:38-39, nothing can separate me from his love. So, it comes back around to wanting him more than anything else—it comes back to seeking him first.
But worry is accepted—even expected—as normal behavior, and I’ve been criticized for not being logical when I’ve refused to worry about certain things. I’ve been accused of being unrealistic, irrational, or impractical. I’ve been told that “the world just doesn’t work that way” or that I need to “get real.” Others have tried to put me on a guilt trip for not worrying—surely they’re more well-adjusted than me because they worry about things that are important, and I’m being irresponsible if I refuse to do it too. But the ways of God are not understood by man’s logic, so I must come back to faith—I must trust what he’s said in his Word—I must live outside of worry because my God is bigger than any problem I face—he’s bigger than the cancer, he’s bigger than the chemotherapy, he’s bigger than the radiation.
This, then, is the foundation of my faith—God is real and his Word is true. Jesus said it—I believe it—I must always seek him first. My life is his and he is my refuge, my place of rest, my peace, and my hope. He meets my every need. What more could I want?
A perfect morning—the coastal marine layer keeping the temperature in the comfortable mid-60s as much of the country swelters under intense heat; baby birds chirping in their nest; Jacaranda trees adorned in their glorious lavender headdresses, the scent of blooming jasmine wafting across my patio, and a hot cup of coffee.
As perfect as it seems for the moment though, all I have to do is pick up a newspaper or turn on the TV to be reminded of the chaotic world in which we live. Yet even in the midst of one global crisis after another we have hope, and faith still triumphs in the face of trouble.
Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. (Romans 5:1-2)
I recall the words of an old hymn whose words proclaim the hope of what is promised to those who believe, and my heart sings, “What a day that will be, when my Jesus I shall see,
and I look upon His face, the One who saved me by His grace; when He takes me by the hand, and leads me through the Promised Land, what a day, glorious day that will be.”
How amazing—how beyond perfection—will be the day be when Jesus is revealed in all of His glory and claims His inheritance. The Day of the Lord will surely come, striking terror in the hearts of unbelievers—a day of destruction for those who refuse Him, but a day that ushers in the eternal reign of our King; a day for which I long.
Be silent in the presence of the Lord GOD; For the day of the LORD is at hand, For the LORD has prepared a sacrifice; He has invited His guests. (Zephaniah 1:7)
Then the seventh angel sounded: And there were loud voices in heaven, saying, “The kingdoms of this world have become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ, and He shall reign forever and ever!” (Revelation 11:15)
All the ends of the world shall remember and turn to the Lord, and all the families of the nations shall worship before You. For the kingdom is the Lord’s, and He rules over the nations. all the prosperous of the earth shall eat and worship; all those who go down to the dust shall bow before Him, even he who cannot keep himself alive. A posterity shall serve Him. It will be recounted of the Lord to the next generation, they will come and declare His righteousness to a people who will be born, that He has done this. (Psalm 22:27-31)
He who testifies to these things says, “Surely I am coming quickly.” Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus! (Revelation 22:20)
An abundance of blackberry vines grew wild and, as Mom was fixing dinner, we’d often run outside and pick enough so she could put together a quick cobbler for dessert. And my Dad—oh, he was the king of the blackberry pickers. Give him some buckets and some loaded vines and he’d fill them up in nothing flat while we “helped,” eating as many as we were picking. Then the kitchen would smell delicious for days as my mother canned enough blackberry preserves to last until the following year.
One day as I was reading my Bible, a verse popped out as never before, Oh, love the LORD, all you His saints! For the LORD preserves the faithful, and fully repays the proud person (Psalm 31:23). Before I’d always visualized the Lord throwing out a life preserver to save me, but now I realized that He was turning me into fruit-of-the-Spirit preserves; and I prayed that my life would become as flavorful as those wonderful blackberries of years ago.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law. Galatians 5:22-23
He shall abide before God forever. Oh, prepare mercy and truth, which may preserve him! Psalm 61:7)
Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.
After years of illness or injury and recovery, I was finally at a point where my car was learning to go in directions other than doctors’ offices or hospitals. On a much-needed vacation, a favorite pastime was to soak in a bubble bath with a good book—something I rarely have a chance to do at home. On this day, when the time came to get out of the tub, I was shocked to discover that it was almost impossible because years of infirmity had diminished my strength to the point that it was a struggle just to get to my knees, let alone stand up and step out. I decided I was much too young for this, so when I got home I joined a gym and started counting calories; determined that I was going to get back in shape so I would be able to keep up with my on-the-way grandchild.
One year later, I’d lost over forty pounds and was in better shape than at any time since high school, when PE was required and I had no choice but to exercise five days a week. I hadn’t looked or felt so good in years and, on top of that, I got to buy an entirely new wardrobe. I didn’t keep any of the old “fat clothes” either for I certainly would never need them again. The Lord didn’t let me get too cocky about it though—a friend, intending a compliment, actually said, “Oh Barbara, just think, this is as good as you’re ever going to look in your whole life!” OK, great—how nice to know that it’s all downhill from here!
But oops! It soon became easy to skip a day here and there at the gym, or to allow myself an extra piece of bread or a second helping of food; and over several years I noticed that some of my new clothes weren’t quite as comfortable as they’d been when I bought them. Then some of them didn’t fit at all. Then I was shopping for undergarments that would compress my waistline and wearing things that were loose fitting or had elastic waistbands. Like I said, oops!
So, here I am; back at the gym and counting calories again, working off the pounds I allowed to creep back; and it turns out to be a good thing I didn’t keep those “fat clothes” because with the current economy, getting a whole new wardrobe again isn’t an option so I’m extra motivated. Along the way, as He often does in every life experience, the Lord has been gracious to point out some spiritual parallels.
My body is the temple of the Holy Spirit and I have a responsibility to take care of it to the best of my ability. Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s. (1 Corinthians 6:19-20)
The principles for developing spiritual maturity in 2 Peter 1:5-7 work just as well to develop and maintain a healthy lifestyle. But also for this very reason, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness, to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love.
As weight gain may be slow and subtle, almost unnoticeable for a long time; so are the effects of unrighteousness. Little sins seem like nothing, but allowed to continue they escalate and become destructive. Ananias and Sapphira probably thought little white lies were OK, but one lie that seemed OK to them cost them their lives. Then Peter said to her, “How is it that you have agreed together to test the Spirit of the Lord? Look, the feet of those who have buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out.” Then immediately she fell down at his feet and breathed her last. And the young men came in and found her dead, and carrying her out, buried her by her husband. So great fear came upon all the church and upon all who heard these things. (Acts 5:9-11)
The Apostle Paul repeatedly referred to life as a race, and my desire is to finish the race well; doing the maximum amount of damage possible to the kingdom of evil. If I am a good steward of my body I will be better able to accomplish the Lord’s purposes; so when old unhealthy habits creep back into my life, I must turn from them and start anew, just as I would if I recognized an old sin popping up that I thought I had overcome. Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3:13-14)
It was a few days before Halloween and the McKinleyville High School Panthers football team was facing off with our rivals in Fortuna. I debated whether to go to the game or to a costume party at church, finally settling on the party. After all, in the four years the school had existed we had yet to win a game, and it was always such a let-down after all the excitement of the pep rallies to ride home in a bus full of disappointed kids.
The party had not been so great and the next day I was already wishing I’d gone to the game when I ran into a friend. I casually asked, “So, how bad was the score this time?” But no, our team had finally won, and the celebration was—well, quite a celebration; and I’d missed it.
As I read the story of the ten virgins recently I recalled that weekend and realized that I had been like one of the five who were unprepared. I had gotten tired of waiting and had stopped watching for the promised win that would surely come eventually; settling for something else because I didn’t have enough faith in my team. But my disappointment was nothing compared to that of those who do not remain alert for the coming of the Lord—they will pay a much higher price than just missing out on the celebration of a winning game.
Then the kingdom of heaven shall be likened to ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. Now five of them were wise, and five were foolish. Those who were foolish took their lamps and took no oil with them, but the wise took oil in their vessels with their lamps. But while the bridegroom was delayed, they all slumbered and slept. And at midnight a cry was heard: “Behold, the bridegroom is coming;go out to meet him!” Then all those virgins arose and trimmed their lamps. And the foolish said to the wise, “Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.” But the wise answered, saying, “No, lest there should not be enough for us and you; but go rather to those who sell, and buy for yourselves.” And while they went to buy, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the wedding; and the door was shut. Afterward the other virgins came also, saying, “Lord, Lord, open to us!” But he answered and said, “Assuredly, I say to you, I do not know you.” Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour in which the Son of Man is coming.
At the gym, sweating away on the elliptical and trying to distract myself from how much time was left to exercise, I was watching a cooking show on the TV in front of me. The guest chef created a dish that looked and sounded delicious, and he described it as comfort food. The host responded, “Well, that’s what food is all about—to provide comfort.” I doubt that he even thought about what he was saying—it was just the polite response; but oh, how dangerous a comment if taken seriously. To seek our comfort from food is to invite disaster, yet to be honest most of us probably do so on occasion. Just smelling the dish this chef prepared would probably add ten pounds to my body, not to mention sending my cholesterol through the roof!
But the danger lies far deeper than the physical repercussions when we depend on anything or anyone other than God for our comfort. Lives are wrecked because we try to sooth our wounds, not just with food, but with other things as well—everything from drugs, to shopping, to sex, to anything that gives us a temporary fix and makes us feel better. Even depending solely on a trusted friend can backfire because a time will always come when they will disappoint.
Every created thing to which we run for comfort will eventually fail, but God never will. He can always be the place we go, whatever our need.
God is our refuge and strength,
A very present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear,
Even though the earth be removed,
And though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea;
Though its waters roar and be troubled,
Though the mountains shake with its swelling. Selah
There is a river whose streams shall make glad the city of God,
The holy place of the tabernacle of the Most High.
God is in the midst of her, she shall not be moved;
God shall help her, just at the break of dawn.
The nations raged, the kingdoms were moved;
He uttered His voice, the earth melted.
The Lord of hosts is with us;
The God of Jacob is our refuge. Selah
Come, behold the works of the Lord,
Who has made desolations in the earth.
He makes wars cease to the end of the earth;
He breaks the bow and cuts the spear in two;
He burns the chariot in the fire.
Be still, and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth!
The Lord of hosts is with us;
The God of Jacob is our refuge. Selah
(This is another excerpt from “I’m Still Standing” which deals with my journey through the battle with breast cancer.)
It was a normal Friday evening as I prepared for bed, gratefully anticipating the weekend ahead. Whatever pleasant hopes that existed for the next two days were quickly dashed as a quick breast self-exam revealed, to my horror, a walnut-sized lump. Though I worked as a registered nurse in a medical office, it was too late to call any of the doctors; there was nothing to do but wait until Monday morning.
The ensuing weekend was miserable, with thoughts of potential breast cancer looming in my mind—all of the “what-ifs?” were there, all of the fears of pain, loss, and the effect on myself and my family if I were to become seriously ill or to die. There was never a moment when such thoughts were far away.
Monday morning finally arrived, and I doubt there was ever a time that I was so anxious to get to work in my entire life. As soon as a doctor arrived I pulled him into an exam room to get checked out. He was appalled and immediately called for an appointment with a surgeon and ordered a mammogram that same morning. Filled with fear and dread, I walked over to the surgeon’s office and waited for the dire diagnosis that would surely come. Imagine my relief when he was able to tell immediately that it was just a big cyst, which he proceeded to drain on the spot. His diagnosis was quickly confirmed by further tests.
Thus started a pattern that lasted for more than ten years—cysts that appeared on my mammograms, generally causing enough concern to the radiologists that they performed ultrasound exams to rule out tumors. Eventually I became complacent about it, never worrying when a lump was discovered, and never getting too excited when further tests were required. So complacent that I finally skipped my regular mammogram for a year or so, thinking it was no big deal because it was always the same story. Besides, not only did I reject the idea that I could be at risk for breast cancer, but life was very busy. We had moved and it was a hassle to locate new doctors; numerous other health issues had overwhelmed me; and surely I was just too young for all of this and enough was enough. Wrong.
It was another Friday. I had finally gone for a regular mammogram and had been called back for another view. No big deal. I’d been through this before. Besides, there wasn’t even a lump that could be felt manually. The extra pictures were taken and it was no surprise when the technician said the radiologist would like to do an ultrasound. But this time was different, for when the tech left the room to get the doctor to come and look at the results there was an air of trepidation in her manner that was unsettling. Sure enough, the doctor was not pleased with what she saw and wanted to perform a needle biopsy on the spot. I eventually walked out with her assurance that she would call me on Monday as soon as the biopsy result was received, but that she was sure it was cancer.
For the second time in my life I faced a weekend of not knowing, a weekend that could have been filled with the same fears as before, but this time it was different. In the intervening years God had been at work in my life—teaching me to trust him in the most difficult circumstances. I had been irritated when I turned 50 and needed an “overhaul.” During that year I had two surgeries within one month, the first for kidney stones and the second for gallbladder removal. I figured that since the maximum out-of-pocket expense on our insurance had been met and it was paying 100%, it would be a good idea to just get everything possible done during that year. So I did—physical exams, colonoscopy, mammogram—even a long-term ingrown toenail finally got fixed. By the time all was finished I figured I was good for another 50 years. Wrong again.
Two years later I endured, from out of the blue, a frozen left shoulder for no apparent reason, a perforated colon with peritonitis that required a short-term colostomy and two surgeries, and (just when I thought it was all over) a fractured hip that also required two surgeries. Added to this was the stress of fixing-up and selling our house, remodeling and downsizing to a condo one-third the size and an hour away; all of which contributed to a tremendous strain on my marriage. Then, a couple of years later, an attack of diverticulitis threatened to perforate my colon again and required another hospitalization, seven days of IV fluids, and several weeks of recovery. But God was faithful. No matter how traumatic; from the words of a surgeon, “This is as bad as it gets. There’s a team on the way in and we have to operate. You may not make it;” to the frustration of being incapable of helping in any way with our move and having to depend totally upon others to make it happen; God was there, teaching me one small, painful step at a time to just trust him—no matter what.
So, again, this weekend of facing the threat of breast cancer was different, as was receiving and dealing with the dreaded diagnosis on Monday. In my journal I recorded the following entries…
…Today I had a breast biopsy—today I was told it’s almost certainly a cancer—today I have been given another opportunity to live my faith. Nothing can happen to me unless God allows it. I am his and I am here to bring him honor—it’s all about him, not about me. I submit to the hand of my Lord—yes, I ask for healing, but ultimately, cancer or not, I trust that the purposes of my Lord will be fulfilled in me…
…As I contemplate faith, I wonder how strong is my own. I should find out today if I do, indeed, have breast cancer. At the moment I have faith that God will bring me through it—that it will not bring me down. But at some point we die—at some point I will die if I’ve heard correctly (as opposed to being alive for Christ’s return). The time that was appointed before I was born will arrive. I’ve faced it before when my colon perforated, but how would I handle the certain knowledge that I had a given amount of time? How well would my faith hold? Would I give into sorrow, or fear, or worry? Or, would I embrace the moment with joy? God knows and he’ll never give me more than I can handle. So, for today, for everyday of my life, I look to him—and Lord, while I certainly hope for a benign result, if this is something you’re allowing I’m determined to go through it in faith—to be a witness and to draw attention to your goodness—to your ability to see me through. I trust that what the enemy means to destroy me will be used by you to make me stronger. I have a destiny I know I will fulfill—I have a destiny, and as long as I hold on in faith it cannot be thwarted by the enemy. So, my Lord, help me to hold on to you—my rock, my solid rock—my redeemer, my teacher, my friend, my strength…
…So, breast cancer it is. How do I really feel about it? The reaction of others ranges from shock, sorrow, or pity to calm acceptance. It’s interesting that the calmest reaction came from a woman who expressed her faith in God. She commented that she and I have it settled, and the worst thing that could happen in the long run is that we die and go home. The most shaken was one who exhibits no apparent faith in God. But again, what of my own reaction? I say to others, “no big deal;” I claim faith; I sleep well; while I’m not thrilled with the idea of surgery and radiation, I have no need of a support group. Yet I found myself on the verge of tears several times yesterday. Lord, help me be honest with myself, with you, and with others. This is happening with your permission. My life is yours. My body is yours. I trust you to bring me through this in victory, with opportunities to share your love with others that I would never have otherwise. I pray for good that is equal to sevenfold in damages against the enemy for this attack on my life. Deliver me from fear for I choose to trust in you.
Again and again, in my journey from fear to faith, the cries and praises of the psalmists, the prophets, and Job have comforted me. How I thank God that, as Solomon wrote in Ecclesiastes 1, there is nothing new under the sun—how I thank him that the comfort he provided to those Old Testament believers is still available to me today—how I thank him that I, too, can walk through the valley of the shadow of death and fear no evil.
“Moving Mountains” is an article that grew out of my journal entries during 2006 when I was fighting breast cancer. It is included in my book, “I’m Still Standing”.
Mountains. How I love the mountains! And I’m not alone—any season of the year will find many heading to there to relax—from mountain climbing or biking to snow skiing or sledding; from swimming in a mountain lake to skating on its ice; from gathering around a campfire on a warm summer night to relaxing in front of a roaring fireplace on a snowy winter night, the mountains are an amazing retreat. Flower-carpeted hillsides in the spring or snow-capped peaks in the winter, they are things of such majestic beauty and grandeur that any description seems inadequate. But mountains also have another side. They are places of terrible danger. Every year we hear of hikers being lost, of people being stranded in the snow with tragic results, of swimming or skiing accidents, of avalanches. Perhaps the difficult, dangerous aspect is why we so often think of the problems or challenges in our lives as mountains that we must climb, ever straining to get to the top. Certainly cancer, or any other disease for that matter, can seem like a mountain. So, as I contemplated my diagnosis and the long and difficult treatment that it would entail, I also contemplated what Jesus had to say about mountains. In his words, “I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.” (Matthew 17:20b, NIV)
How often have I read this verse and visualized a physical mountain on the horizon; questioning or doubting the meaning—assuming that my faith is too weak because I know that the mountain is simply not going to get up and reposition itself no matter what I say or pray. Not that I doubt God’s word; I just don’t expect to see a mountain move.
But what if the mountain is really something in my life that is just too big for me to overcome? What if it’s financial trouble? What if it’s infertility? What if the mountain is cancer—or death? What if it’s a problem that’s so massive that I can’t see any way through or around it? Faith will move those mountains—yes it will—I know it will! In fact, it may appear to everyone else that the mountains are still there—but suddenly, for me, it can be as if they no longer exist. Even death? That’s a biggie. But yes again! Death is impending sooner or later for all of us—but death is only the end of physical life, and none of us is even promised a tomorrow, let alone a week, a month or a year. So if I really believe what God has told us—if I really believe that death is swallowed up in victory and has no sting—then what’s the big deal? The big deal is my own fear—fear of pain, fear of loss, fear of the unknown.
So, what will I do? I can cower in fear in the shadow of the mountain, worried about the very real dangers ahead—worried about the pain of surgery, the effects of chemotherapy and radiation. Or, I can worry about what will happen once I get to the top of the mountain—what if I find a mountain range ahead instead of a wide, pleasant valley flowing with abundance? What if I find an uncertain future filled with another illness or metastasis? I have to face those fears head-on and recognize them for what they are—challenges that have been placed in my way by a devious, cruel enemy which can be removed with faith. I get to decide who wins. Fear or faith is my choice. Which will it be? Two reactions that are diametrically opposed; but one leads to anxiety, sorrow and defeat, and the other results in peace, joy and victory. No contest—faith is my only choice.
This is the foundation of my life—God is real—his Word is true—my life is his—he is my refuge, my place of rest, my peace and my hope. Oh, he may deliver me in different ways—sometimes he will take me through a mountain before he removes it. I may come to a mountain and realize there’s a tunnel—a day by day way to keep on keeping on. I can’t see any light at the other end, but I know it’s there and I just have to keep going. Once I’m through, I look back and the mountain has disappeared—vanished into thin air as if it never existed. By faith, the mountain has moved. Or, if it can still be seen, it’s now just a little blip up against a far-away horizon, nothing more than a molehill.
Other times I may have to climb a mountain, encountering one challenge after another along the way—the landslides, storms, wild animals, hunger and pain of life—but I keep on—and finally I arrive at a summit to find a vast panorama of beauty ahead. So I continue on my journey, occasionally glancing back, and once again the mountain has disappeared—it’s shrunk down to the size of the distant hills.
I’ve lost count of the mountains my Lord has moved for me. He’s proven himself over and over, even when my faith was so weak there was hardly any at all—so weak that it wasn’t any bigger than a mustard seed. And so, as I consider the fact that the cancer is something for which I must be treated; as I recognize that it’s not an easy battle; I also realize it’s really a non-issue because my God is the mover of my mountains.