Two years ago, when I found out I had cancer, I didn’t doubt God, not for a minute. I knew Christ was real and present with me. I knew that he had seen the tumor growing deep in my gut from the beginning. The Lord knew it was there before my doctor knew it was there, and I knew my life was in the Lord’s hands. I knew he would give strength to me and grace to my family. I knew he would provide for the church, the ministry so dear to my heart. I didn’t ask why me.
I’ve seen too many of God’s good people face sickness and suffering worse than mine. I’ve watched them die with the peace and integrity of their faith. I never felt singled out or stricken by God. And I wasn’t mad at God, either. Not for a minute. How could I be angry at the One who in whom I had found my soul’s delight—the One from whose hand I had always received such blessings? I didn’t feel doubt or anger or the need to question why. But I don’t know what I felt. Alone I cried and prayed, but in my praying, tears came easier than words.
Truly, the foundation of my faith kept me from falling; nevertheless, faith for me would never be what it was before cancer. I simply had never known firsthand the way life allowed such uncertainty—how faith permitted such anguish. Like Jacob, the God to whom I was clinging was yet the One whose face I struggled to recognize in the night of my struggle. Sickness changed me. It was a physical crisis, certainly, but it was also an emotional and spiritual crisis.
And as my healing came and my body began to heal, my faith began to heal, as well. During those days of weakness and waiting, I found that God’s word began to soothe an aching in me that no medicine could reach. I turned to a familiar passage— Isaiah 40—and though I had read all the verses before, the word became new, because I was being made new. Surgery healed my body; this chapter healed my soul. I read the verses slowly. Deeply.
Words of comfort dripped into my soul’s veins like an IV. That was two years ago. I knew I would eventually preach Isaiah 40 with you all, eager to share the strength and comfort that I myself had found in that single chapter. I made notes for a sermon series and prayed about preaching it in the fall of 2015, but it was too soon. The healing work in me was still ongoing: one must never try to preach from the mouth what the Spirit has yet to apply in the heart. I planned to preach the series in 2016, but again, I felt prevented from doing so. The Lord said no. Until now.
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