My friend Kevin asked me the other night, “What has brought you the most joy this past week?”
I pondered for a moment and recalled visiting Skylor this past week during his treatments. That was joy-giving for sure! So I told him so.
I kept thinking about it, tumbling the thought, trying to recall all of the moments of this week. (Which is already really hard to do with chemo brain. I swear I read something and 5 seconds later–BLANK–white screen on what just happened literally seconds ago. And there is nothing that comes, no small neurological path/help that my brain usually comes up with to backtrack. Just dead-ends, nothing.) Someone though outside of my own thoughts, shines Light and illuminates to help me see the pathways of the past week, past thoughts. Light recalls for me: it’s when you heard from Me that also brought you joy. Though you couldn’t even define it, place it, as joy at first. Joy/comfort. Relief. You heard from Me, the Living God.
You see, this past week, I feel like I haven’t heard much from him. But in fact, how can I hear from him if I have just been running away from him, running off those thought pathways He really wants me to stay on, even if I am slowly trailing or sitting on the benches or laying on the ground in complete tiredness. But I have been diverging the thought-courses, trying to admire other trails, or seeking out new ones.
Even when I purposefully go off the trail, somehow He leads me back to it. (I, the stupid sheep. Him, the smart Shepherd.)
Not that my trail-thoughts aren’t on “good” things: I would like to study this book of the Bible, I want to reflect on how I can develop this relationship more, I want to figure out if I should go back to school or not and for what if I do. See? Good things. But they aren’t His things, or at least in His timing.
And there are other trail-thoughts I stumble on, filled with rocks, with roots that cause week feet, week hearts: I cannot talk to anyone about my cancer, I don’t want to talk to anyone, What about those scans?, I will probably not make it past 23, What am I living for?
These trails are all different and moving me all sorts of directions and I’m uncertain where the final destination, where am I traveling to again?, I should probably rest here and then–
His path-trail-thoughts are at my feet again– there is the sign-post again pointing “this way.” How did I end up here?–by his mercy and grace, because I was lost–How did I end up here?
The sign-post was another human. He always does that, it seems. It was a class. On the Psalms. On specifically, the lament psalms. (What clearer of a sign-post could you come across?) Except today I couldn’t ignore the sign-post and keep going my own way; I’d physically have to get up, lift myself off this chair, and being rude to teacher, leave. So I sat there. And looked at the sign-post and the Light that was illuminating the beginning of the trail and a little further down it.
Before the teacher, Lee, began teaching on the lament psalms, he took the majority of our time on the topic of suffering. Now, there is no way he could have known in the midst of his probably 70 or so students that he had a 23 year-old cancer patient, on her 3rd go at cancer, taking his class, and was in great despair/fatigue/tired/hopeless that day and past week because of the thought-trails she had pursued, who was, ultimately, suffering and would had admit that to anyone that day who asked. (or would have I?)
While listening to his lecture, full of wisdom, compassion and practical insights, God used this teacher to direct me and show me the sign-post, the path He wanted me to take and see how it was good for me to take the path. Holy Spirit clearly spoke: yes, I want you to learn about suffering and how to be deeply rooted in me because of it and be forever rooted after your trials. But you are running away from all your thoughts on suffering, your circumstances, or half-way coming to me but I want you to fully come.
Outrage: how dare You accuse me of not coming to You completely! and
Brokeness: yes, I know how much I have not been coming to You completely and
Humility: I don’t even know how to come to You completely and
Joy: You want me to come to You completely? wow
Holy Spirit speaks: you, somewhere deep within you, don’t believe that I want to comfort you:
3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, 4 who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.
You see, He tells me, that I am the God of all Comfort, but you doubt that I want to give you comfort. That for some reason, Comfort is low on My priorities for you, that you don’t deserve it, that you should go off and be alone in all of this, away from family and friends and Me. But no: it is My priority, My calling, My desire for you, dear one. It is just as important as the insight you crave from Me, the wisdom you want, the strength from Me to go and serve and love. But in your mind, you scale and weigh my blessings and gifts from Me: that My wisdom is weighted and deeply treasured in your heart and My insight is seen as valuable anad desired most of all, but My comfort is low, low on the scales of your heart. But I continue to woo you and in My faithfulness and love to pursuade you that I AM and I AM the God of all comfort.
I keep reading, keep listening:
5 For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ.
You see, He tells me, that my Son and I understand. We know true, deep suffering and are not far removed from you at all.
But you see, I tell Him, I still don’t understand this. How do I share Your suffering? How do I share in Your comfort? Help me understand please.
And, once again, wisdom–partnered now with comfort, I am beginning to see–strikes:
8 We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters, about the troubles we experienced in the province of Asia. We
were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired of life itself. 9 Indeed, we felt we had received the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God,who raises the dead. 10 He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us again. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us, 11 as you help us by your prayers. Then many will give thanks on our behalf for the gracious favor granted us in answer to the prayers of many.
The very things I am thinking/feeling/learning are right here in God’s Word.
So this is the beginning of comfort.
1. Paul is transparent and vulnerable to his friends, his brothers and sisters, about his “troubles [he] experienced] and desires for them to know, seeks out ways to communicate the suffering to them because he “does not want [them] to be uninformed.” He is initiative in telling them. Which I am trying and learning to grow in.
2. Paul is transparent and vulnerable about his fear, despair, and emotions: “under great pressure,” “far beyond ability to endure,” “despaired life itself,” “felt I had received the sentence of death.” Am I reading still? Or is in my hand a mirror in its place? I am looking at mirror-thoughts rights now. wow. And I couldn’t even articulate those thoughts until right now. And those are in God’s Word? Really? Oh, You are personal for sure and understanding!
3. “But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead.” Oh my, this is true. And yet, even though I feel like I depend on Him, I am constantly learning deeper ways and He is bringing me away from relying on my own strength and to his. And more striking here: the affirmation that He raises the dead. From death to life. Lazarus to Jesus. From old self to new self. Spiritually. Physically. God has the power of life. Meditating on this characteristic of Him is comforting/transforming my thoughts.
4. “He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us again. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us.” He has delieved me now from cancer twice. Doesn’t my heart believe and mind know that he will deliever me again and will continue to do so presently? wow. wow. wow.
5. How does he deliever?: “through your prayers….on behald for the gracious favor granted in answer to the prayers of many.” Through you, my friends, your prayers does He deliever, do I see His gracious favor, His Grace. Which I know so many of you are doing! Thank you!
And this is SO TRUE I am realizing ! For example:
Yesterday, I am driving in my car to a high school Bible study I help lead. Jamming to my music, singly loudly the lyrics and focused on them, all of a sudden, a thought comes into my mind: Wow, this is the best, the most like myself I have felt in weeks before going to high school group! What a blessing! Praise God!
Yesterday, my friend Eileen was mentioning to me that her and her sister and brother-in-law were praying for me earlier that day. I asked her at what time she was, like blurted it out, which I wouldn’t have normally done. And she said around the time you would have been heading out to high school group for your Bible study. Instant recall: that moment, that car ride, that random thought that was now not so random any more but divinely placed and given to me because of their prayers. Unreal. Unearthly. From Him, completely!
Yes, yes, I am slowly being convinced dear friends that He is the God of all comfort and moments like that help recall, affirm, instill that truth deeper into the ground of heart. He fertilizes it with His blessings and care until the truth-seed of my belief in His character grows firm like an oak tree.
I want that oak tree.