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Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Your wife has... cancer.

Not the words we wanted to hear and certainly not in our plans for the summer. We live in a fallen world that is racked with disease and Christians are not exempt from them. Still, in the back of our minds, cancer is what happens to others, not to us. Suddenly our lives were filled with doctor appointments, lab tests, etc., and notebooks of what has to be done and what not do. Moments of frustration and hurt watching the one you love suffer as a result of the chemicals pumped in her body to eliminate that which would kill her. The pain is still pain and we have only begun the journey.  Overwhelming, yet God’s grace has been there through it all. We have even seen how He had been preparing us and providing for us long before we received the news.

Not surprisingly, Scripture and my devotional time have become more meaningful and critical to the day to day confronting of the new realities in our lives. Today as I was reading in I Corinthians 11, I was reminded of all that Paul had gone through as he sought to be obedient to God’s calling in his life. In the context, Paul is defending his apostleship to the church at Corinth against the “super-apostles” whose boasting and domineering leadership were causing trouble for the church. Rather than boast of all the miracles that had been a part of his ministry and the great expansion of the Gospel because of what he had done, his focus was on his difficulty and suffering. 

For Paul, living in obedience was not a denial of the hardships, pain, and suffering that accompanies following Christ, but the acceptance that these things would be a part of developing the character of Christ in his life.  In “living in the victory of Christ,” Paul showed complete transparency of the trouble and hardships he had and was facing. In fact, in 2 Corinthians 1:8 he stated: “We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters,[a] 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.”  Strong words from the same man who said that he could “do all things through Christ.”

Rather than base his apostleship on a false philosophy that says “a loving God would never allow His loved ones to suffer,” or “following Christ means going from victory to victory in power,” Paul chooses to reveal the truth that even Jesus suffered and we should expect no less.  In 1 Thessalonians 1, Paul shared “We had previously suffered and been treated outrageously in Philippi, as you know, but with the help of our God we dared to tell you his gospel in the face of strong opposition. [2] ... you, brothers and sisters, became imitators of God’s churches in Judea, which are in Christ Jesus: You suffered from your own people the same things those churches suffered from the Jews who killed the Lord Jesus and the prophets and also drove us out." [14-15] Obviously, part of the instruction Paul gave to new believers was the reality of suffering for the cause of Christ. 

Not all suffering is a result of following Christ, however, as we follow Christ we must anticipate that suffering will be a part of the journey. Sickness is real. Pain really does hurt. Going through times of suffering does not mean that God is far away; on the contrary, His presence may be even nearer. We lean not on false or trumped up emotions, but on the promise of God’s Word that the Spirit of God lives in us and He is with us until the end of time. Our focus must be on giving Him glory and relying on Who He Is. The pain will remain, our understanding that God is still in control, that He loves us and that He has a plan for our lives and can help us trust Him that, “though He slay me, yet will I trust Him.” [Job 13:15]

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