She was eagerly interacting with her third-graders as I passed by the classroom last Sunday morning. With her arms around one of them, she listened intently to the trivia that was so important to the little girl. The next time I noticed her she was on the second pew on the left side of the auditorium, sitting erectly and drinking in every word the preacher said. Then I noticed that she never missed a word as we sang praises.
When I finally got over to talk with her, she told me about her third graders, how much she loved them and how encouraging they were. She particularly talked about a little girl who, the daughter of a single mom, is extremely plugged-in and smart as a whip! The zeal was unharnessed and the optimism for the future glowed unabashedly.
I should add here that she currently has no hair. Legally blind before the cancer, the nineteen months of chemotherapy “finished off” her eyesight. As I first approached her and gently patted her on the shoulder, she asked the lady sitting beside her…”Who is it?” Her friend identified me for her and she, in turn, just glowed all over and began to tell me how much she’s enjoying the gospel meeting. There are “chemo” bruises around her eyes and on her face. But her completely bright spirit belies any of the chemo sickness or fatigue.
After conversing with her a bit, I asked about the prognosis. Her reply, “We cannot cure it, but we can keep it at bay.”
I am inspired by so many souls who, rather than giving in to disease and discouragement, seem to find in the throes of trials, the springboard to greater faith and they, like the skilled alchemist, just mix up a little fear of the unknown with twice that much pain and a smidgen of humor when needed and combine with that great faith and, when this mixture gels, it produces in them a contentment like Paul had in Philippians 4: 11-13:
Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.
I remember my mother making several statements when she was suffering with the same disease as this friend I met today. They were statements that evidenced that she had the recipe right, too. Statements like:
“Oh, you know, everybody has to leave this life in one way or another. I don’t know that it matters all that much how.” …Or…
“Well, why should I think that I would not be one of the people who has this disease. I am surely not better than many of the people I know who have had cancer.”…Or…
“We need to just be sure we’re living so that we can spend forever together in heaven. That’s where the permanence is.” …Or…
“You know, I do not mind going at all. It’s only about the people I’m leaving behind that I worry. It’s because of them that I’d like to stay, because I know they will hurt when I leave, and they want me to stay.” (She knew this because she had lost her own mother in this same way.)
Medical professionals and technology today can do so much more about cancer than they could in the eighties when my mother suffered with it. There’s just so much more hope now than when she was diagnosed. And yet, how? How could there be more hope than any generation can find in I Thessalonians 4:16, 17?
For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord.
Every child of God, healthy or disease-ridden, whole or maimed, free or bound, at the mountaintop or in the darkest valley has hope that can only be described as infinite. We will always be with the Lord. In the eternal scheme of things, it makes little difference how this old body proceeds from the earthly realm. Infinity is the length of time we have to be with the Lord. Infinity is the word that describes our time of wholeness and perfection. Infinity is the equalizer for those of us who have called on His name.
After the service, my new friend said to me, “I’m so glad brother Colley came down here last night to preach right here on the floor right in front of me. I could almost see him.” I’ve got a feeling brother Colley will be finishing this meeting from the floor. And I’m happy that we will have that wonderful eternal gospel meeting in a place where there will be no loss of eyesight, no bruises, no feeble frames and no cancer. I’m glad God “has a healing leaf” for each one of those!
Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city; also, on either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations (Revelation 22:1,2).