Have you ever been truly gripped by fear, so paralyzed by panic that you literally felt crippled? Fear has a way of manifesting itself in many forms. Maybe for you it’s finances, your prodigal child, the uncertainty of your job, or a rocky relationship. For me, it is cancer. It’s just one of those words that I never planned to add to my resume. Then again, none of these things are, are they?
Throughout the past several months, God has been teaching me some incredible truths about this life. Let me give you a little history. Travel back with me to November 16th, 2007. This was a joyful day for me, as it was the day of my first date with my husband, Brian. We had become good friends through our church’s singles ministry, and the time seemed right for us to try our luck at dating. I was never one to date too much for fun. I always dated to marry. So, from the first date, I was giving him the once over. I was perplexed because I couldn’t find anything glaringly wrong with him. We continued to see each other pretty much every day for a few weeks. When we hit the 3 week mark, we started talking marriage, and we booked the church for the following June. If you knew me, you would know that is WAY outside of my comfort zone. I’m one of these type-A, control freak women. I’ve got everything scheduled a year in advance, so to plan a wedding after dating for 3 weeks was totally out of my realm of thinking. But, nonetheless, we had been praying together and I had been praying for years for my husband, and we both felt God leading us in that direction.
Fast forward to June 7th, 2008. Ahh! Our wedding day. It was exquisite! Everything went perfectly and we were two peas in a pod. We honeymooned in the Caribbean and returned home full of wedded bliss. Brian was unemployed at the time, so we had a month off together. No jobs. No schedules. And, alas, no money! We were looking diligently for employment for him, but jobs in his field just seemed few and far between. Money was tight! We got to experience the strife, from day one, created by financial strain. Finally, a great job came along and things were looking up! Month one – we conquered unemployment and we were feeling pretty good about our little married selves.
Then, our second month of marriage rolled around. Things were so smooth and happy and just plain easy. They always say, “Watch out when things seem easy because a storm’s a brewin’.” Well, that was literally the case for us. On August 23rd our house was struck by lightning and every major fixture was ruined by a power surge. At first, we thought, “How fun! We’ll get to vacation at our family’s houses for a few days.” Well, a few days turned into weeks, and before we knew it we were homeless with all of our salvaged possessions residing in a POD in our driveway. After a month of displacement, everything was repaired or replaced and we moved back in. Month two – we conquered homelessness and devastation!
Again, we were drunk on love and ecstatic about moving back in to our newly remodeled home. At last, all was well and life would continue peacefully, or so we thought. September 4th, 2008 is a day that I will never forget as long as I live. I was working on lesson plans at school when my cell phone suddenly rang. “Mrs. Pond?” I heard a man’s voice announce. “I’m so sorry. It’s not what we thought. You have grade 3 invasive ductal carcinoma. Breast cancer.”
My heart was beating out of my chest. It was all I could do to get through the conversation with the doctor without hanging up on him. I didn’t want to believe it. In fact, I couldn’t believe it. This was the third major blow to Brian and I in our three-month-old marriage. Unemployment. Lightning strike. And now cancer.
Now, I don’t tell you all of this in order to gain your pity or sympathy. I tell you all of this to boast in my Jesus. Through each of these trials, and especially through cancer, I have learned so much about the character of Christ. He has given me insight about trials and His work in us through trials. Let me share with you God’s purpose for bad situations, His plan for overcoming them, and His promise through them.
In the Bible in the first chapter of James it says, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.” (James 1:2-3) I think the biggest lesson of this life is learning that God is less concerned with our happiness than He is with our holiness. The whole point is that we become more like Christ, who suffered and died. In order to be like Christ, we have to identify with Him. We have to feel a tiny hint of the pain He felt. So, the purpose of trials is to develop our holiness.
When lightning strikes, either literally or figuratively, our human nature tells us to go into panic mode. My first inclination is to circle the wagons and get a game plan in place for getting out of the dismal conditions. But, God calls us to do something else. He says in His word, “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” (Matthew 6:33)
What does it mean to seek? It means to desperately hunt for, to seek out, to diligently search. I was thinking the other day when I lost my keys, “I bet if I sought God with the same eagerness that I search for my lost keys, I’d be one satisfied woman.” We’ve got to look for Him and His work when trouble comes.
The second part of the plan is found in Phillipians, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” (Phillipians 4:6) Most Christian women are quick to pray when there is danger on the horizon, but many forget the second part of the verse – “with thanksgiving”. I have finally learned that before I ask God for any sort of blessing or prayer, I must thank Him for what He’s already done, and for what He is going to do. And that whole “do not be anxious” bit is pretty tough for a control freak, too. But, when we are truly laying our burdens at the foot of Jesus, in hopeful expectation of His intervention, there is absolutely no reason to be anxious or worried.
And finally, the good news – God’s promise to us in John 16. "In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world." (John 16:33) I get chills every single time I hear or read this verse. “I HAVE OVERCOME THE WORLD!” Is that life-changing for you? It sure is for me. My Jesus has overcome sickness. My Jesus has overcome financial strains. My Jesus has overcome unemployment. My Jesus has overcome every tiny difficulty in this world. Lay your burden at his feet today. Let the Living Water refresh your spirit because you know – He HAS overcome!