Archive for the ‘Grace’ Category

Taking one last look in the mirror before settling down for the night, I was taken aback by what I saw.

Breast cancer surgery had disfigured my body.  Two weeks into chemotherapy and I was  bald as an eagle.  “You really are quite a mess,” I said out loud to myself.

“Add to that the loss of your husband only a few months ago and the fact that you are alone in the house as you go to bed.   You really should be quite devastated.”

Continuing this one-person conversation, I replied, “But somehow I am content.”

Content.  What does it mean?  How does one become content?

My dictionary defines it as “happy enough with what one has or is; not desiring something more or different; satisfied.”

Back in my high school days someone once described me as being like a contented cow.  Not taking it as a compliment then, after reading the definition of “contented,” I rather like the word.  It shares the same meaning as content:  “contented ―having or showing no desire for something more or different; satisfied.”

When I am tempted to fall into self-pity and discontent, I am reminded of oft-heard Bible verses written by the Apostle Paul, verses that have taken on new meaning to me in my present circumstances. Paul lauds contentment ― which is “the state, quality, or fact of being contented” ―as a virtue.  He writes in1 Timothy 6:6 (NASB): “But godliness actually is a means of great gain when accompanied by contentment.”

In Philippians 4:11, he states, “Not that I speak in respect of want, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am.”  He goes on to describe in verse 12 the full gamut of his personal experience: “I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need.”

I personally have found Paul’s God-given, God-focused secret to contentment to be true and can proclaim with him his words in verse 13:  “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.”

As Paul shares his physical weakness, his “thorn in the flesh,” in 2 Corinthians 12:7-10, he credits his contentment to the grace, power, and strength he has in Christ even in the midst of suffering. He summarizes his train of thought in verse 10:  “Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.”

The writer of the book of Hebrews shares Paul’s philosophy when he advocates “being content with what you have” (Hebrews 13:5). And his reasoning?  “For He Himself has said, ‘I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you,’ so that we confidently say, ‘The Lord is my helper, I will not be afraid.  What will man do to me?’”

In addition to the ingredients of God’s grace, power, and strength in the recipe for contentment, God’s constant and abiding presence and help removes discontent, loneliness, and fear.

In his book, The Lord is My Shepherd: Resting in the Peace and Power of Psalm 23, Robert J. Morgan writes: “When the Lord is our Shepherd, that is enough. He is enough.  Enough to meet our needs, calm our nerves, clear our vision, restore our souls, ensure our future, and bless our day” (p.xv).

Continuing in verse 2 of Psalm 23, we learn the source of contentment: “He makes me to lie down in green pastures; he leads me beside the still waters.” Morgan says of this verse:  “When our Shepherd is near us, our minds can relax.  Anxious thoughts retreat in the presence of the Lord and His Word and His promises.  Contentment comes as we realize that He is all we need and He meets all our needs.  That knowledge imparts an attitude of quietness of spirit” (p. 54).

Morgan adds, “Contentment is saying, ‘The world may be coming apart at the seams, but I’m holding together because of Jesus.  Though sometimes confused and occasionally confounded, I have a basis for blessed contentment in His compassion and power (p.57).’”  He continues, “Instead of reminding yourself of what you crave, remind yourself of what you have. . . And be thankful” (p.57).

I would never have chosen to lose my husband and be diagnosed with breast cancer all in the same year (or any time for that matter).  I would not particularly want to experience it all over again.  And to be honest, there are days when I struggle a bit.  But I would not change for a minute what I have learned and how I have grown spiritually and as a person through the experience.  I treasure the peace and contentment I find in the midst of my circumstances when I practice God’s principles.

So maybe my friend was wrong.  I am a contented sheep, not a contented cow.    With his grace, strength, power, and presence in my life, I am satisfied with what I have because the Lord is My Shepherd.  I do not desire something more or different.

The Lord is my Shepherd, and that is enough. I am thankful.


Read Full Post »

My Source of Hope

Last Tuesday I had my surgery for breast cancer.  Apart from the normal pre-operative nervousness, I entered surgery fully trusting in the Lord. While not finding any metastasized cancer in the lymph nodes would have been the ideal outcome, that was not the case.  With cancer found in the surgically removed sentinel node, ten other nodes were removed for analysis.  My oncologist will share the results at my Thursday appointment.

I accept the results as God’s perfect plan for my life and do not doubt His power to get me through this next phase of treatment.  But I still daily have small struggles with fear.  My gracious and loving heavenly Father has gently reminded me of the hope I have in Him and that my future is in His hands. I would like to share with you today something I wrote last Easter, shortly after Jim’s promotion to Heaven, that has helped guide my thinking today.


A little more than five weeks have passed since Jim’s death. While I believe I am doing well, each day I learn a bit more about the grieving process.  Actually, I think I have grieved more in this past week than in the first four. On Easter Sunday, especially, a whole gamut of emotions flooded the gaping hole in my heart.

Resurrection Sunday, as we refer to it in Spanish, was Jim’s favorite holiday.  For me, as well, the victory and hope associated with the resurrection of Christ have always been at the core of my belief system and are my daily source of strength. Just as I attended the Good Friday service in order to thank God for sending Jesus to die in my place, I anticipated the Sunday services as a time to thank Him for Christ’s resurrection.

Attending Easter service without Jim was a new experience for me, and I must admit made me more vulnerable.  I first attended the English service. By the end of the last verse of the closing song, “Because He Lives,” the tears were streaming down my cheeks.  “And then one day I’ll cross that river, I’ll fight life’s final war with pain; And then as death gives way to victory, I’ll see the lights of glory and I’ll know He lives.”

I mentally reviewed Jim’s valiant battle with pain, and I wept as I wondered what he must have felt knowing he was facing his final battle. It hurt me that he had to suffer so.  What had he thought and felt in those final moments of life?  What was it like for him when he actually breathed his last breath and then saw his Savior face to face?

My emotions wavered between sorrow ― sorrow for all Jim had suffered and that he was not there by my side to share the celebration of the resurrection ― and joy in knowing the victory he continues to celebrate in Jesus’ presence. Through falling tears I sang the victorious chorus:  “Because He lives, I can face tomorrow; Because He lives, all fear is gone. Because I know He holds the future.  And life is worth the living just because He lives.”*  The hope expressed in these words enables me to face each day.

Drying my tears, I began greeting those who arrived for the Spanish service.  As part of the meaningful Easter service, I had been asked to sing a solo.  I did not know if I could get through a song.  At the same time, I knew that affirming my own faith in the victory of the resurrection would be therapeutic. And that it was.

For many Easters I have sung “They Could Not,” but never with the feeling and meaning of this year.  I missed seeing Jim sitting in the front row, with his proud smile of approval and his exuberant “Amen!” at the end.  Thinking about Jim’s victory over death now as he is in the presence of his Savior empowered me.  When I translated the song into Spanish years ago, the only way I could fit the meaning into the music was to end the song with “¡Gloria a Dios, Resucitó!  ¡Resucitó!”  “Praise the Lord! He arose! He arose!”  ”  And, oh, the victory I felt as the song soared to its climax!  The entire congregation fairly exploded with joy at that beautiful thought!  I sat down and sobbed when I finished, thanking God for the reality of our hope and for enabling me to sing glorious praises to our risen Lord now and for all eternity!

*Song by Gloria and William J. Gaither©1971

Read Full Post »