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Archive for the ‘Hope’ Category

My grandchildren play a game while driving through tunnels when traveling: they hold their breath from the time they enter until they leave the tunnel.  They think it is fun.

Quite frankly, I have never been particularly fond of tunnels. While at times they may be unavoidable, like on a road trip, I do not voluntarily enter a tunnel unless I can see the light at the other end.

I am reminded of the year my husband, Jim, and I traveled to Hawaii with family members.  On the agenda one day was a climb to the top of a mountain where we would have a great view of much of the island.   All went well until we reached a point where we had to walk through a tunnel.  Unable to see the light at the other end, I opted to stay behind.  Then Jim lovingly extended his hand and offered to guide me safely through to the other end.  Trusting him, I began the journey, almost holding my breath like my grandchildren going through a tunnel in the car ― but my breath-holding was more out of fear than for diversion.

Years ago, a friend of mine who had lost her husband shared that for her, widowhood sometimes felt like going through a tunnel without being able to see the light at the other end.

Today marks the second anniversary of my own widowhood. Actually, it did not feel like a tunnel experience for me during the first year.  Perhaps it was because my attention was so focused on adjusting to my new status and then treating and recovering from breast cancer.  Even the first half of the second year was filled with new goals and adventures.

Then it suddenly hit me one day a few months ago:  I was beginning to feel like I was going through a tunnel, struggling to see the light at the end―the same tunnel other widows had told me about.  “Wait a minute, Harriet,” I said to myself.  “For you as a believer, even though you may feel right now like you are going through a dark, directionless, and endless tunnel, there is always light at the end of it for you.”

I was reminded that God uses the tunnel experiences of life to help me grow in my faith.  In Job 23:10, we read these words:  “But He knows the way that I take: When He has tested me, I shall come forth as gold.”

Sometimes God uses them to teach me to trust in His goodness.  “I would have lost heart, unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.  Wait on the Lord; be of good courage.  And He shall strengthen your heart.  Wait, I say, on the Lord!” (Psalm 27:13-14).

Other times, I learn to depend upon Him to lead me. “Nevertheless, I am continually with You; You hold me by my right hand.  You will guide me with your counsel and afterward receive me to glory” (Psalm 73:23-24).

Ultimately, as a believer, there is always light at the end of the tunnel because of the hope I have in Christ:  “Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Col. 1:27).  Not only do I have hope in His purposes in the day-in-day-out experiences of my life, but I have hope for an eternal future with Him. “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away; reserved in heaven for you” (1 Peter 1: 3).

And so I continue to “walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Cor. 5:7), in trust and dependence upon Him and allowing Him to lead me, knowing that “Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen (Heb. 11:1).

I have hope, because He knows where He is taking me and what He is doing in and through my life.  He has promised to be with me and to guide me now, and to one day receive me in glory to be with Him forever.

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The Oops File

An “Oops File.”  Not exactly what you want to see at a hospital desk when your precious loved one is in surgery. But there it was.

I said good-bye to my husband with a kiss and a prayer as he was wheeled off to surgery. He would be having the Whipple Procedure, a delicate surgery that not all patients survive, Jim’s only human hope for overcoming bile duct cancer.  While the doctor had prepared us for the worst possible outcome from this potentially six-hour-long surgery, we had peace that God was in control.

A bit disconcerted when I saw the sign, I discovered upon further investigation that it was a file in which hospital volunteers reported errors in their record of number of hours served. It had nothing to do with surgery. I breathed a sigh of relief, just as I did when the doctor came to speak with my family after only four-and-one-half hours.  Surgery had been successful and Jim was doing very well. There were no surgical “oops” to report.

Often I have reflected upon that sign, especially when things don’t go as planned, when I wonder if something has gone drastically wrong. I have wanted to say “Oops,” rectify the mistake, and get life back to normal. It would have been easy to wonder if God had made a mistake when almost two years later my husband’s time on earth came to an end and he was promoted to Heaven. But I rested in the truth that in God there are no mistakes, that He has everything under control, that He has a perfect purpose and plan in everything.  He has no “Oops File.”

Now I am the one with the diagnosis of cancer.  When the biopsy revealed breast cancer, it would have been easy to have said, “Pardon me, Lord, but did I hear correctly?  Is this the ‘future and the hope’ that you have for me? I was expecting something more exciting. . . new ministry opportunities, perhaps travel, extended time with my children and grandchildren, time with friends.  But cancer?  Really?”

But there are no “oops” in God’s economy and I have peace that this truly is part of His good and perfect plan for my life.

My recovery from surgery has far exceeded expectations, for which I praise the Lord. I entered my follow-up appointment with the oncologist full of prayerful hope and expectation, ready to learn what the pathology report had revealed and what my future treatment would be.

With four out of thirteen lymph nodes testing positive, my cancer is considered to be at Stage 2.  Four to six cycles of chemotherapy at three week intervals will be followed by five years of the hormonal therapy of Tamoxifen    Radiation after chemo is an option we will explore when we see how I do with the chemotherapy.  I first must have a PET Scan/CT Scan to be sure there is no cancer elsewhere in my body.

 Today I have had contradictory emotions. Disappointed that the cancer has metastasized in the lymph nodes and further treatment is required?  Yes.  Sobered by the reality of cancer?  Definitely. Concerned about the effects of chemo and radiation?  Of course.  Wondering if my cancer will go into remission and I will enjoy many more years of life?  It would be hard not to. But doubting? No.  Cast down? Only for occasional passing moments.  Distraught?  Not as long as I keep my eyes on my Sovereign God who is in control of my life.  I continue to trust God and His perfect plan. I rest in the fact that God has no “Oops File.”

Jeremiah 29:11 (NASB)

11 For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope.

Isaiah 55:8-9 (NASB)

“For My thoughts are not your thoughts,
Nor are your ways My ways,” declares the Lord.
“For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
So are My ways higher than your ways
And My thoughts than your thoughts
.

Psalm 93:1-2 (NASB)

93 The Lord reigns, He is clothed with majesty;
The Lord has clothed and girded Himself with strength;
Indeed, the world is firmly established, it will not be moved.
Your throne is established from of old;
You are from everlasting.

This Is My Father’s WorldMaltbie D. Babcock

This is my Father’s world.

O let me ne’er forget

That thought the wrong seems oft so strong,

God is the ruler yet.

This is my Father’s world;

Why should my heart be sad?

The Lord is King; let the heavers ring!

God reigns; let the earth be glad.

(verse 3)

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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

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