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Thursday, September 27, 2007

Just Faith Please

Andrea's cancer and it's outcome can not be a litmus test for God's love. In other words I can not hang my faith on the outcome of this trial. The litmus test of my faith Romans 5:8 "But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us." This is how I know God loves me, it is not if God gives me something in this life. This is an easy concept when we talk about getting a new car, house, job, or something material. But it is harder when you start talking about life and death.

But God word says Psalm 37:4 "Delight yourself in the LORD and he will give you the desires of your heart." Obviously Andrea living is the desire of my heart.
How does this all fit together? How does Andrea having cancer fit into all this? How would losing Andrea fit in?
There are days I relate to Jesus in the Garden as He struggled with going to the cross, but for me my time in the garden has just taken four years and I don't think I have left yet. I still pray and try to utter the words, "Not my will but yours."

Andrea and I trust God no matter the outcome of this cancer. Whether my last entry into this journal is Andrea's healing or her death we trust God. We trust God to give us all we need in either outcome. Trust me I have written both this entries in my mind many many times. I have laid awake at night or awoke early in the morning thinking what I would do the moment after I kissed Andrea goodbye. I have walked down that path and thought what would life be like far to many times. I have also, on occasion, thought through the moment a doctor says, there is no evidence of disease, or NEOD as Andrea and I call it.

Having come to a point where I can say, "Not my will but yours," is not a giving up on my ability to ask and believe for Andrea's healing. I believe God still allows me to come before Him and lay my requests down. I just can't come before God and say, "Either you heal Andrea or I do not believe." I can't make my desire a demand as if I drawing a line in the sand and telling God you are either with me or against me based on whether Andrea lives or dies.

That does not mean that I don't struggle with all this.

I will be honest with you. I usually don't share these thoughts but I will today because I want you to know this is not a cake walk for me and my faith. I struggle daily with my desires and my trust in God.

There are two things I dread. One is the grief of losing Andrea the other is the suffering cancer brings.

Of course the thought of losing Andrea weighs on me. There was one moment I will never forget. I'm not sure what it meant but I will never forget it. It was January 2007, Andrea had just been released from ICU. We walked into her new room on the hospital's 7th floor. It was a great moment, I shut the door and we were alone for the first time in 4 days. The previous four days were the hardest days I had gone through. I was brought to the edge of everything I dreaded and the grief that I knew would follow. But for now it was over. I put Andrea in the chair by the window so she could enjoy the beautiful blue sky and feel the sun on her back. As I tucked a pillow in behind her I happened to look out the window which overlooked the back of the hospital. As I did I watched a Hearst backing in. I knew it was there to pick up someone who had passed away. Some family was experiencing what I dreaded. I felt sorrow for them. I will never forget that moment as I looked out the window over Andrea and knew how close we were to that being us.

The other thing I dread is the pain and suffering of cancers last days. To know my wife will suffer is hard for me to take. To see her hurt and struggle is without a doubt the most difficult part of this trial. So far we have always had a hope of healing and the suffering and the struggle have been bearable because they have been relatively short in duration. It is when cancer makes its final push, when you know the outcome and only wait for cancer to do its ugly work, that is the time I dread. I was reminded of this every time we drove to Andrea's doctor's office in North Carolina. There on the right side of the road was Hospice. Every time we approached it I would try to look the other way but I always seemed to stare at that sign. My eyes drawn to it while my mind was screaming look the other way. But life constantly reminds me of the battle. Andrea's battle to maintain her weight, the constant noise of the oxygen machine in the house, the 50 foot hose that tethers Andrea to the machine. I hate it, coming home and seeing where the hose leads to find Andrea. Having to carry the oxygen bottle everywhere we go, like a leash. It always seems to get tangled or we trip on the hose, it is just a cruel reminder of cancer. Everything is a reminder of cancer. The 15 pill bottles on the bathroom counter, the bloody noses, the nausea and vomiting, making Andrea milk shakes before bed to try to gain weight, and the constant aches and pains in Andrea's body. They are all reminders of the battle and everyday I look for strength from God to look past it all and trust Him. There is never a day where we don't fight the battle, never a day where you don't think about it.

These are my worst fears, and what I struggle with each day, all day, only to be relived by the busyness of work, or when Andrea has a "good" day but mostly when God gives me strength to look past it all and just enjoy life. Those are the good days.

But in all this God asks us to trust Him with an unconditional trust. Not outcome based, not tied to any desire, just trust. And praise God He is faithful to give us the strength we need to make it through all this. Because we always have hope. Cancer cannot take away the hope we have in Christ. Cancer's battlefield is physical. It may in fact win this battle, but it has already lost the war. Of course I don't rejoice in being in the battle. I wish we could be spared all this. But this is where we are at, this is our battle. This is where we must trust our creator. The battlefield is your mind. In your choices you make every day, countless times a day.

And this is where you have to be careful. When life is difficult or you don't understand why something is happening. We all go through this. This is not unique to our battle with cancer. It is not reserved for life and death. We all will face difficulties and we will all face this choice. You can not focus on what life was or what you wish it was in a trail. I mean that you can't try to escape the battle by wishing it was not there. If I sit down and think how life is unfair I will be lost in despair in a second. Be careful because this is so easy to do. For me it is easy to look at others living their life, to see other couples waking fast, laughing and think why us. To see another woman with long hair and think why Andrea. To think others somehow deserve this more then Andrea. Those thoughts will never bring happiness or relief from the trial. This is where you are. For us stopping the car on the side of the road for Andrea to vomit, having to buy scarves, constant trips to doctors, this is where we are. That is life for us. That is normal. I can't compare and covet what others have. Those around us are having their own struggles, our struggle just happens to be more open.

This is where we are and by the grace of God I have been able to accept our trial and not think, "What if," or "Why us." Those words lead down a path you never want to take when life becomes difficult. They may seem to offer relief, but they are wrapped in self pity and self destruction.

I can tell you when the battle is beyond yourself no amount of will power or determination will get you through it. I do not possess the ability to win this fight alone. Thankfully I am not alone. God has proven Himself so faithful and the definition of faith is not healing, or removing the trial. God is faithful to be our strength when we are weak, to calm our fears when we are shaking. The Bible is full of encouragement and hope. It takes your eyes and your mind off this world and helps you focus on things far greater then yourself. To see your trial in context. What seems so overwhelming will soon seem insignificant to you.

Psalm 121:
I lift up my eyes to the hills where does my help come from?
My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth.
He will not let your foot slip he who watches over you will not slumber;
indeed, he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.
The LORD watches over you the LORD is your shade at your right hand;
the sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon by night.
The LORD will keep you from all harm he will watch over your life;
the LORD will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore.

Does this take away the grief of losing Andrea? Of course not, Jesus grieved. Are we to assume we are somehow immune from grief. That the promises spoken in the Psalms infer we will not suffer or grieve. No I think it says just the opposite. This psalm would never have to be written if our lives were free from trials. Why would we ever need to read "Where does my help come from?" There are countless examples in the Bible of God's faithfulness. I read once that the most common phrase in the Bible is "Fear not." I don't know if that is a fact but I could believe it.

Life can be hard but God is faithful. Life can throw all sorts of difficulty at us, but God is our shield. Life can take away, but God gives. Life can bring fear, but God brings peace. Life can cause us worry, but God gives us joy.

Deuteronomy 33:29
He is your shield and helper and your glorious sword. Your enemies will cower before you, and you will trample down their high places. "

2 Samuel 22:3
My God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation. He is my stronghold, my refuge and my savior from violent men you save me

2 Samuel 22:31
As for God, his way is perfect; the word of the LORD is flawless. He is a shield for all who take refuge in him.

Psalm 3:3
But you are a shield around me, O LORD; you bestow glory on me and lift up my head.

Psalm 18:2
The LORD is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge. He is my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.

Psalm 33:20
We wait in hope for the LORD; he is our help and our shield.

The Bible never hides the fact that life is a battle, and daily we must be ready. No matter how hard we try to have an easy life, it just won't happen. Faith is forged in the fires of your trials. A life without difficulty is a life without faith. Wishing difficulties away or trying to hide for our struggles will only leave ourselves unprotected, unprepared and easily overwhelmed. Please don't look at us as say, "I'm glad I'm not Jim and Andrea." Instead look at us and know if life has not already challenged you and what you believe it will, and God and His word is the strength and protection you need when life becomes more then you can handle.


  1. I am not sure how to comment on this but it moved me. It made me think of the life I have and lead. It gave me an inside look of your everday life and it saddens me that it is "normal" for you now. Though I am so inspired by the faith that you two have. I love you both.

  2. This was especially hard to read as we all understand the pain and fear.

    Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go."Joshua 1:9

    This was the verse that Andrea so insightfully wrote to me at our dinner. It was a verse that I needed at that time, I know it will serve you at this time. We treasure you and love you, Tanya