I will never forget the day that my original tumor was found. The exact moment when the doctor showed me a picture of what was blocking my colon was a drastic shift in reality, as if someone had suddenly jumped off a seesaw with me on the other end. In one moment my perspective of the world had changed from that of a man of good fortune to one who had drawn the unlucky number. The road ahead, once seemingly smooth and clear, was now uncertain and precarious. Contentedly deceived that I understood God’s plan for me, I had no idea how difficult was to be the coming battle.
Over three years into my fight with cancer, my body is certainly broken from disease, surgeries and the side-effects of treatment, but it is has been the hows and whys of human suffering that has caused the many sleepless nights. Unable to find purpose and meaning nor to imagine an afterlife, I tend to cling tightly to this life, and clinging induces fear, anxiety, and even physical agitation.
I am certainly not alone in finding myself fighting to find happiness amidst hardship. My family endures this with me and each member faces his or her own struggle. And I know of many friends and family who seem to be stuck in very difficult situations. And I mean stuck. For a long time. There are moments of hope when it appears that their lives might improve, but something happens that undoes any progress. Or worse.
But if I thought my life drastically shifted upon the news of my diagnosis such that I sat alone on a seesaw, I see now that I had misunderstood my faith as some acceptable balance between belief and unbelief. I deceived myself, believing this was life’s goal, contentment. Once my seeming good fortune, from which a weak belief might be attained effortlessly, suddenly slipped away, my unbelief was exposed and, in those moments of despair, was unable to provide credible answers to those difficult questions. To look upon it now is to see my unbelief as a monument to years of doubt, sculpted and hardened by pragmatism and fear. But monuments, though great reminders, cannot give life, and thus to dwell on my unbelief is to be hopeless. And under its power, feelings of longing may suddenly spring, bringing with it quiet anger and bitterness that occasionally erupt in tears. It can be a simple moment, a heartfelt look at the face of one of my children, that stirs these emotions. Hidden despair. This is the dark truth of my struggle to persevere.
But God has not been quiet. He has revealed himself to me in many ways in His provision along the way. Signs. Coincidences. People, places, things. Looking back I can see it. It’s obvious. Still, hoping that the evidence of God will provide the weight to restore the balance of my life is to continue to put my hope in this world, what I can see, touch, and feel. Read the Old Testament, and I think this might sound familiar. Life on a seesaw. Up, down, and, sadly, sometimes stuck in a bad place.
Every seesaw has a fulcrum, the pivot point. For me, the temptation is to let my experiences be the fulcrum of my life, belief and unbelief the rocking, opposite extremes. But God provided another fulcrum, a real one, the cross. Jesus, the man, lived on this earth just like us. It’s a historical fact. He was also crucified, another fact. But in the tomb, three days, the fate of the world teetered on the outcome of the cross event. If he remained, rotting forever, I don’t think I’d be here writing. What would be the point? You’re enduring the story of my suffering because you know I’m going to finish with hope. All great stories have hope, and they resonate because hope is truth. And the gospel tell us he rose, resurrected, not to restore any balance for which we might be weakly contented, but to conquer, to finish. The stone of his tomb rests forever on the side of his death, and all of us are now lifted up to share in his resurrection. For those who believe, our seesaw lives are fully redeemed and we are free to rest.
Believing this story is the choice I have to make daily, because, honestly, deep down, I confuse the desire to praise God for a cure with the need for proof that He exists and loves me. I will probably always struggle with this in some way. But he has given me faith. A hope to cling to. Family, friends, His word, and His Holy Spirit to encourage me along the way. Grace, not to cure me of cancer, but to heal my soul. Amen.
1 Peter: 3-9:
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.
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