This devotional thought was originally delivered on February 8, 2022.
Cody H. –
Have you ever been through a tough season in life that you wondered whether it would ever end?
You wondered whether you’d make it out of it? Maybe you wondered if, in the end, you’d make it out from under the crushing weight of all that God was bringing down on you?
Whether you would still be walking at the end, whether maybe you’d just be crawling on hands and knees, or maybe you’d be dragging yourself along on your stomach just crushed in your spirit?
It’s been 62 days since we found out Mom’s cancer had metastasized to her lungs, and they found a tumor in her right lung, what they called innumerable bilateral pulmonary nodules in both lungs. So cancer had pretty much taken over and has been advancing since then.
And then eight days later, we welcomed our twin girls into our family. We, Emily and I, felt such a complex mix of emotions; very tough to describe.
So these last 62 days, these last two months have been the hardest of my life. And I know we’ve all heard John talk about how the Psalms, and the authors, sometimes start out very depressed and very low and really beaten down, but by the end of the Psalm, they’re coming around to faith, as you say, John, coming around to faith. But not every Psalm is like that.
Not every Psalm ends nicely with spiritual closure, with the Psalmist coming around to faith, coming around to trusting God, like a good servant of Yahweh.
Does the name Heman that Ezrahite ring a bell? He wrote Psalm 88.
Listen to where he was:
“Lord, you are the God who saves me. Day and night I cry out to you, may my prayer come before you. Turn your ear to my cry. I am overcome with troubles and my life draws near to death. I’m counted among those who go down to the pit. I am like one without strength. I’m set apart with the dead like the slain who lie in the grave, whom you remember no more, who are cut off from your care. You’ve put me in the lowest pit. In the darkest depths. Your wrath lies heavily on me. You overwhelm me with all your waves. You’ve taken from me, my closest friends and have made me repulsive to them. I’m confined and cannot escape. My eyes are dim with grief.”
This is how Heman ends the Psalm:
“From my youth, I have suffered and been close to death. I have borne your terrors and am in despair. Your wrath has swept over me. Your terrors have destroyed me. All day long they surround me like a flood. They have completely engulfed me. You’ve taken from me friend and neighbor. Darkness is my closest friend.”
Finding out about Mom’s cancer in December really was a gut punch that I’ve not yet recovered from. In many ways, the hardest parts are ahead. One day likely soon, the Lord knows how soon, she’ll go to be with the Lord and we’ll bury her.
And we’ll await that day that she rises again. When God gives her a new body. But on Sunday, my Sister sent me and my Brother an article from Desiring God. This sums up my approach to life right now. I expect God to bring me along and teach me things and bring me to a better place. My whole family, as well, a better stance, a better view on this. And ultimately bring us through this trial, but we’re not there yet. We’re not through this thing.
The author’s name is Greg Morse. The title is “Let Tragedy Find us Living.” I want to read a little from this article.
“A line in the book of Job detained me: ‘The thing that I fear comes upon me, and what I dread befalls me’ (Job 3:25). The chief fear arrived. The one that kept him up at night found him. The worst to visit his imagination befell him.”
“As a result, he welcomes death, but it tarries. He sighs and moans in anguish, cursing the day of his birth (Job 3:1). Arrows from the Almighty sink into him; his spirit drinks their poison (Job 6:4). He finds no rest in the rubble (Job 7:4). His eyes search and see no good (Job 7:7). He loathes his life, and is glad not to live forever (Job 7:16). Few things in life can lay us this low.”
“What do you dread? What would have to happen for you to say, “What I have feared has come upon me”? Having your mother die of cancer? Never finding a spouse? Discovering your wife has committed adultery? Seeing your parents get divorced? Hearing the specialist say that your child will not have a normal life? Witnessing a child die apart from Christ?”
“Fears that I did not know as a single man have crept upon me: losing my wife, or one of our children. As a family man, I realize how much more vulnerable I am to new depths of pain. The drawbridge of my heart has lowered; calamities and despair have more inroads now.”
“How are we to go on living in a world where risks threaten us at every turn? I have found three answers from C.S. Lewis helpful to navigate through this dangerous and unpredictable world.”
“Writing amidst World War II — in a time when explosions demolished cities and citizens knew any day could be their last — C.S. Lewis answers the question, ‘How are we to live in an atomic age?'”
‘How are we to live in an atomic age?’ I am tempted to reply: ‘Why, as you would have lived in the sixteenth century when the plague visited London almost every year, or as you would have lived in a Viking age when raiders from Scandinavia might land and cut your throat any night; or indeed, as you are already living in an age of cancer, an age of syphilis, an age of paralysis, an age of air raids, an age of railway accidents, an age of motor accidents. In other words, do not let us begin by exaggerating the novelty of our situation.’”(Essay Collection & Other Short Pieces, 361)
“The first point in Lewis’ response is that we must not imagine that our situation is new. Horse-drawn carriages could be fatal, just as cars and buses can now. World pandemics are nothing new (and comparatively, we have been spared the severest plagues thus far). Worst-case scenarios struck then as they do today. The world has been menacing since the first day out of Eden.”
“This does not draw out all the venom, but it does take some of the isolation out of it. If we come to weep, we know that we join many already weeping. Other mothers have lost their precious sons, other husbands have lost wondrous wives. We are not alone. Peter reminds hurting Christians of this, writing: ‘Resist [Satan], firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world’ (1 Peter 5:9). Your situation, though collapsing, is not singular to you.”
“The second thing that CS Lewis says,
“Believe me, dear sir or madam, you and all whom you love were already sentenced to death before the atomic bomb was invented: and quite a high percentage of us were going to die in unpleasant ways. We had, indeed, one very great advantage over our ancestors — anesthetics; but we have that still. It is perfectly ridiculous to go about whimpering and drawing long faces because the scientists have added one more chance of painful and premature death to a world which already bristled with such chances and in which death itself was not a chance at all, but a certainty.”(Ibid)
“Against all naturalistic explanations to the contrary, men die because men have sinned. The wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23). The result of our sins, our greatest terror, will strike. Sin, not fate, tucks us in the grave. Iniquity digs our plots and gives our eulogy. As part of Adam’s lineage, we die.”
“Bad things are certain to come to us as Christians. The Bible never shies away from the fact. We are ‘heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him’ (Romans 8:17). Fiery trials ought not surprise us (1 Peter 4:12). We are destined for affliction (1 Thessalonians 3:3). After Paul gets stoned so brutally that his attackers leave him for dead, he gets right back up and returns to the city, bruised and bloodied, ‘strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith, and saying that through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God’ (Acts 14:22).”
“Bad things are certain in this life, but we take heart, for the next life is also certain. In Christ we know that neither life nor death, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor anything else in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 8:37).”
“The last point CS Lewis makes,
“This is the first point to be made: and the first action to be taken is to pull ourselves together. If we are all going to be destroyed by an atomic bomb, let that bomb when it comes find us doing sensible and human things — praying, working, teaching, reading, listening to music, bathing the children, playing tennis, chatting to our friends over a pint and a game of darts — not huddled together like frightened sheep and thinking about bombs. They may break our bodies (a microbe can do that) but they need not dominate our minds.”(Ibid)
“If atomic bombs or Chaldeans or tornados or illness or accidents or injury or our worst-case scenario finds us, let it find us living — not curled up in a ball in the corner. Lewis called it ‘sensible human things.’ Let calamity find us, if our all-wise Father deems it “necessary” (1 Peter 1:6), fully alive brimming with hope in God and love for people.”
“What we most fear may find us — whether we worry about it or not. But as Christians, we need not be anxious about our lives or obsess over every possible calamity. Our dread does not match the world’s dread (Isaiah 8:12–13); rather, we fear God and trust him. We live our lives in atomic ages — or any other — entrusting ourselves to a faithful Creator while doing good, testifying,
Through many dangers, toils, and snares,
I have already come;
‘Tis grace has brought me safe thus far,
And grace will lead me home.”