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Archive for March 9th, 2019

My dear niece,

In our communications, you have expressed the desire to see the “bigger picture.” I understand what you’re saying. You believe it would be helpful to know what God is doing through you and for what purpose.

Two people come to mind who most likely had this same desire. My mom–your grandmother–didn’t talk about her cancer very much, not even to her family. Instead, she lived. While she had strength, she kept doing the things she had always done. She kept working from home, stayed involved at church, kept up with her friends, and encouraged family activities. Your grandmother corresponded regularly with a man sentenced to life imprisonment. Every morning at 8:00, your grandmother called her recently widowed friend, Gladys, to help her start her new day. Gladys told me many times how important those calls were; calls from someone who put aside her own discomfort and fears to reach out to a grieving friend.

Edwin is the father of my close friend, Mary. When Edwin was 34, he was diagnosed with a brain tumor. He lived a faithful life into his 60s. Everyone who knew Edwin agreed that he was a humble, always cheerful, helpful, and encouraging man. He chose to live each day as he always had: working on the farm, raising his son and daughter, volunteering at church, and being a good neighbor. Edwin turned conversations to the matters of life that are most important. He seemed to realize that he had a window of opportunity, not to do something for himself, but to become more bold in directing people’s attention to the Word and work of Christ. Edwin was well-studied by medical students. He impacted lives with his “it’s not all about me” attitude. Even when Edwin’s vision and speech were impaired, he continued teaching Sunday school. He would laugh and explain to the children why he talked differently. He would ask them to be patient whenever he mispronounced a blurry word. Those children still remember him. Edwin didn’t just pass the Christian faith on to his son and daughter. He showed how it can be lived out. Mary remembers her dad saying, “Be kind to your mother. Support her. Be the family she needs you to be.”

Dear niece, I could speak to you like Job’s friends Zophar, Eliphaz, and Bildad spoke to him. They came to sit with Job in the ashes, but their words provided little comfort. Job asked: “Where is my hope?” I cannot come and sit with you, but I can be like Job’s friend Elihu who faithfully reminded his suffering friend of God’s Word and work. Elihu understood that he didn’t have any great wisdom or advice for Job. All he had was love for his friend and reverence for God.

“God is greater than man,” Elihu said.

“God does no wrong.”

“God is mighty in strength and understanding.”

“God delivers the afflicted by their affliction and opens their ear by adversity.”

Elihu was faithful to his friend, not by showing him all the things Job could do but reminding Job of all that God does.

The Pharisees wanted to know why the man had been born blind. “Who sinned,” they asked, “the blind man or his parents?” Jesus replied that it was not because of a particular sin that the man was blind. Instead, he was blind so “that the work of God might be displayed in him.” God’s strength “is made perfect in weakness” (1 Cor. 12:9). Elihu seemed to understand this, assuring Job that God often uses affliction not for punishment but for deliverance. Affliction opens ears to learn the Lord’s purposes and opens mouths in praises.

Elihu never presumed to speak for God. Nor do I. (Eve did that and regretted it the rest of her life.) But, Elihu was faithful in reminding Job to fear and love God; to be humbled and in awe of His power. I, too, want to be faithful in reminding you to fear and love God. Why? Because the best thing you and I can do for each other is to help one another be ready for God’s visitation. On the day that the Lord visits us, all that will matter is our confidence in the mercy and saving work of Jesus Christ.

My dear niece, I continue to pray that you have peace. Jesus said, “Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid” (John 14:27).

A letter to my niece who bears the cross of brain cancer.

Photo credit: celebbabylaundry.com

 

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