Well, it's been a while since I've written... and with good reason -
As I said before, my treatment in the hospital went very well... easy in fact, which, I learned, was to be expected. In the days following, I went on quite a ride while the chemo meds coursed through my system. I started out feeling tired like I had been on an all-nighter with my youth group kids. After sleeping, I awoke to feel not rested, but even more exhausted like I had been on a month-long marathon youth event! Then there were the three days of really feeling it... nausea, migraine, dizziness, flu-like symptoms, etc. I can't remember a time when I felt worse in my life! Needless to say, it was not a pleasant week for me. However, every day since I have very gradually felt better and better and I was told that, all in all, I tolerated treatment very well. I'm sure I'll be feeling right back to my old self again just before I head back in for round two on Monday, April 6th!
During this difficult time, I was reminded of a passage that has comforted me in the past - Romans 5:1-5:
"Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us."
Those of us who have a relationship with God through Jesus Christ stand in a unique position of grace. We have the privilege from this position to understand at least a bit of the end result of our suffering. As we go through suffering, it produces in us perseverance. That perseverance produces character, and as our character is developed, it produces hope... a hope that understands that suffering is never in vain because God is at work molding us through it.
I've only ever looked at this development of hope in us in terms of emotional trials. I've never been in a position in which I've had to trust God through such a dark time physically. How do you rejoice in suffering when you feel so absolutely miserable?
There's something that pain does to us spiritually. It has a uniqe way of robbing us of all the frills and non-necessities that we stuff between ourselves and God. When we're stripped of all that we naturally depend on or take for granted, the only hope we have is to turn to God to get through it... and the awesome thing is, he's always there for us when we finally do turn to him! Believe me, there were moments throughout this past week when I felt the presence of God so tangibly that I almost thought I could reach out and touch him sitting next to me on the couch. And as I waited for my symptoms to subside, I had time to contemplate the purpose of suffering in my life. Would I accept it willingly? Would I learn from it all that God wanted me to? Or would I take it begrudgingly and miss the valuable lessons hidden within the pain?
Far too often, I find myself only looking at the surface of the difficult circumstances in my life. I whine and complain because I don't want to go through the pain of tough times... if only I would look closer, I would see! I'm learning that suffering is a privilege. Yes, you read that right... suffering is a privilege! You see, I know myself well enough to know that I'm far too stubborn and hard-headed to become the person I'm meant to be without the sharp pain that suffering brings. Only then, do I get stripped of all that clouds my vision. Only then, do I seem to truly place my focus and faith squarely on God and nothing else. Only then, do I begin to look hard for what he is trying to shape within me. Suffering reminds me that God is hard at work doing something far greater in my life than what I tend to spend my energy on!
Now of course, no one signs up willingly for suffering... yet, we can still rejoice when difficult times hit because we know that God can use our suffering to make us just a little more like the kind of people he longs for us to be - the kind of people who reflect him a bit more with each passing day.