[Caption: Local attractive woman poses with Frankenstein impersonator flashing unknown gang symbols. Lady was quoted: "I felt sorry for him and wanted him to be happy in his delusional state ... and he's kinda cute."]
Today, we completed our fourth chemo treatment. Can't thank you enough for your prayers. The men of our church again came to our house to provide the best encouragement of prayer and concern and love for us and our family.
Going into the 4th treatment, I had some more nervousness, as I have experienced one side effect from the treatment that can be unsettling, even though it is a fairly common thing we all experience, I'm not used to the increased frequency of the occurrences. Short term memory loss displayed in "senior moments" or "brain [outgassing]". (Trying to be sensitive to convictions.) It's not severe or overly common that it inhibits anything, but I don't want it to become a leading indicator of me losing my mind... well any more than I already have. :) Little things like when I pause mid-sentence and Sara finishes my sentence affect me more than it should ... heck, I can't even blame it on being the President. "Fool me once ..." (Also, don't tell my kids, as they'll abuse this: "Dad, you may not remember that you promised me a new blue truck... it must be the chemo.") Anyway, joking aside, I am very thankful I've had minimal impact besides this and general fatigue and nausea which are typical. All that to say, please keep praying that I am able to keep a decent quality of life through the treatment and that we take it in light of God's greater promises... which leads to a thought on my mind the last few days. I've entitled it:
"Are You Sure?"
One of the things our beautiful, heavenly Dad has impressed upon me with cancer, and I've shared before is there is much meaning in suffering. I've mentioned before suffering accomplishes much from revealing our need for salvation to uprooting our hearts from this place to impregnating our hearts with desires for His Kingdom. Here's another one:
"In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith--of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire--may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed." - 1 Peter 1:6-7
We've been given faith from God. It's a beautiful hope, heavenly heart tethering, God-reliance and earthly-uneasiness that we cannot avoid if we are truly Christians. From these verses, we see that this faith is like a crude chunk of gold ore (but more valuable) that He seeks to perfect during whatever days we have on earth as a sign of sovereign, salvific work to display His glory.
Gold ore must be cleaved from the rock, heated to high temperatures and then separated from impurities to reveal its true beauty. This work requires a lot of tools, a skillful craftsman and a lot of discomfort for the gold. To finish the metaphor: God is the craftsman and some of His best tools and refining heat comes in trials.
None of us likes them. I know ... I don't like cancer. I complain a lot about the impact and what it has done to my lifestyle. Several times a week, I awake from some dream about death and what it could be like. (If it weren't for your prayers and God lifting me out of bed, I don't know if I could get up some days.)
Some of you know worse pains than me. Sara knows two women who have lost their husbands in the last 2 weeks. Trials are tough, but one of the most difficult parts of the trial is trying to understand that there is meaning in the trial. To make my point, I'd like to share an illustration:
I'm a slow learner in trials. This trial took me three iterations to finally learn it. The military does hazing... they love it. There are loud, physically abusive kinds, there are mental kinds, and there are subtle kinds. However, they leave the meaning of hazing as a self-discovery thing. I went to the Air Force Academy... they liked hazing back then. Imagine coming back to the dorm from class and every day you had to spend an hour in a room being screamed at, asked to recite various pieces of information while walking around like a robot, doing pushups and keeping a perfect uniform in the process. It was called "training". I used to think: "right, training". I resisted it, and therefore, I never learned from it.
The next iteration was a professional training program 1 year after I graduated for my career field. More silly rules. I won't explain them... but I resisted them too... I believed the rules were only made by sadistic, mentally-unstable people, and there was no point. I didn't learn.
Finally, I was sent to squadron officers school: think leadership training for officers with 4-6 years of experience. MORE SILLY RULES!!! We would play normal sports games and do other activities with ridiculous rules severely limiting our ability to accomplish the tasks assigned. Eventually, one day, our class was on a run, and I believe God made it click in my mind: that was the point. The US military has to accomplish its wartime objectives always with seemingly ridiculous rules. Therefore, someone was wise enough to build a training program to immerse junior leaders to succeed with seemingly un-explainable obstacles, so we were mentally prepared to win wars with challenging obstacles.
How did God enable me to learn this lesson? Easy, He crushed my pride. Before I went to this training program, I had let my commander down and embarrassed him and the military installation with a mistake I had made. Therefore, I didn't deserve to go to the program, but he sent me anyway... because he was gracious and didn't want to give up on me. Therefore, in my repentance, I included a commitment to not just do the program, but to seek to be a distinguished graduate. I owed my commander and God for their grace.
On that day of the class run, our instructor with us, was when it clicked. We had been complaining about the silly rules, and in the excitement of it clicking for the first time, I spoke up and said "but that's the point isn't it?" I shared what I wrote above and encouraged us all to accept the rules and effectively lean into them and find ways to succeed anyway. Then I quickly shut up ... surprised I had spoken. I think the smile on the instructor's face told me that's what led to the distinguished graduate selection. (Not top graduate... just top 10%... besides, it was God's doing anyway.)
What does this have to do with the title "Are You Sure?"
Based on the verses above, trials confirm and strengthen our faith. However, we have a limited choice to resist the trials (as bad luck, circumstantial or otherwise) or to accept them under God's sovereignty, lean into them (in the Bible and in prayer) and learn from them as a part of His refinement process to be conformed to the likeness of His Son.
A refined faith is an assured faith. Now, maybe I'm the only one that has times where I doubt if I'm truly a Christian. But, I'm guessing I'm not. 1 Peter 1:6 refers to a "this" in which we greatly rejoice. Our homework assignment is to read vs 1-5 repeatedly and know the certainty of our salvation. That is the vector of our faith. (Bible geeks are encouraged to study the imagery of Peter's use of prepositions... cool stuff.)
Trials prove whether we are His or fake. I've found the strongest reinforcements of His sovereign, unyielding grip on my soul are trials... I've only know Him 24 years. But, even in a mere 24 years, I've gone through some trials ... some pretty fierce ones. And, the conclusion?
God ALWAYS comes out on top.
He excels at proving I'm His. While typing now. I guess you can say in an attempt to document His grace in my cancer trial, it's an attempt to reveal God as the Master of this trial... He truly is. My cancer has not surprised Him. He loves me enough to refine me. He is finding dross in dark, hidden places. In it, He is not testing my strength... He is revealing His divine sovereignty of His salvation He placed in me. In my desire, I can be sure of my salvation by how He preserves me in it.
He desires the same for you. Be a faster learner than me. When the new trial comes, lean into it as something in His plan to refine you. He will prove His work in you. It's likely going to hurt. Run to Him, His Word and talk to Him. Don't run from Him, don't let dust accumulate on the Bible and don't doubt His goodness. We know what He deserves. And? While He chisels you from SD to HD, you can be sure that you are sure that you are sure that you are His.