Reality Check for Husbands

(guest post by my husband)

1 Peter 3:7

You husbands in the same way, live with your wives in an understanding way, as with someone weaker, since she is a woman, and show her honour as a fellow heir of the grace of life, so that your prayers will not be hindered.

(Note: The following has been adapted by a sermon from James MacDonald called Reality Check for Husbands)

Whereas God gave wives the equivalent of six verses to describe their relationship to their husbands, He made the instructions to men short and straight to the point.

6 things for husbands

1.  Spend time with your wife

The phrase “live with your wives’ has the idea of sharing life with your wife. Just like any relationship, the marriage relationship requires an investment of time. Nothing will transform your marriage like time spent working on your marriage. A good guideline is 15 minutes a day, one night a week, one day a month, and one weekend a year of intentionally investing in your marriage.

2.  Study your wife

Peter tells husbands to “live with your wives in an understanding way.” This literally means to live with her according to knowledge. Men, study everything the Bible has to say about marriage and women. Also, gain knowledge through observation of your wife. What are her likes and dislikes, her interests, her goals and dreams? What frustrates her? What fills her with joy? As you put the time and effort in to obtain your PhD in the study your wife, you will begin to know her intimately and your marriage will be transformed.

3.  Honour your wife

The idea behind the Greek word used here for “honour” has the idea of public recognition in a military setting. Husbands are to publically recognize and praise their wives. This involves appreciating her with words in front of the children, telling them what a blessing God has given the family in their mother. It also involves praising her for who she is and the work God is doing in and through her. This goes beyond just praising her actions of being a good cook and doing our laundry. It is also a recognition of who she is as a person: her loving nature, caring heart, patience, insight, peacemaking abilities…this list is extensive if you really think about it.

4.  Protect your wife (physically)

The phrase “as the weaker vessel” refers to physically. Notice that in using the word “weaker” this implies that the husband is also weak. From God’s perspective, all human beings are weak, however the physical body of the woman is generally weaker than the man’s. Protecting your wife is more than merely going downstairs in the middle of the night to investigate a noise. Protecting your wife involves showing patience when things seem dangerous to her (kids getting injured playing sports), ensuring her safety in your absence, and managing your aggression during conflict. In short—does your wife feel safe around you? Does she feel protected and secure by your presence? Does she feel these things in good times AND in times of struggle in your marriage?

5.  Open up to your wife

Husbands and wives are “fellow heir(s) of the grace of life”, which refers to the good things God has given us. Women have equal access to all the graces of God. Since you experience God’s grace together, intentionally share and open up to your wife. Self-disclosure is the gold of relationships. Here are a couple starters to get the ball rolling for you: “The reason I find it hard to open up is…”, “My greatest desire is…”, “If our marriage could improve in this one area…”.

6.  Pray with your wife

Failing to be the husband God has called you to be will hinder your prayers. Praying with your wife requires being open and vulnerable with her, which is sometimes a risky thing. However, intimacy is born when husbands and wives plead together in prayer over a situation in their lives. This has been my weakest area in marriage by far so I know how intimidating and difficult this can be. The best cure for this is a pretty easy actually…pray. The more you pray, the easier it gets. Step up and start, it just gets easier after that.

 

 

Reality Check for Wives

1 Peter 3:1-6

1In the same way, you wives, be submissive to your own husbands so that even if any of them are disobedient to the word, they may be won without a word by the behavior of their wives, 2 as they observe your chaste and respectful behavior. 3 Your adornment must not be merely external—braiding the hair, and wearing gold jewelry, or putting on dresses; 4 but let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is precious in the sight of God. 5 For in this way in former times the holy women also, who hoped in God, used to adorn themselves, being submissive to their own husbands; 6 just as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord, and you have become her children if you do what is right without being frightened by any fear. 

(Note: The following has been adapted by a sermon from James MacDonald called Reality Check for Wives)

Husbands need to be changed and their wives know it, but …

1.  Words Won’t Work (1 Peter 3:1-2)

There is something in the sinful nature of a woman that causes her to go about changing her husband in a   destructive way (just as there is something in the sinful nature of a man that causes him to neglect). 1 Peter 3:1 says the husband can be won without a word by the behaviour of their wives. Words don’t work—in fact rash, harsh and critical words can destroy a marriage. God’s way is conduct. This does not mean that husbands and wives shouldn’t communicate, but husbands are influenced by the example and behaviour of their wives.   Proverbs 14:1 says, “The wise woman builds her house, but the foolish tears it down with her own hands.”   Peter even gives the worst case scenario in the text. Even if the husband is disobedient to the word. He is     talking about those who are unsaved. Even in this extreme case, the godly conduct of their wives is a powerful influence.

 2.  Beauty Won’t Last (1 Peter 3:3-4)

Peter says a wife’s adorning must not be merely external. In other words, ladies, don’t let the beautiful thing about you be your hair or your jewelry or your clothes. Don’t make external beauty your focus. Your crowning feature should be the inner person of the heart.

If words don’t work and beauty won’t last, what is God’s way to positively influence your husband? This is it:

Wife Inner Beauty

INNER BEAUTY IS …

1.  Submissive (1 Peter 3:1)

To be submissive means to place yourself under the headship and authority of your husband. Submission is   never commanded or demanded, it is a voluntary choice that the wife makes out of obedience to God. When a multi-lane highway is reduced to one lane, some cars naturally have to take their position behind other cars or else there will be dangerous collisions. In the same way, in marriage, although both husband and wife are     influencing, guiding, and moving forward, when it comes to the point of collision, the wife finds her greatest joy in yielding and getting behind her husband and entrusting herself to God.

2.  Pure/Chaste (1 Peter 3:2)

A godly wife is pure in her actions and her attitudes in her work, in her home, in the kitchen, in relationships, and in the bedroom. The attitude that goes along with purity is respect—for her husband and for God.

3.  Gentle and Quiet (1 Peter 3:4)

Having a gentle and quiet spirit is the opposite of angry outbursts, combative, speaking your mind, blunt, and overpowering. The godly woman is calm. In short—a woman with a gentle and quiet spirit still the storm  instead of stirring things up. They fix relational strife instead of causing it.

INNER BEAUTY PROVEN …

1.  Persuasive (1 Peter 3:1)

Even in the extreme situation of an unbelieving husband, a wife can influence her husband for the kingdom. This is not a guarantee of transformation, but it means she will no longer be a hindrance to what God is trying to do in her husband’s life. Again, the wise woman persuades with actions, not words.

2.  Permanent (1 Peter 3:4)

This inward beauty is imperishable. While outward beauty is fading, inward beauty can be flourishing. We can’t buy inner beauty, we can’t get it surgically, and there is no multi-level marketing for inner beauty. Instead God shapes a woman’s character as she pursues Him. Inner beauty doesn’t hide imperfections, it removes them.

3.  Precious (1 Peter 3:4)

Inner beauty is precious in the sight of God. Let’s be careful to pursue what is important to God.

4.  Powerful (1 Peter 3:5-6)

Holy women of old adorned themselves with inner beauty. Inner beauty is powerful to attract the kind of man worthy of spending the rest of our lives with.

If we want to be the women God has called us to be, this is the pathway. Will you be a woman who is pursuing inner beauty?

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Eyes to See the Rivers of Grace

Sometimes a river of grace flows hidden and we will miss it unless we have eyes to see.

The creek ran quietly just twenty feet through the trees behind our campsite. It was only when we went hunting for adventure that we found it.

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He was captivated by the tiny fish in the shallow water, while she waded further and plunged down deep. I wanted to capture every moment – to remember the gift of these glorious summer days always.

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As the water bubbled over my toes at the edge I thought about God’s grace over the past year, made only more glorious by deep suffering.

Doesn’t God’s grace flow most abundantly through the valley of suffering? Isn’t it through dark difficulties that the light of God’s grace shines more clearly?

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A year ago we were still in the shock and the sharpness of deep grief and every time I drove to the farm the silent emptiness would ache louder than I thought possible.  How I wanted to walk through that front door and see her face one more time! The neglected farmhouse was missing a woman’s touch and the farmer was missing her gentle touch infinitely more.

Now the sharp grief has dulled to an ache – still painful, just different.

But God’s grace was and is sufficient. A deep and abiding knowing of His sovereignty and His goodness has settled over me over the last months. And a certain hope and ever-increasing joy at the reality of eternity. He has lifted my eyes to His purposes in the heavens.

How is it that joy inexpressible goes hand-in-hand with adversity? This is upside-down.

He’s bending low to watch the crayfish at his toes and he calls for me to come look. Then he wonders how far his shoe will float down the river and he lets it go and watches it float and bob.

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Two and a half months ago I heard that “C” word from a doctor – the one no one wants to hear. One surgery and several tests later I still wait to hear if the cancer is completely gone.

But God’s grace has taught me to choose faith over fear. And really none of knows the future. And Christ could come back tomorrow, making a future with cancer completely irrelevant. There is peace in the waiting.

Who would have thought that grace shines brighter against the dark pain of adversity? We would never have chosen trails to be the primary instrument in the Redeemer’s hand to transform us into Christ’s image – and yet this is the way of wisdom.

She’s laughing and splashing, stirring up the muddy bottom, and calls for me to watch her.

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As we step from one day to the next –  through one difficulty to the next – we are forever marked by His grace. Rivers of grace.

Do you have eyes to see His gifts of grace in the midst of your own trials?

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Experiencing and Counting the Ways He Loves

After we sat in rapt amazement at his God-given gift of music and his compelling plea to move us to compassion, the pastor took the stage.

He spoke about the love of God straight from the book of Ephesians.

In this passage Paul is down on his knees praying fervently that the church in Ephesus would not only understand, but also experience the love of God.

He says, “Some people know about God, but have never experienced His love.”

I think about the difference between an intellectual understanding of God’s love and actually living in the absolute awareness of it each day. I think about the gifts He gives as evidence of His love – the small ways in which He blesses us daily.

Count the ways He loves

So today I’m counting the ways He loves – the evidence of His blessing in my life – the ways I’ve experienced His love and grace today:

1.  Muddy toes and knees and chasing a slippery frog and their squeals of delight and the simple pleasure of a shallow creek.

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2.  Spontaneous fun.

3.  An invite from a kind stranger and watching them dive and splash.

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4.  A reminder to “seek His kingdom first” today and thinking about the eternal implications of this day.

5.  Strawberries turned to sugary jam.

6.  When he calls from across the miles and describes the ocean and mountains and tells me he wishes I was there with him.

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7.  This period of waiting for results and the opportunity to trust and rest in His loving plan.

These gifts are blessings – evidences of His love. But we see the love of God most acutely in the cross of Christ. Love reached down to save humanity drowning in their own sin. Love reached across racial, gender, and economic divisions and invited all to come. Love reached up and ascended and promised glory beyond glory to us who believe.

Move through this day knowing you are loved!

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Our Unchanging God

Nothing stays the same forever.

I walk through her gardens and wonder how her flowers could live on longer than her.

Life is a relentless sea of rolling waves and shifting tides. Circumstances change, friendships bloom and fade, children grow up, and people leave this earth.

But we can rejoice today because we serve a God who never changes.

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In the middle of the constant change and difficult circumstances, its reassuring to think about the things that will not change:

God is forever good and is ultimately working all things together for good in your life.

“You are good and do good; teach me Your statutes” (Psalm 119:68).

“And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His promise” (Romans 8:28).

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God is sovereignly in control of your situation, even when it feels like life is spinning out of control.

“That men may know from the rising to the setting of the sun that there is no one besides Me. I am the Lord, and there is no other. The One forming light and creating darkness, causing well-being and creating calamity; I am the Lord who does all these” (Isaiah 45:6-7).”

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God never slumbers nor sleeps so He is watching over you every minute of every day.

“Behold, He who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep” (Psalm 121:4).

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God is faithful even when you are not.

“If we are faithless, He remains faithful, for He cannot deny Himself” (2 Timothy 2:13).

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God sees the end from the beginning and so He is not surprised by what tomorrow will bring for you.

“Remember the former things long past, for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is no one like me. Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times things which have not been done, saying, ‘My purpose will be established, and I will accomplish all my good pleasure'” (Isaiah 46:9-10).

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Facing whatever is coming this way

They’ve packed fishing poles and sandwiches and bug spray and loaded the boat in the back of the truck, and they are gone for the day.

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The littlest one is wearing her pink hat and she hugs me hard and tells me she wishes I was coming.

The boy, preoccupied with that fisherman’s hope of catching the big one, forgets to kiss his mama goodbye as he climbs into the back seat.

All is desperately and gloriously quiet as I make my way down to the water’s edge.

The surface of the lake reflects the grey expanse above.

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The wind blows hard in off the water and I turn to face directly towards whatever is coming this way.

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Tomorrow is clouded in the unknown and no one can know, except the One who knows the end from the beginning (Isaiah 46:10).

The doctor had said four to six weeks for the test results and knowing the next bit of future.

The bandages have fallen off and the little one had stared at the thin upturned line etched on my neck and tells me it looks like I have two smiles.

Because who wouldn’t want double joy? 

I think about the possibilities. There will be great joy and celebration if the results say the skilled surgeon cut out every last cancer cell.

But wasn’t it James who said we were to consider it all joy when trials come (James 1:2)? Those same results could say the opposite – that the dark cancer is still lurking elsewhere in my body. And is there joy in that too?

The water is rippling straight towards me and whatever will come will come.

And who can add a single hour to her life through worry? (Matthew 6:27).

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Will I turn and cower, or will I bravely face the future God has planned? Will I succumb to the fear and the what ifs, or will I determine to wake up and not live numb to this moment?

Because the here and now – this is a gift.

The hours stretch long and I find joy in lingering long in the Word and processing my thoughts with my own words. Finally that silver truck makes its way up the laneway and they all pile out with stories as big as the fish they caught.

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Yes – this – this is a precious gift. Today is here and tomorrow will come, – and although unknown – it too will be filled with its own trials and graces.

As I usher them into the house I pause to gaze down at the lake one last time. The wind is gentler now.

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I will turn and bravely face whatever is coming because my God promises to walk beside me.

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When you are tempted to feel lonely

I call it the ‘Sunday night feeling.’

Every Sunday night as the sun was going down, week after week, month after month, year after year – for my entire childhood – my Daddy would give us all goodbye hugs. Then he would take my Mom and walk through that door and they would kiss in the privacy of the front porch, and then he’d climb into that truck and drive straight out the lane, the air horn blasting as he went.

As I watched those taillights fade down the highway from the kitchen window, the loneliness would wash over me like a tidal wave.

Even now, some Sunday nights that old familiar feeling threatens in the shadows.

Six days after my surgery I’m wrestling with whether to go or not. The trip north was planned well before cancer interrupted normal life. The safe and reasonable thing to do would be to kiss the three of them goodbye and watch them drive away and allow the quietness to settle like a wet blanket. Home alone for five days would mean rest and healing and catching up on things left undone over the last number of weeks.

But that Sunday night feeling is just too much for me to take.

And so after the pros and cons are weighed and discussed and prayed over – and then its after the pleading from those two who know just how to turn my heart inside-out – I pack my bags for the north.

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Yet the loneliness still threatens.

Does leaving the comforts and routine of home mean leaving His presence? The uncertainty of when and how to spend time in the Word over the next several days causes that same familiar ache.

I’m still not quite sure I’ve made the right decision as we carry the sleeping children to the van in the dark of night and begin our eight-hour drive.

I’m dozing and praying as the sky turns orange with the first light of day, the trees black shadows against it, and its then that a sure knowing settles over me.

I am in Christ no matter where I go. 

Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence? If I ascend to heaven, You are there; If I make my bed in Sheol, behold, You are there. If I take the wings of the dawn, if I dwell in the remotest part of the sea, even there Your hand will lead me, and Your right hand will lay hold of me” (Psalm 139:7-10). 

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Loneliness is not a reality for us because we cannot escape the presence of God.

“I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5). 

I’m never lonely for Him. 

When are you most tempted to feel lonely? How can you turn to God in the midst of the loneliness and acknowledge His comforting presence?

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When you wonder if you are able to wait well

OK…the truth?

This resting and recovery is hard. So hard.

Harder than dreading the surgery and all the irrational fears that came with it. Harder than submitting to needle pokes and IV’s and blood pressure cuffs. Harder than actually walking through those operating room doors.

Because life is still moving and the lists are growing longer and the kids want to play and there are so many things to do … so many things I want to do.

But my body simply will not cooperate. My energy will not last the length of the list.

Resting and waiting for healing is not easy for those who evaluate a day based on things checked off a list and accomplishments and performance. Aren’t most of us this way in our fast-paced, performance-based, instant-gratification culture?

We think to do and do and do is far better than to be.

But God is far more interested in who we are than in what we do.

Resting and waiting on God is not easy.

I remember when I was convinced I would have my firstborn on the day he was due, and fourteen weeks before that date circled in red on my calendar, God told me to rest, and He put me flat on my back in a hospital bed for seven weeks.

Resting and waiting on God is down-right difficult.

So often we want to work our way into God’s graces – to do something, anything to fix or improve our situation, or maybe to feel better about ourselves.

Cease striving and know that I am God (Psalm 46:10).

But God demands that we approach Him through grace not works.

Works says you have to do better and be better. Grace says Christ is better and has done better.

Works says you need to be good. Grace says you are desperately wicked but God is gloriously good and Christ has done everything you need to clothe yourself in that goodness.

Works says this is the way to please God. Grace says God has done the work to make us pleasing in His sight.

Works says if you perform well you will be more loved and accepted by God. Grace says you are already perfectly loved and accepted because of what Christ has performed on your behalf.

Habakkuk had it right. He wailed and cried out to God about the state of the land – the state of his circumstances. But then he said,

“I will stand on my guard post and station myself on the rampart; and I will keep watch to see what He will speak to me, and how I may reply when I am reproved” (Habakkuk 2:1).

Translation: “God, I’m going to stand right here and wait for what You have to say.”

Habakkuk expected God to answer and he was willing to wait.

I too need to expect God to do a good work in this time of rest and healing and I need to be willing to wait.

Wait for the Lord

Rest and wait.

  • When it seems like God isn’t answering? Wait.
  • When it seems like nothing is happening? Wait.
  • When it seems as if God has turned His attention away and has forgotten you are waiting? Wait.
  • When it seems as if nothing good (read: productive) could come out of this period of inactivity? Wait.

And maybe – just maybe – God is able to get our attention during rest more easily than when we are too busy and distracted with normal life.

Maybe He is able to do a far greater work in us as we rest and wait.

Perhaps this period of rest is a precious gift.

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Summer Challenge … to stay in His life-giving Word

Summer is here!

Glorious lazy days of flip-flops and warm sunshine and dripping popsicles and hazy blue skies and brilliant aqua blue water and precious memory-making.

But sometimes the wonderful distractions of summer inevitably pull us away from our regular times in God’s Word. Even though many activities take a Sabbath rest in the summer, we cannot afford to take a break from God’s Word.

Perhaps you already have a plan to keep you connected to Jesus in the summer through His Word (and if you do, good for you!). But if you don’t, would you consider joining us in the Psalms?

Basking in the Psalms title page

(click the image above to download the Basking in the Psalms booklet)

Nothing too time-consuming. Nothing too difficult. Just basking in the glorious light of His Word.

There are 43 weekdays in July an August so I’ve chosen 43 Psalms for us to read and meditate on while we engage in summer activities. The booklet serves as a journal for you to record your thoughts about your time with the Lord. Here is a sample journal page:

Basking in the Psalms journal page

There are instructions within the booklet to guide your time in each of the above sections.

Would you consider taking your Bible and your Basking in the Psalms booklet to the park and settling under a shady tree while the kids play? Take it with you to the beach and read as you soak up the sun? Perhaps a picnic in a wooded area? A hike down a trial as you memorize a verse or two?

When printing, choose booklet, side-fold (it will print on an 8.5 x 11 page landscape to be folded and tucked into your Bible).

Enjoy these sunny days Basking in the Psalms!

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Consider it all joy

We sang the song on Sunday and the words woke me before the sun touched the horizon on the day of surgery: Keep my eyes above the waves. When oceans rise my soul will rest in your embrace. For I am Yours and You are mine.

Tip-toeing downstairs I knew I had some business to do with God if I was going to bravely walk into that hospital choosing faith over fear, my ultimate goal for this part of my trial.

As the birds started their morning song, I asked Him to help me choose faith over fear. Then came the still small knowing: Child, if you are going to choose faith over fear, you must speak faith-filled words.

I knew what the Lord meant. I had been voicing my worst fears only to him – the one I shared my life with – while being strong and brave with everyone else. Wasn’t that allowed? But bringing those fears out into the open was enough for Satan to use against me. Yes, I needed to choose faith-filled words in the privacy of my own home and in the intimacy of my marriage too.

Some of our hardest work is done on our knees, but the feeling of peace and calm that washes over a person after surrendering the thing to God is well worth the effort.

After getting the kids off to school and packing my hospital bag, we spent our lasts few minutes sitting on the deck soaking up the warm June sun. A perfect day.

“Let’s just stay here,” I suggest. “It’s too nice to spend the day in a hospital.”

He smiles and stands and takes my arm. Time to go.

On the way I listen to that song one more time: I’m no longer a slave to fear. I am a child of God.

God’s peace that passes understanding washes over me again.

We arrive and they tell us to take a seat among all the others waiting. I glance around the room. Some waiting their own procedures, others waiting for loved ones who are in surgery; some pacing anxiously, others calmly reading; some sitting in silence, others chatting quietly with the person next to them. There is a story – a trial – behind each face in this room, and I wish I could spend time talking to each one.

Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials (James 1:2).

It’s perhaps the most ridiculous statement in all of scripture, and yet a command of God through James.

This room is absent of happiness, which is to be expected because happiness is circumstantial and flees quickly in these kinds of situations. But joy … joy is possible even here because it is supernatural. However only a Christ-follower can understand and demonstrate joy in a place like this. A follower of Jesus Christ knows there is far more going on – far more at stake – than what is apparent on the surface of the situation. Joy delights in the person and purposes of God which go far deeper than mere circumstance.

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Yes, consider it all joy. I desperately want others to see it written all over my face. When the pressure is on, that’s when we get to prove the difference Christ makes in a life.

It’s not long and I’m called in to another room to be prepped for surgery. As the nurse is taking my temperature and my blood pressure she asks me about the cards in my hand.

“Is that a motivational thing?”

I smile. “No, not motivational. Life-giving. They are Scripture verses.”

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I had spent time that very morning writing down all the promises contained on these twelve small cards. Dozens of promises of God’s saving presence. Multiple instances where He reminds that help comes only from Him. Again and again He commands, “Do not fear.”

The gentle blonde nurse says it’s time to put in the IV. I glance nervously at my husband and he points to the cards in my hands. He knows it’s one of the parts of this process I dread the most, but I remember the words God had given me that morning:

“God’s Word and His gospel should be like an IV bag that keeps your soul hydrated with living water, steadily dripping the hope-giving, life-altering, joy-igniting, perspective-changing truth – truth that will then shape how you feel, regardless of what’s going on around you, because its based on the objective, unchanging truth of God’s Word, instead of your ever-changing, easily deflated, and often misguided feelings.” (Brad Bigney, Gospel Treason).

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Soon it’s over and the liquid is dripping into my veins, the peace that passes understanding dripping steadily into my mind and heart.

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The nurses leave and say they’ll be back to get me in a little while. A glance at the clock. 12:30. One hour to wait.

We settle into the waiting and the clock ticks nosily.

A few minutes later a different nurse walks through the door, this one familiar. I recognize her as the mother down the street of the little boy who often rings our doorbell. I didn’t know she was a nurse. She said she saw my name on the board and says she immediately started praying and came to find me. So kind. So gracious. Sisters in Christ. She asks which surgeon I have and when I tell her she smiles reassuringly. He’s the one she would choose to operate on her family, she says. Peace and calm wash over me anew. How did she know those were the words we needed to hear right in that moment?

God’s grace.

They call my name and its time. I follow the nurse down the hall while pushing the IV pole. We approach large double automatic doors and she turns to my husband and says, “This is as far as you may go.”

I give him a panicked look and he kisses the top of my hand and looks straight into my eyes and says, “I love you.”

I follow the nurse through the doors into a world I have not known before. A world of people facing perhaps their worst fears, of hours lying on an operating table, of top-notch surgeons performing life-saving surgery. My little surgery is none of these things, yet there are people here whose lives could be changed in an instant. This world – so foreign, yet so intriguing.

The nurse carrying my chart settles me into another waiting room, this one occupied by three other people, one a patient and two hospital volunteers. The patient – an older lady sits across from me in an identical hospital gown. She’s looking anxiously from the clock to the small television in the corner and back to the clock, while nervously fidgeting with the IV tubes running from her wrist to the pole.

The sweet grey-haired volunteer sits at a desk in the corner, and turning towards me asks, “Are you Shannon?”

I smile and nod.

She checks me off her list and welcomes me warmly to the OR waiting room, then proceeds to tell me what will happen from this point on. “The anesthetist will come and talk to you a few minutes before your surgery, then the nurse will come and get you and walk you down one of two hallways to your operating room.”

My eyes blink back the tears. The fear is creeping in again and I feel like running and hiding. But there is nowhere to go.

In the midst of trials, our natural response is to escape and run and hide. But God wants us to remain under the weight of them so He can develop steadfastness, endurance, perseverance, and patience in us. The truth is, the Christian who doesn’t remain under the hand of God will never see the purpose of God in the trail. Sadly, it will be all for nothing. Remaining in the place of pain produces the intended result.

No, I’m not running. I want to be in total submission to God in the midst of this and be willing to receive whatever He wants to teach me, because quite frankly – I don’t want to have to learn this one again.

God, what are you trying to teach me through this? Besides the cancer, what needs to be cut out of my heart and life to make me more like Christ? I have to be willing to ask this in faith, without any conditions. No part of my life off limits.

The older volunteer is training the younger one by her side and turns to whisper instructions.

I assume the room will settle into silence broken only by the drone of the TV, but when she’s done instructing the young girl she turns back to me and starts asking about my family. She’s sweet and easy to talk to, and I immediately relax. She’s worked her whole life as an OR recovery nurse right here on this very floor of the hospital and now volunteers her time to make patients feel at ease as they face surgery. She’s truly gifted to serve in this way and I’m grateful for her ministry.

A mom and her two-year old daughter enter the operating area across the hall and the volunteers quickly go to make them feel comfortable and answer any last-minute questions.

Now alone with the patient across from me, I glance at her and our eyes meet. She laughs coarsely and says, “I’m so thirsty I could drink the toilet water.”

I laugh too.

Of course, not eating or drinking for more than 24 hours makes any water seem appealing.

She’s broken the ice and we chat easily about family and surgery and her surprise new baby grand-daughter. She’s been waiting in this room for over an hour past her scheduled time and she’s getting frustrated. I ask her if she’s nervous, and although her actions betray her words, she says no. This is her third surgery in a few short months.

The volunteers come back in the room and the older one hands me a thin blue hair net for my head. I almost laugh at the irony. The four fashion divas on the television, wearing pumps and short skirts and more jewelry than I own, are debating style verses comfort. This hospital gown, fancy gauze slippers, and hair net are certainly neither.

It’s time for the toddler across the hall to make her way to the operating room, and a gentle nurse peels her from her mother’s arms. Her screams echo loud down the hall as she reaches back toward her mama and a mother’s heart breaks into pieces. I whisper silent prayers for them.

Then finally the nurse comes for the woman who’s been anxiously fidgeting with her IV and dreaming about water and off she goes.

The minutes tick well past my scheduled surgery time. It’s the waiting that’s the hardest.

Its in the waiting

But it’s in the waiting that God often does a good work. The question is, will you wait on God by faith in the midst of your trial, until the darkness turns to light? How long, you wonder? God alone knows, but it will be in His perfect timing. Do you believe God is sovereign and He is good, even in this?

I would have despaired unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living (Psalm 27:13).

I spend my time praying for the little girl and the older woman now under the knife.

Finally the anesthetist comes and tells me how he’s going to put me to sleep, followed shortly by the OR nurse who tells me to come with her. My heart begins to pound. Here we go.

I follow her down the far hall and she pushes through double doors into the operating room, grabbing a mask as she enters. I try to take it all in. The room is very large and cold and full of unfamiliar instruments. There is a singular narrow bed in the middle with two huge lights above it, and there are six medical staff scurrying about wearing gowns and masks.

She tells me to climb up on the table and lie down. My arms barely fit by my side and I try turning my head to the right and left, memorizing the scene.

The words of my daughter’s prayer come back, “God, help mommy to know you are right beside her when they cut her neck open.”

Jesus, You fill this room. You were in here before I came in. Your presence is so very real.

We are all waiting for the surgeon now, and I hear them page his name. One nurse smiles and pats my arm while another one straps me to the bed.

The surgeon bursts through the door and immediately begins giving orders. He pauses to turn to me and smiles reassuringly. “We will take good care of you,” he promises.

Then the mask and breathe deeply and the world goes dark.

When we are in blackness darker than the dark of night, it’s so reassuring to know God never slumbers nor sleeps. His eye is on the little girl down the hall and her frantic mother in the waiting room. His eye is on the older woman who desperately wants to watch her baby grand-daughter grow up. And His eye is on me as they remove the cancer.

I wake up in a room bustling with activity. I’m the last in row of hospital beds, each with a computer and a nurse stationed at the end. Immediately I notice a clock on the wall to my right and I struggle to focus on the time, but the room is swimming.

Thank you, Lord.

It’s over.

My breath slows and I hear the woman at the end of my bed say, “Take a deep breath, Shannon.”

I do and fall back into the black nothingness.

Its three hours of swimming in and out of consciousness, while they continue to monitor my vitals and take blood, and my family waits patiently in another room.
Finally I’m able to force my eyes awake for longer than a few minutes and they say I’m ready to be taken to my room for the night. As the porter wheels my bed out into the hall I catch a glimpse of my dad in a room as we pass and I reach for him.

After setting into the room where I will spend the next 24 hours, my husband,  dad, and sisters come quickly to my bedside.

I smile weakly. “It’s over,” I whisper.

Yes, this part of the journey is over.

For a Christian, life is about displaying the superiority of a life lived in God. Why do Christians get cancer? Why do children of believing families get sick and why do loved ones die? Why do Christians fall into hardship of any kind? Because the sons of God behave differently in trials than the sons of Adam. While others run and hide or crumple under the weight, believers are given supernatural resources to remain under the difficulty, allowing God to transform their characters in the process.

This is what I desperately want for this trial.

Is it easy? No.

Is it possible? It must be. Why else would He tell us to consider it all joy?

What can you do in the midst of your trail to display the superiority of a life lived in God? All for His glory …

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