This might sound like a strange blog post for someone who's still jigging along one of life's mountaintops, right? And in a way it is. But it's something that's come to mind from various sources this last week, so let's see where it goes . . .
Two of my good friends have cancer--you may remember me mentioning that months ago. Both have been undergoing treatment and seeing results.
Both have just had setbacks.
I find it a little strange that though their stories are very different, Mary and Sandi seem to be coming up against things at nearly identical times. For Mary, whose cancer is in her leg, this latest setback is a broken femur, which has put her in incredible pain. For Sandi, who's trying to get rid of a tumor and cancer in the bone marrow so she can get a bone marrow transplant, the setback was news that the tumor had stopped responding to chemo and had grown.
Not cool. And I can only the imagine the fear when you go into the hospital wondering, "What now? What's wrong this time?" It stinks. It hurts. Because you're already fighting so much, so hard, that to be told something isn't working or went wrong . . . it could be devestating.
On a lesser scale, I've experienced this with my daughter lately. She has always, always, always shown her stress through sleep patterns--and interruptions of them. These past couple weeks, she has been a total monster when we put her to bed, and I had thought we were over that, so it was doubly frustrating. Then after a few nights of improvement, when she started to show signs of a fit again, I nearly banged my head into the wall. And why? She was still way better than she'd been.
But we want forward progress. Always, in everything, we want to stride forward. I think it's probably part of our genetic makeup as humans, so it's no big surprise when those setbacks bring us down. Make us question. Lead to a little hair-pulling. We don't want to go back. Not to bad behavior, not to sad times, and certainly not to worse health.
I think (and this is pure speculation) that faith is probably lost more through the mountain of little things, those "minor" setbacks, than through the big disasters of life. The big things we know we have to handle with faith and grace. So we gather all our courage, all our strength, all our will, and say, "Let's do this, Lord!" We're certain He's with us, even through the awful.
But when a few steps forward only send us slipping back, that's when it's so easy to ask, "I already gave it my all, Lord! Why this? Why more? Why?"
I don't know about you, but I don't often get answers to that question.
Yesterday I read Psalm 46, which is probably best known for verse 10: Be still, and know that I am God. For perhaps the first time, I paid attention to the context of that yesterday. The whole psalm is about how God is always there, God is our refuge. Is trouble thundering around you? He's there. Is there a place of beauty and gladness? He's there. See, look--wars come to an end. Bows and spears are broken. Chariots are burned. All those things with which we fight, where we might think our victory lies . . . He destroys them. Why?
Be still, and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth!
The Lord of Hosts is with us;
The God of Jacob is our refuge.
Yesterday, those words said to me, "Stop fighting. Stop thinking you have to. When trouble comes, don't grab your weapon. I am the one who casts those mountains into the sea, and I am the one who tells the battles the halt. I am ruler of this rockface that comes crashing down, and why would you not trust me? Did I not make a refuge for you from the very same rock?"
We question, and questioning can be good. But when the storms around us are louder than our praise, when the nations are raging and our shelter is moved, when forward slips into backward, sometimes we have to remember this from verse 6:
He uttered His voice, the earth melted.
With a single murmur from the Lord, all can change. Our part is to be still, to give it all to him. To trust. It's not easy when we're facing setbacks. But the God of the flood is also the God of the trickling leak.
We put our hands into His when trouble first strikes. Let's be sure we only grip it the harder when the setbacks come.