Isaiah 54:10 “‘Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed, yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken nor my covenant of peace be removed,’ says the LORD, who has compassion on you.”
Do we believe those words? Do we really trust that God has compassion on us when someone like my friend Mary finds out she has cancer? Why Lord? Why would You let this happen to our beautiful, full of life, loving, joyful Mary? Mary is one of those people that EVERYONE likes and you never hear a negative about her or from her. She gives everyday all she has, serving her God, her husband, her family and anyone in need. She takes every opportunity to love and encourage others. Her smile and enthusiasm are contagious. She is one of those dear Sisters who has more time for you than you have for yourself.
Hearing her news hit me like a ton of bricks… It brought up that age old question for God, “Why do bad things happen to good people?” Surely, God loves us! He doesn’t want us to suffer and He wants good things for His children… Right? This is certainly true, but where is the bridge from this truth to the other reality that Mary has a life-threatening disease?
Unfortunately, as we are readily aware, we live in a fallen world. Sin and corruption can often seem closer in everyday life than God Himself. Plain and simply, the culprit of all the bad things is sin. Sin, the decision to satisfy the flesh instead of being obedient to our God, has put our dear Sister in this perilous position. NOT her sin, mind you. I am talking about the fall, when mankind decided to sin against God and this world changed from one of perfection in paradise to a mere shadow of all He intended it to be.
God, acting in His disappointment in mankind, could have wiped us out right then. But instead, acting in His love for us and knowing that He would have to make the ultimate sacrifice for our selfishness, decided to give us free choice as we live out our days in the “bed” we make for ourselves. God gave us the opportunity to choose between sin and Him, so that we might come to Him of our own free will and know His goodness despite the evil that surrounds us in this fallen world. So, even if we choose to live our lives for God and walk with Him spiritually, we still physically walk in a world that has wandered far from Him and are temporarily trapped in bodies that desire to go their own way. The consequence of sin leaves us in this fragile condition of susceptibility to the unhappy things of this world. (John 16:33)
However (and here comes the good part), our hope lies in that God sent His Son as a ransom for that sin. (Romans 6:23) So that, if we believe in our hearts and confess with our mouths that Jesus is Lord, we are forgiven and can expect to live with Him for eternity as He intended (Romans 10:9). When we turn our lives over to Him, He sees us through the sanctifying lens of the sacrifice of His Son and promises to use ALL things for good in our lives because we love Him… YES! He can even use Mary’s cancer for good. (Romans 8:28) God does not promise that living this life will be easy, even if we are walking with Him, but He does promise it will be fulfilling. (John 15:5, 16, Ephesians 2:10) If we open our hearts to God, He is able to fill us by His Holy Spirit with His deep indwelling peace and joy, giving us strength and hope as we follow Him, even through the midst of tragedy.
Really, in a strange way, there is no better person than Mary to get cancer. Uh-oh, I got your attention with that one, right? Hang on and stick with me here. In no way do I want my friend to suffer! Yet, her testimony in this difficult season is already touching and ministering to many, and will continue to do so. Mary is grounded in her faith and the unfailing love of God, because He has given her a future and a hope. (Jeremiah 29:11) God’s covenant of peace in her heart cannot be removed, not even by cancer! God has promised to use all things for the good of those who love Him (Romans 8:28), and He is using this disease to reveal the solid foundation of faith Mary has allowed Him to grow in her heart! She is able to look at this chapter of her life with joy and expectancy, waiting to see how He will use this for her good and the good of those she loves and comes in contact with. She sent me a note the other day and in it she said, “It has been a fun ride so far. Yes, I do mean fun.” This is only possible by the grace and love of our Father. The joy of the Lord is her strength! (Nehemiah 8:10)
Mary’s desire to walk hand in hand with her Lord through this will serve to glorify her Father in heaven. She is allowing Christ to live out this hardship through her, and eyes will see and ears will hear the witness of Christ in her. 2 Corinthians 4:7 says, “But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not from ourselves.” She will reap the reward in heaven someday as she sees the lives that were changed because of her faith and decision to let her light shine for Jesus in any circumstance. These lives touched will be the gems of her eternal crown. (1 Thessalonians 2:19)
Anyone who knows Mary, knows the joy and giggle of amazement in seeing her running down unexpected roads. While the rest of us are driving to the grocery store or post office, Mary is taking a run to somewhere and back, with a smile for anyone who whizzes by. We live in different places now, but just the sight of her stretching her legs would give me a little “kick in the pants,” and I would feel an extra degree of motivation for the day. Her life reminds me of 1 Corinthians 9:24 “Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win. (NASB)” Seeing her run is such an incredible illustration of what is the drive of her heart. Although she takes great care of her body, it is still simply a vehicle to carry her through this life of loving others, and into the hands of Jesus. Mary’s focus is on the eternal, so her body is already of little consequence to her. (Revelation 12:11)
I pray that Mary is completely healed of this disease, and we know that God is able! In the meantime, Mary is able to rest in her Father and continue to enjoy life, even in adversity, because she knows that God holds the number of her days in His loving hands. (Psalm 139:16) Cancer is not in control, God is! What a blessing and promise! I am so thankful for Mary and the depth of her love and trust of her Savior! Thank you, Mary, for your example and testimony, we dearly love you.
Do you have a peace in your heart like Mary’s? Do you want to live even the darkest of days with a deep indwelling joy that cannot be extinguished? God is ready to do that miracle in your heart and mine, all we need to do is ask! (Matthew 7:7)
John 16:33 “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
2 Corinthians 4:18 “So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”
Romans 8:6 “For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace.” (NASB)
All Bible references taken from the New International Version unless otherwise noted.