Last week was tough on my wife Rita, and even a little tough on me at times. She has to be up and ready before 7:00 am to catch the bus to the cancer center in Traverse City for what amounts to a four hour round trip for a 15 minute radiation treatment. Monday through Friday. Only last week, she didn’t ride the bus Thursday because she had to be at the cancer center and hospital all day. That means we both go, with me as her driver. Thursday started with the usual radiation treatment, followed by an appointment for follow up with the neurosurgeon regarding a lesion on her brain (she made history; she was his first officially diagnosed “Covid stroke” patient). The lesion is a small area of the brain involved with sight, which has caused a problem in one of her visual fields. The good news was it was getting better, and he didn’t need to see her again.
Following that, she reported to the hospital for placement of an infusaport, the purpose of which was to provide an access for future lab work and chemotherapy infusions, in order to avoid the multiple needle sticks she’s had to endure previously for either one. We arrived on time but the doctor and staff that were to do the procedure were running behind, and we ended up staying an extra hour or so. The staff was wonderful, so it made the experience a little better. But we still spent eight hours total at the hospital complex.
Friday she caught the bus at 6:40 am because of the addition of a new rider. That afternoon, she had to have blood drawn from her port, which was still very painful from the surgery of the day before. She was tired from the radiation and the trip and dreaded the lab draw, but went and had it done anyway. The port area still hurts even now, and will for some time until everything heals. She’s been feeling bad for feeling bad, voicing repeated apologies for being a “whiner”. Friday afternoon, my brother and sister-in-law showed up, bringing dinner, groceries and other assorted goodies. Among them was a present for Rita-a metal bracelet inscribed with the word “Warrior” on the outside, and a reminder of all of the people who are cheering for her on the inside.
I’m going to be sure she wears it every day, because she is one of the strongest women I know. But she is also one of the wisest, because we both recognize that our ‘warrior’ status is not dependent on our strength but on God’s, who supplies all of our needs (and I must say He has recently has been doing it ABUNDANTLY). If we had to depend on our own strength and resources to deal with this we would have never survived this far, much less thrived. But standing in His strength we can endure the storms of life.
None of us likes to be caught in a storm. They’re painful, they can be scary, and they disrupt our plans. But for those who have surrendered their lives to Christ and are submissive to his lordship, the storms are a promise that accompanies the blessings of having him in our lives. Becoming a Christian isn’t an automatic guarantee to health, wealth, and happiness with no problems. We will still have frustrations, problems, illness, and the givens of everyday life like leaky pipes, noisy children, speed bumps in our relationships. What changes is how we view them. When we see them through the eyes of Christ, the situation doesn’t change but our attitude in dealing with it does. We become less “whiny” and more “peaceful”, “content”, and even “grateful”.
I’ve previously mentioned some mixed feelings about some of the merchandise I’ve seen advertised on Facebook and elsewhere which features a man or woman dressed in armor or other protective gear, and declaring to the devil’s proclamation that they can’t withstand the storm, “I AM the storm.” I feel certain in saying that neither of us is the storm, even though we have the spiritual armor to protect us from the onslaught. We are squarely in the middle of the storm, but God is the foundation upon which we stand, and He is the breakwall which prevents us from being overwhelmed. If anything, He uses that storm to form us into the people He desires for His purposes.
The other problem I have with that depiction of warriors is there is an unspoken message that we are always supposed to be ‘tough’ and never show weakness. You fight through injury and intimidate your enemy with your indomitable will. If anything, it’s the antithesis of how the Bible describes the followers of Christ. Paul is an excellent example of this. He had all the bonafides of his time and culture: right education, “right thinking” Jewish sect, zealous beyond belief for the Law. This is what he had to say about it:
“But everything that was a gain to me, I have considered to be a loss because of Christ. More than that, I also consider everything to be a loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. Because of Him I have suffered the loss of all things and consider them filth, so that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own from the law, but one that is through faith in Christ-the righteousness from God based on faith.”Philippians 3:7-9
Paul understood it wasn’t him that was strong, and it wasn’t in his own power to be righteous no matter what so-called ‘advantages’ he had. After his conversion, he received what he considered a ‘thorn in the flesh’ (the Bible never really clarifies what it is). It grieved Paul because he thought it prevented him from being an even more useful and powerful servant. This is what he said about it:
“Concerning this, I pleaded with the Lord three times to take it away from me, But He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Therefore, I will most gladly boast all the more about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may reside in me, So I take pleasure in weaknesses, insults, catastrophes, persecutions, and in pressures, because of Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”2 Corinthians 12:8-10
There are times in life when we experience pain, illness, suffering, loss, and it hurts. When we’re in pain our natural reaction is to cry and moan; that’s the way we were designed. Ecclesiastes tells us there is a time to weep and a time to mourn, just as there is a time to rejoice. But in Christ, we don’t have to remain “whiners”. It’s in our weaknesses that His power is manifested. His power makes us “warriors”.
As Rita and I work our way through this, our prayer has been and continues to be that we may honor and glorify God in the way we choose to deal with this circumstance. There is no shame in “whining” when it hurts, but we need to also remember it’s our weakness that showcases the power of God, and we can rejoice and show gratitude for it.