This past Sunday, Justin and I had the opportunity to share our “God-story” through this video we filmed in January.
I remember this weekend in January when we filmed the video. The Lord’s strength was nearly palpable as we were interviewed by our Pastor. I remember answering questions, hearing the answers through my own ears, and knowing those words were not my words, they were His words. This has only happened a few times in my Christian journey and it is strange. Throughout scripture we see God opening the mouth of His people and putting words in their mouths, so I should not be surprised.
It is an incredible feeling to sense God so near; to sense His strength and experience His presence in that way. If you’ve seen bravery or strength, be assured that isn’t my courage or strength. It’s the Lord’s. He does make me brave, and where I’m so weak, He is so strong.
In the early days of my re-diagnosis, I said so many times to so many people “I feel like I’m wrapped in a cocoon of grace in these days”. His presence was so near. I experienced the hope, joy and peace that was available to me in Christ, in the fullest way that I had ever experienced it. How in the world could I actually have joy in the midst of a second cancer diagnosis in 20 months ? It was surreal, and such a gift. I remember in the middle of these hard but sweet days, I said to a friend “I’m afraid of the darker days that I fear are ahead”.
I’m typically a “glass half full” person, so why would I expect dark days ahead?
This isn’t my first journey through cancer. In the middle of the journey in 2015 there was a chunk of time that God seemed far off; His presence did not feel near. That is scary to write and to admit, but it was my experience. This distance was worse than any of the physical suffering of treatments. Thankfully, through time, His Word, and community He pulled me out of that pit, and my testimony was “Faith isn’t faith if it is always felt”. In looking back, God taught me that for the first time in my life, I simply had to be carried. I couldn’t “pull myself up from my bootstraps”. I barely held onto His promises by my fingernails, but He was securely holding me the entire time.
To be completely honest, there have been many days recently where the strength and hope of what I shared in my video has seemed so far off. I’m reading His Word, I’m praying (more like wailing out to Him), I’m journalling, I’m in community, I’m going to church. It seems like I’m doing all the right things, but His presence sometimes seems distant.
I long more than anything to FEEL His presence in my life. But what about the days when we don’t? Faith isn’t faith if it is always felt.
Yesterday I sat around a table with three strong, beautiful brave young women who, like me, are walking through stage IV cancer. And like me, they all have young children who need their Mommy.
I was an absolute wreck, holding back tears the entire time, because it was literally the first time I sat in the presence of others who understand the emotional complexities of walking through a very serious disease, while being a Mommy to young children.
They get it.
We briefly shared our stories, and I couldn’t help but think this is NOT OK. Young mothers should not have to fight for our lives, in the “prime” of our lives. Our sufferings are worthy of lament.
A lament is an expression of deep grief and sorrow. I feel in our churches we haven’t done a good job of talking about how to lament well. The Psalms do a good job of exploring this “trusting tension” – the “It is NOT well, but it IS well” tension that we will all experience during some time in this journey of life, if we live long enough. As I am stretched in this, I’m understanding that it’s ok to lament. The Psalms teach me not only how to lament, but how to point to God in the process. The Psalms teach me how to trust in what I KNOW , not only what I feel.
It’s ok to lament, but I should remember the “YETs” of my faith. This is not ok, YET I will rejoice in the Lord. (Habbakuk 3:17-18). This is not ok, YET I trust Him. (Psalm 9:9-10) This is not ok, YET I believe He is good and working all things together for my good. (Romans 8:28) This is not ok, YET I will seek Him first (Matthew 6:33), trusting He will not withhold any good thing from me (Psalm 84:11).
These tensions are harder to live in than to the “coffee mug” Christian platitudes; platitudes spoken through a plastered smile, with an overly cheerful tone, masking a distressed, groaning heart.
I’m preaching a lot to myself these days, and asking my heart to catch up. What God is teaching me is there is so much purpose even in the days of lament, as He takes me even deeper, stretches me more, opens and empties my hands even more, so I can receive even more of Him.
Just as it was such a blessing to sit with those young mothers yesterday, knowing they get it, I hope these words encourage someone else who is in a season of lament — you’re not alone.
Sweet friend, I get it.
Psalm 41: 1, 2, 11
As a deer pants for flowing streams,
so pants my soul for you, O God.
My soul thirsts for God,
for the living God.
Why are you cast down, O my soul,
and why are you in turmoil within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,
my salvation and my God.
Though the fig tree should not blossom,
nor fruit be on the vines,
the produce of the olive fail
and the fields yield no food,
the flock be cut off from the fold
and there be no herd in the stalls,
yet I will rejoice in the Lord;
I will take joy in the God of my salvation.
The Lord is a stronghold for the oppressed,
a stronghold in times of trouble.
And those who know your name put their trust in you,
for you, O Lord, have not forsaken those who seek you
And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.
seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.
For the Lord God is a sun and shield;
the Lord bestows favor and honor.
No good thing does he withhold
from those who walk uprightly.