"It is good for me that I have been afflicted, that I may learn your statutes." Psalm 119:71

Monday, May 3, 2010

Through the Fire

I'm three days out of surgery. My recovery is going slower than I hoped (just spoke with the surgeon who thinks it's best to remove the drains Thursday rather than Tues) but isn't too bad overall.

I will update later on the surgery and recovery, but first I wanted to explore some thoughts I had the night before surgery. It was scary hearing that my team of doctors thought it was necessary to do a mastectomy. Not because of what the mastectomy itself is (I knew most women with bc are confronted with this surgery at one point or another and I was on my way to accepting it, too), but because of the urgency behind the surgery. I miss the "good ole days" when both doctors led me to believe that lumpectomy was a totally acceptable thing for me. I'm tired of hearing words like aggressive, invasive, and large.

So when we got the news, only 12 hours prior to when my surgery was to happen, I worried about what it meant. Suddenly, the less invasive option was no longer an option. We were, once again, going the agreesive route. Terry and I spent much of that night praying and we each wrote some encouraging scriptures on notecards to carry with us the next day.

Around 1 a.m. Terry fell asleep and it was just me, alone in the dark. I could have woken Terry up, but I was so encouraged by his sound-sleep. I was impressed by his confidence and faith. Because I would be awake nearly all night, having the worst night of my life, feeling my faith be tested over and over again.

Jacob wrestled with an angel (some say it was God) in Genesis. They wrestled all night long and in the morning Jacob says, "I saw God face to face and yet my life was spared." (Gen 32:30) My circumstances and reasons were different, but I can only describe what happened to me last Thursday as "wrestling with God."

I felt tormented by the possible future and I'd read my verses and seek for the peace they promised. I'd read, "When doubts filled my mind, your comfort gave me renewed hope and cheer" Psalm 94:19. But it wouldn't erase my doubts. I'd read, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my strength is made perfect in weakness," 2 Cor. 12:9, but not feel God's grace. I felt alone and lost. It felt like I was far from God. I knew He was there with me but I couldn't feel him. I knew the scriptures were written just for me, but I didn't believe them. I knew I was taken care of but I felt abandoned. I'd lost faith.

I know spiritual warfare isn't a fun thing to talk about in church. Especially not in our culture of "feel good" sermons. But, I know this war to be a real one. I know how hard the battle over our relationship with God is. I'm thankful that I was ready for battle last Thursday- that I had my spiritual armor (Ephesians 6:10-18).

I can't tell you how I pulled through to Friday morning. It was a long fight- I'd be presented with a lie as my thoughts wondered. Oh, how it would have been so easy to succumb to the lie and wallow, become depressed, or cry out. But I'd search for God and truth every time, eager to negate the lie and wipe away the negativity it left behind. It was hard. I was emotionally-drained and numb by the next morning.

Ever since that night, I've been thinking about times when our faith is tested. Maybe the most obvious story is when Peter walks on the water. He had tremendous faith to even take that first step. But he lost his courage a few steps in.

Matthew 14:29-32: "...Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, "Lord, save me!" Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. "You of little faith," he said, "why did you doubt?" And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down. Then those who were in the boat worshiped him, saying, "Truly you are the Son of God."

One of the verses I wrote down on a notecard is, "You will not be scorched when you walk through the fire, and the flame will not burn you. For I am the Lord, Your God, the Holy One of Israel and Your Savior." (Isaiah 43:1-3) Reading this verse made me think of the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego (Daniel 1-3).

Their story is a miracle. They live despite being thrown into a blazing furnace. And while they were in the fire, a fourth person, God, was seen to be standing with them. The end of the story tells us that when they came out of the fire, neither their robes nor hair were burned and they didn't smell of fire. This is the end result we see. We know of the miracle-- three people beating death.

But what of their struggle during their time in the fire? Like me, did they struggle with their faith? Did they see God standing beside them but still question? Did the flames get hot and scare them? Did the smoke obscure their vision and cause panic? I wonder- just because we know the end of the story and we give glory to God for the miracle, do we forget to acknowledge what these three men still had to endure? After all, if I were them, I might have said, "God, can't we prove the point without us actually having to be in the fire?" I'm sure I would have asked that. Even with God beside me, I would have preferred to not have to be in the fire.

God is all-powerful; if He chose to do so, He could protect us from any pain during trials. He could have told Shadrach that He wouldn't feel any heat in the fire. He could have told Mary and Martha not to worry- that even though Lazarus had died, He would be back to raise him from the dead. God could have even made it possible for Jesus to not feel any pain while he suffered on the cross. After all, Jesus asked to be spared of crucifixion.

But God doesn't tell us how our story ends or completely protect us from pain- physical or emotional- while we're going through life. He gives us a resting place to go to during struggles, though. He tells us not to worry. And in my favorite verse these days, he says, "But may the God of all grace, who called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a while, perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you." 1 Peter 5:10

Wish I had a nice way to end this post. A way to tie it all up nicely. But I don't. Just wanted to share my experience and what I've been thinking about. I'll write soon about the surgery and recovery. Thanks for contiuing to support us. We still look forward to the calls, emails, letters.

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  1. There's a worship song I love called Isaiah 43. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=23jeSAlB_GE You might like it too. (I'm wary of recommending things now, though, since apparently my taste in Amish fiction is not reciprocated :)

  2. Sarah:

    My what faith you have and to be so young. I know that when Rick and I have gone through tough times it was hard to see an end to the travel but we always knew that God was ahead of us making the way. He will hold you tightly through this. Remember too our God is the same God that parted the Red Sea, brought Lazarus from the dead, died on the cross, and rose again in 3 days. Nothing is impossible of him.

    You are in our thoughts and prayers,
    Judy Roberts

  3. I feel like I am reading a devotional when reading your blog because it is stuffed with so much scripture. Your words and the bible verses encourage me so much. I pray for you, Terry, and the boys everyday.


  4. I am always so amazed by your's and Terry's faith. I am also just so convicted of how I am also (Ye of little faith) just as Jesus said to Peter.
    I fail time and time again. Also the one saying can we get to your glory without me having to suffer through the pain.
    You are amazing to me Sarah!!!!!!!!
    I love your blog, it is always scripture filled, and uplifting even if you do not think so.
    I continue to pray for you and Terry and the boys always.
    Call me if you need ANYTHING!!!!
    Love your sister in Christ.

  5. Here is a song that ministered to me when I had nothing but my disapointment, weakness, fatigue, anger and frustration to give as an offering to God. I learned that He is big enough to handle it, too. Give Him what you have, Sarah, even if it is brokenness...He still wants it.



  6. Another inspiring read - your strength in Christ is a blessing to all of us. I continue to pray and constantly think about all of you guys.

  7. Hey Sarah, I just wanted to let you know that you and your family are in my thoughts and prayers. You faith is very inspiring. A prayer chain is forming far and wide for you!

  8. Sarah, I'm Emily's friend - she can explain our connection. I will be lifting you up in this journey. Thank you for being so transparent and for allowing God to use you while you're going through what the world would call "so much". Thank you for leaning on our everlasting God and for talking about it on here for everyone to read! I'd love to meet you some day and give you a huge hug. One day we will...
    Alison H

  9. Try this one, too. "Healing Is In Your Hands" Christy Nockels from the Passion: Awakening 2010 album.


  10. Sarah,

    You are so strong in your faith, and this will help you become even stronger. I'm praying for you and your family.

  11. I just know God's looking at you two and saying "Well done, good and faithful servant, well done!" :) You are both strong and amazing. Don't forget God sees the bigger picture-He knows how beautiful the story will be once it's finished!

  12. You know, it is so easy for me to SAY God is bigger than cancer, God is walking ahead of you and preparing your way, God is thinking more about you than you are about Him, God is.......but if I were in your shoes, I'd be wallowing around in self-pity I'm sure. What an amazing faith you are demonstrating. I hope you know that I am praying for you and your family and have people in my prayer chain praying for you. With as many people as everyone has praying for you, even if God wasn't sure what Sarah we were talking about before, He would definitely know now! :) "Be anxious for nothing. But in everything, in prayer and petition with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your heart and your mind in Christ Jesus our Lord." Philippians 4:6-7

  13. Sweet Sarah,
    How proud I am of you! "Fear not" is one of my all time favorite songs and spiritual weapons.
    Praise God that He brought such a Godly man to you for a husband. I'm impressed that you drew strength and peace when Terry slumbered. Fear Not for I am with you says the Lord. For I have redeemed you;I have called you by name. Child, you are mine. When you walk thru the water, I'll be there and through the flame. You'll NOT be drowned. You'll Not be burned. For I am with you. Fear not.
    This has been His word for several of His people this people. I am in awe.
    He will, HE WILL bring you through this. I love you, Niece!
    Auntie Shelia

  14. Please tell Sarah that my students and faculty of Community Christian School will be praying with you tomorrow. These are the words to the chorus of my favorite song by Greater Vision.

    God's got a bigger thing going on than what these little bitty eyes can see.
    He's already working on tomorrow, making sure the sorrow's gonna work a lot of good for me.
    He's using all my earthly circumstances to get me ready for eternity....
    God's got a bigger thing going on than what these little bitty eyes can see.

    I love you my special friend.....
    A friend of Auntie Shelia's


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