Monday, July 26, 2010

Messiness and Steadfast Love

For the last few weeks I have been struggling deeply. It’s taken a while to get insight on the mess and get it sort of defined.

There have been a number of thoughts running through my head, which have felt and sometimes sounded like multiple freight trains on multiple tracks....

1. I’ve repeatedly been on the verge of fear; fear of the horror movie I’m watching in my body. Specifically, the horror of the cancer metastasis. It started in my ovaries—in my pelvis, then it spread to my abdomen, then it spread up to my chest, then it spread to the lymph nodes under my right arm, then the lymph nodes under my left arm, and now, the lymph nodes in the base of the left side of my neck, and those nodes are getting pretty big.

If the cancer continues its vertical spread, it’s a hop, skip, and a very small jump to my brain. I don’t know how much you know about mets to the brain, but it can cause a very broad range of results. I don’t want to lose my mind and I don’t want to become a source of distress to myself or others.

I know God will keep His promise to be merciful to me, and I know Jesus will keep His promise to come for me, but the closer this stuff gets to my brain, the more aware I have to be; constantly remembering His promises and not allowing the fear to take hold. It’s exhausting, but if I don't do it, I drown.

2. I’ve been experiencing a lot of anger, grief, and frustration. Anger, frustration, and grief toward huge changes, toward myself for feeling misanthropic for a variety of reasons, and toward God for allowing this process to take so darn long. I’ve been feeling a lot of things too strongly to post anything rational or helpful or appropriate for sharing. That’s why I haven’t been posting much…

I have a private blog that only I read and it’s my cursing and swearing and ranting and raving blog. Don’t worry; I’m the only one who can access it. And yes, I would highly recommend having a private blog for doing cathartic writing. I find it really helpful to externalize my thoughts somewhere safe where no one can read them and where I can process stuff without dumping it all on some innocent bystander. This is not a pretty process and it’s not neat or tidy.

3. At the same time as all of that, I know that if I’m still here, He has a purpose for me, but I don’t know exactly what the heck that purpose is. Not having a strong sense of purpose is one of the most difficult places for me to be, so I’ve been bugging God constantly about it; begging, demanding, whining, for Him to show me what His purpose for me is, both in the big picture of the rest of my life here and for today. And when tomorrow comes: for today again, ad nauseum… Only instead of being nauseated by me, God has been teaching me bit by bit about this purpose thing and His love for me.

4. Along the lines of God’s steadfast love for me, He put someone in my life through a “chance encounter” who spoke Philippians 4:6-7 to me, and it’s been echoing in my head ever since:

"Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus."

I started thinking about that, and the fact that if I present my requests/burdens, to God, and leave them with Him instead of taking them back and freaking myself out, I won’t be anxious about anything. For some reason, this seems to be something that needs to happen many times per day for me…

Then He showed me Psalm 55:22:
"Cast your cares on the LORD
and he will sustain you;
he will never let the righteous fall."

Same theme, different wording: Present my requests/Cast my cares/Cry out to God and He will carry me. The issue is that I need retraining because I like to grip my burdens as tightly as I can with my puny little fingers instead of leaving them with the God of the Universe for Him to take care of for me… He offers over and over to carry my burdens, as in Matthew 11:28-30:

"Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light."

Isn’t that what we all really want, rest for our souls and a light burden??? Light burden seems oxymoronic, but then so do a lot of other spiritual truths that make perfect sense once I begin to experience them…

And then, just because God knows I have issues and need constant reminders, He showed me Psalm 107, which is awesome—I would strongly recommend reading the whole thing because it’s all about the depths of His love for us and how much He desires to save us from ourselves and from all of the things that distress us. This verse is repeated FOUR times in reference to His people:

"Then they cried to the LORD in their trouble,
and he delivered them from their distress."

Each time it is repeated, it’s followed by what He saved them from or what his answer to their cry was, you really should read the whole thing.

Then other night, I was looking up something else and “just happened” to read Psalm 57:2-3:

"I cry out to God Most High,
to God who fulfills his purpose for me.

He will send from heaven and save me;
he will put to shame him who tramples on me.
God will send out his steadfast love and his faithfulness!"

I re-read it last night for the ninth or tenth time and my slow self noticed that it’s God who fulfills His purpose for me, it is not my work oriented, production oriented self who fulfills my purpose for myself. He fulfills it—I don’t have to panic over discovering what it is.

He’s putting that steadfast love thing in my way a lot. There’s this song I used to hear somewhere that He’s been whispering across my mind over and over again. Here are the lyrics:

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases
His mercies never come to an end,
They are new every morning
New every morning
Great is Your faithfulness, 0 Lord
Great is Your faithfulness.

So those are the thoughts that have been on my mind for the last few weeks. Those are the truths God has been lovingly showing me in gentle and obviously Him kinds of ways. I am still struggling, the process is still not pretty, and I often don’t know how people close to me are able to love me, but somehow God is bringing me/us through.

I still don’t know what my exact purpose is in terms of the specific kind of details I’m always wanting, but I am slowly learning that it’s not up to me anyway as long as I have an attitude of obedience toward Him. Thankfully my fits and freaking out along the way don’t discourage Him.

Thank you for all of your prayers, support, encouragement, and patience for/with me through this very messy process.

Two other things:
1. If you get this via email, you’re not getting the final, hopefully more refined/edited/added to version that hopefully results after it’s posted online and I mess with it for ten minutes or so—you’re just getting the initial rough version.

2. I was reading an email from another terminally ill person with cancer and I’m going to start copying his email signature:

In His grip, Martha


  1. Wow.

    Martha -- your purpose -- to see Him smile over you -- ultimately. Your purpose here, at least one facet, is the great side of Christ that is displayed in your sharing -- He prayed - If the cup could pass, please let it -- but not my will but yours, Daddy!

    To watch/read you do the same -- with the doubts that are in the other blog is wonder! Faith given to you by the Smiling Father -- over you. I'm sure He loves the purple! (Not that I could ever presume to think or know like He does, but the aspects of love He shares in His Word gives me faith that He would love the purple.)

    Your own glory in Christ is bigger than you -- and I am thankful that you share that!

  2. I too have a private my eyes only blog. It so helps me make it through the day sometimes. I love to vent, cry, and curse in it. It makes me calm down and feel at peace after I vent. I love you and am always praying for you...


  3. Thanks for sharing Psalm 107.
    Praying verses 29 and 30 for you tonight.

    with much love, Susan T.

  4. I just started reading from Elisabeth Elliot's book, "Keep a Quiet Heart," and it had a quote by Amy Carmichael:

    Thou art the Lord who slept upon the pillow,
    Thou art the Lord who soothed the furious sea,
    What matter beating wind and tossing billow
    If only we are in the boat with Thee?

    Hold us quiet through the age-long minute
    While Thou art silent, and the wind is shrill:
    Can the boat sink while Thou, dear Lord, art in it?
    Can the heart faint that waiteth on Thy will?

    I'm glad you're in the boat, Martha - and the Lord is too!

  5. This is a beautiful post... Thank you for sharing so deeply and articulately. Read Hebrews 4-8, particularly the parts about Jesus being our great high priest... I think you will find it incredibly encouraging knowing that he experienced these same emotions while on earth, and knowing that he is your high priest now, interceding for you minute by minute.