Is there a difference between worrying about the future and dreading what you know is coming?
Okay, I guess I don’t really know what the future holds, but if the monster that is robbing my beautiful wife’s memory and speech is faithful to his past, I kind of do know, don’t I?
The odd thing about this disease is that just when you think you can live with it, he pulls another plug from the tub and the water drains a little more. It’s incremental. It’s never up and down – it’s more like it’s down, then level for a while, then down again.
There is no up. I know that. Only down and level – but the general direction is downward into a waiting abyss.
Yesterday was one of those days that reminded me that she is going in a direction that I dread with all of my heart. We were ready to leave the house, and she stood before me fully dressed and asked me, “Do I have enough clothes on? Am I fully dressed?”
When I tell you that it was a brick between my eyes, I mean it. It hit me full force. My heart felt like it would leap from my chest. And the tears? They were poised to cascade from my eyes in a full torrent. But thank God I was able to keep them in check. I don’t care anymore if anyone sees me cry like a baby. I didn’t want her to see it.
There’s another thing about me I don’t care if you know – I am so fearful of the future that I can hardly bear it. Call it worry if you want. Remind me that God’s got this. I just love cliches. They are so comforting, aren’t they? I waken at odd hours and cry out, “God, please don’t make me go through this.” There’s no cliche that can take that away.
And do you know what I hear in return? Mostly silence. Not a peep from the Creator of the cosmos. Not a word.
To be honest, I do believe that “God’s got this.” Well, I kind of believe it. In principle I believe it. In theory.
But in practice, it’s a little harder.
Jan and I visited a friend today whose cancer may have reappeared. I pray that the possibility that the spots on her MRI are just benign tumors left over from her radiation treatements is the final diagnosis. But she fears the worst. And me? I struggled with my words. What do I say? How can I comfort her? How do I give her hope?
“Oh, God..give me words to say.”
Nothing! Once again, I heard silence – deafening silence.
So I settled for nothing. Except I wanted her to know that Jan and I, along with a mighty throng of her faith community love her and are here to support her. I touched her on the arm – the one that was in pain – and I prayed a weak and miserable prayer.
So I look in the scriptures for an example, someone who faced certain, gut-wrenching pain but did not receive a direct answer from God. And there is Jesus, in the Garden, pouring out heart-rending, pain-filled, torment-laden prayers to his Father – pleading that the Father would save him from a certain future.
Just like me. My Lord pleaded for a change in outcome – to be delivered from the future. Like me, he was praying, “God, don’t make me go through this.”
The first two gospels do not record a reply from God. Luke says that an angel “was sent” to comfort him. But apparently, not a word directly from the Father. Not a peep.
So I ask myself, are there angels appearing to me? Has the Father sent comforters to me? Has he spoken but I just didn’t recognize his voice?
I spoke with an old friend yesterday whose son and wife were brutally murdered just a few years ago. He lost so much more than I will. Yet, he offered me comfort. Not cliches, but real comfort. He expressed his sorrow at our predicament. And he reminded me that even his situation could have been worse. I think he was implying that mine could be worse too.
Like my friend in the hospital, I have a mighty throng of faithful friends who pray for us.
And then I read this verse tonight from Jesus’ prayer that he offered up just before his death. He was preparing his disciples for what was inevitable – THE CROSS.
“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.”
Here’s the harsh reality for me, for you, for every human being who is alive today – we will all die. There is no escape (short of the resurrection).
The question is not, “Will I die?” The real question is, “Where can I find peace? How can I make sense out of what appears to be nonsense? How can I overcome?”
And the answer is, assuming that Jesus really is the crucified and risen Lord, I find peace in the one who has overcome the world.
This may not make sense to you, but abiding side by side with my grief and sorrow is an unspeakable joy. I worship the one who has overcome the world. Notice the verb tense – I have overcome. What Christ has done for me is not in some distant future – it’s contemporary – it’s right now.
So I find my peace in him. Through him I overcome. And while I mourn the present, the promised future looms large over my grief and sorrow. The promise doesn’t just knock the edges off my worry, it threatens to destroy it. Maybe not now – but just knowing that I will look back on my sorrow one day with a mocking voice is enough for me.
Dear Overcoming Savior, I admit that I am too faithless to really believe the promise of future redemption of our bodies from the grave. I confess that I believe it in principle, but not in reality – not really. I pray – I plead with you to fill my weak heart and mind with the comfort that I will – that we all will – mock death. And I pray that you will hasten the day of your return. Oh, what a glorious day that will be when you wipe away all of our tears forevermore.